Program Spotlight: Casa, Inc. of Washington County

Aug 22nd, 1970

Each quarter, Frontline profiles one of Maryland’s 17 rape crisis and recovery centers. This quarter, we turn the spotlight on CASA, Inc., of Washington County. 
What is your name and title and how long have you worked with your agency? 
I'm Vicki Sadehvandi, the executive director of CASA, Inc. (Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused.  CASA serves Washington County, in Western Maryland, and was founded in 1977 and I've worked there since we opened. At CASA, our mission is to provide services and education that promote physical and emotional safety, foster growth, and empower individuals, families and communities involved in domestic violence and sexual assault/abuse.
Tell us about your Rape Crisis Program and the issues it tackles. 
Our rape crisis program started in 1984.  We provide crisis intervention and counseling to victims of all ages—adults and children, who have been sexually abused/assaulted. Counseling and support are provided to the victim's family and friends as well. We also have a specialized programs to provide support for incest survivors to heal and reclaim a healthy life. Our Children's Program addresses sexual and other forms of abuse.  It has been in place since 1988 and provides services to children and adolescents who have experienced family violence and/or physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Services include assessment, individual and family counseling, groups for children and parents, and coordination of intervention with other community agencies and programs serving children and families.
In addition to our programs helping survivors of sexual violence, we have programs for survivors of domestic violence, including shelter, counseling, and support groups; an abuser intervention program; a program focused on educational and training opportunities to individuals who are 35 years of age or older and have lost part or all of their primary income due to separation, divorce, or the death, disability or long-term unemployment of the main family wage earner; depended on government support and are no longer eligible for that assistance; and/or, are experiencing difficulty finding gainful employment.  CASA also provides legal services, has a 24/7 hotline, and offers workshops for the community.
Why are you a member of MCASA?
I think it's good for the programs to come together.  We have more strength in numbers and have a bigger impact on the legislature or in other policy arenas when we work in concert.  The sexual assault directors also learn from one another and get support from one another.  The strength in numbers makes a tremendous difference.  It's important that decision makers hear about needs of survivors all across the State, not just from Washington County. MCASA does a tremendous job giving us one voice and bringing voice of our programs and the survivors we serve to the General Assembly, the Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention, and the US Congress.  MCASA also provides us with information about when it's important to contact policymakers.  We depend on MCASA to provide this leadership and are proud to be a member.
Have you had any recent events or actions you'd like to tell us about? 
One of our strengths in Washington County is having partnerships with governmental agencies.  Together we focus on making sure victims are treated with respect and are not re-victimized by the process.  CASA works with a wide range of partners.  We work with the Courts to help make sure victims have access to justice, and CASA has an attorney on staff to help with this.  The Washington County Social Services agency helps in so many ways; for instance, their child protective services workers coordinate with CASA when a child and protecting parent need to go to shelter after a child sexual abuse disclosure.  We are also very pleased to be working with the schools; they help which help our counselors meet with children and get the services they deserve.  These agencies even help with fundraising to support our services.
What sexual assault prevention work does your program do?
CASA works hard to provide the public with information about how recognize and prevent sexual assault.  Our staff does education with civic groups, outreach at fairs, and training for professionals.  We also provide educational materials to parents who want to help prepare their children.  More and more we hear from parents who want help talking with children before they go off to college.  CASA also provide workshops for young women and men who want to learn more about prevention and what they can do.
If your program received $100,000 in new funds today, what would you do with it? 
It would depend if it was ongoing money.  It would be great to hire more staff to provide more services to survivors.  It would be wonderful to eliminate all waiting lists and make it so survivors never have to wait.  It's not easy for survivors to come forward, and the more we can do for them right away, the better.  But it does depend on whether the funds were ongoing - funders need to understand that one-time donations, are great, but consistent structural improvements are really what is needed.

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