“You get a different response in hospitals and law enforcement agencies now than you did 15 years ago,” Ard said. “Now there are good procedures in place. A whole team will come to your aid.”
The CCWRC, which is a secure facility located in downtown State College at 140 W. Nittany Avenue, has about 30 paid employees and about 60 volunteer counselor advocates, all of whom go through extensive training. Since 1975, their mission has been to empower survivors of sexual or domestic violence, and to work toward the elimination of such violence.
Ard said she has always been drawn to issues of justice, especially for women.
“I grew up in a world where society as a whole wasn’t very responsive to victims of physical or sexual violence,” she said. “So creating a world where violence against women doesn’t happen is a passion.”
The Center offers many services, including counseling, a 24-hour hotline, prevention programs and an emergency shelter, located on the top two floors of the Center, which provides a safe place for victims of sexual/domestic violence. These services are supported in part by two Centre County Community Foundation funds, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center Fund and the Susan G. Peters Fund.
The Center consistently serves close to 1000 victims of domestic violence and 200 victims of sexual violence each year, statistics that Ard said surprise many people.
“People don’t think those things happen so much here. And they often don’t pay attention to them until their interest is focused on it because something bad happened,” she said. “If we only pay attention to it when we see it in the paper, we just focus on that one negative event. But in reality it affects the community all the time.”
The fact that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month gives those at the Center a chance to focus people’s attention on sexual assault prevention, and let them know about services they offer to empower those who have experienced sexual assault. The Center has done this in a variety of ways, including by participating in events like the Take Back the Night march, on April 13, at which Ard spoke, and by sporting teal ribbons, which represent the month.
But the Center’s Outreach staff also conducts a variety of programs all year long to reach out to the community, from going to local schools and telling teens to “expect respect,” to writing columns for the Centre Daily Times, to setting up tables at downtown nightclub Indigo and handing out shirts with slogans like “We love consensual sex” and “Got consent?”
Though the prospect of asking for help can be daunting, Ard said that all of the Center’s services are confidential and free, and that its employees and volunteers are caring and understanding, and have had great success helping individuals to heal and feel safe again.
“It takes an enormous amount of courage to reach out and take that first step,” Ard said. “But everybody who does will be met with respect, compassion and concern.”
Counselors are available at the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the Center’s toll-free hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-877-234-5050.