Since 1983, victims of domestic violence in Schuylkill County have had a warm place to go to escape the physical and emotional scars caused by domestic violence.

"Our mission is to provide comprehensive services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families, conduct public information and educational activities, and foster social and systems change to eliminate personal and institutional gender-based violence," said Sally Casey, executive director, Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWiC).

All SWiC services are free, confidential and provided to all victims regardless of sex.

"While the agency provides services to all individuals regardless of gender, we acknowledge that women and children are most vulnerable to this problem," said Casey.

"We also strive to confront the societal issues that contribute to this problem. SWiC is motivated by the belief that all individuals are entitled to live free of the fear and pain caused by emotional and physical abuse," added Casey.

In addition to special care programs and victim support, SWiC provides eight temporary housing shelters for victims needing to get away from their abusive partners.

"Coming here doesn't mean the victim has to leave their partner," said Casey. "It can take a while before the victim makes that decision."

"I would never be where I am if not for this great organization," an anonymous victim told the TIMES NEWS reporter, praising the staff and services offered by SWiC. "My mentally-abusive husband would have never allowed me to grow. At times I was scared to leave my own house."

"Unbelievably, decades ago, no services were available to victims of domestic violence in Schuylkill County," said Casey. "Domestic violence, spouse battering, was truly the hidden problem in this primarily rural county. Domestic violence was popularly believed to be something that happened somewhere else, peculiar to more urban areas."

In November 1983, a founding group of individuals who had become aware of the prevalence of domestic violence within Schuylkill County formed the Schuylkill County Task Force on Abused Women, later to be called Schuylkill Women in Crisis.

The agency opened its first four-unit transitional housing facility in 2001 and its second in 2007. These housing units offer independent living for up to two years for battered women and their children who have become homeless due to domestic violence, who are no longer eligible for the agency's 30-day shelter stay, but who still could benefit from ongoing agency and community services.

Also in 2007, SWiC opened The Grateful Thread, a weaving and gift store in downtown Tamaqua that provided job training opportunities for survivors, operated as an environmentally-friendly green business, and also supported the agency. Unfortunately, economic downturns caused SWiC to close the physical retail site in 2009 and operate an online store only.

Recent cuts from the county, STOP program and other regular contributors are continuing to affect the agency's efforts.

"Due to lessening contributions, beginning Jan. 28, our agency will no longer be able to provide assistance counseling for victims seeking protection from abuse orders.

"Because victims of domestic violence usually suffer extreme feelings of isolation, the founders began operation of its 24-hour hot line (800) 282-0634 as a means for victims to receive supportive crisis counseling, information and referral regarding options available to them, and a way of addressing their isolation," said Casey.

For more information about SWiC, visit http://www.s-wic.org [2], via Facebook or by calling (570) 622-6220 or (800) 282-0634.