Program Spotlight: Center for Abused Persons Charles County

Jan 14th, 2022

This quarter, we spoke to Annette Gilbert-Jackson, Executive Director of the Center for Abused Persons Charles County, to learn more about the services they provide. Visit their website here.

What makes the Charles County community special?

We are less than 30 miles away from Washington D.C. and that makes our area a place for many of military and government employees to live as they commute into other areas of Maryland, Virginia, and D.C., in addition to those that have families that settled here generations ago. Charles County is unique in that we have an even blend of suburbia, business, commerce, and farm life. In areas like Waldorf and La Plata, there are plenty of businesses and stores that those from less populated parts of the county travel to visit. Other areas like Bryans Road, Indian Head, and Nanjemoy are small towns with lots of open land. Center for Abused Persons (CAP) was founded in 1983 and we’ve been serving those in crisis in Charles County for 38+ years. We are a domestic violence and sexual assault counseling and advocacy center in addition to running the county’s 24/7 Crisis Hotline. What makes the community we serve special is that we have great passion for helping one another. From large-scale disasters such as the tornado that devastated much of La Plata in 2002, to a local restauranteur who took pride for many years feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving, to our wonderful non-profit organizations that do their best to ensure that all of those in need receive the resources they need for a better quality of life.

Tell us about CAP's current community sexual assault prevention efforts.

Prevention starts with education. We do our best to ensure that as many people as possible in our area know that we are a safe space for them to get support. We have posters with tear-off notes posted in the bathrooms of doctor’s offices, and local businesses so if a victim needs services, they have a way to anonymously take our information. For both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we host a booth at our local farmer’s market to talk to the public about what we do. We offer presentations (virtual since the pandemic) to local organizations about healthy relationships, as well as our services. For those who may be too shy to reach out to us to ask questions about things such as medical exams following a sexual assault, protective orders, survivor safety and more, our victim advocates thought outside of the box in 2020 and recorded podcast episodes addressing those topics and more. We host two big fundraisers per year: in the spring, a 5K walk/run and in the fall, an awareness breakfast which, during the pandemic, has become a virtual town hall featuring panelists including survivors and representatives from our local Sheriff’s Office and State’s Attorney’s Office. For 2022, we are working toward getting a text hotline for those who may prefer to reach out to us in another manner.

Why are you a member of MCASA?

We are a small organization in a small county and do not have the resources (funding, staff, etc.) to do everything that needs to be done in our jurisdiction. We rely on MCASA for its incredible training opportunities, so our staff are up to date on not only the basics of sexual assault service provision, but also on new trends in the field. MCASA's on point role in targeted advocacy for member agencies and those we serve is paramount as we keep the needs of those who have experienced victimization and survived at the forefront of legislators' minds in Annapolis.

What called you to your work?

After having worked with inmates and ex-offenders for a couple of years after college, I began working as a community educator for a stand-alone sexual assault program and eventually moved into management. I know people who have suffered from sexual and domestic violence. Wanting to make sure there was a place for them to go influenced me to remain in the field serving victims of violence.

MCASA prioritizes advocating funding for rape crisis centers. Why is funding for rape crisis centers important as we continue to navigate the pandemic?

People are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, depression, and social isolation during the global pandemic. Disclosing sexual violence often brings about complicated feelings including shame, fear, guilt, and uncertainty about victims' rights. The combination of responses to sexual violence along with coping with the pandemic highlight the critical need for funding for core, comprehensive services for rape crisis centers in helping to meet the immediate and ongoing needs of those impacted by a recent sexual assault as well as those who may have experienced sexual abuse when they were children.

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