Program Spotlight: Life Crisis Center

Aug 21st, 1970

Frontline features a different rape crisis and recovery center in Maryland each quarter.  The following questions were answered by Michele Hughes, the Executive Director of the Life Crisis Center of Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties. What is your name and title and how long have you worked with your agency? Michele Hughes, Executive Director 11 years Tell us about your Rape Crisis Program and the issues it tackles, and does anything make sexual assault work different on the Lower Shore compared to the rest of Maryland? Life Crisis Center’s Rape Crisis Program offers individual therapy for survivors and their families, group therapy, advocacy, legal services as appropriate, training on sexual assault and 24/7 hotline services. In addition to the Rape Crisis Program, LCC has a comprehensive Domestic Violence Program which includes individual and group counseling for victims and their families, shelter, medical advocacy, legal services, community training and outreach, visitation program, 24/7 hotline services, as well as, an Abuser Intervention Program. LCC also has a Child Trauma Program that provides individual and family therapy for child victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse and child witnesses of domestic violence. All of the programs are supported by the Life Crisis Center Hotline. LCC also is one of 4 centers in Maryland to run the Maryland 211 Information and Referral line. These programs work well together as many times there is a great deal of overlap. For example, domestic violence victims are often also the victim of sexual assault. Many times DV survivors do not recognize that if their partner sexually assaults them it is rape and it is illegal. It is all trauma work. Sometimes issues go much deeper to childhood experiences and need to be resolved so that real healing can occur. Sexual assault survivors come in all ages and from all backgrounds. Our program focuses on safety, physical and emotional, and healing from the trauma. Unlike most comprehensive sexual assault programs, the Life Crisis Center serves three counties. Each of the counties  has a significant child sexual abuse problem. We provide the therapeutic services for victims at three very different child advocacy centers.  This makes programming challenging since we also have two state universities and  a community college in our catchment area. Several years ago, we elected to put program excellence in our strategic plan.  As a result, our current strategic plan calls for each of our programs to adopt research based national best practices.   This includes those services we provide to rape and child sexual abuse victims.  All of the assessments and therapeutic tools we employ are validated.  Each of our six masters level therapists has been trained in the areas of best practice for treating trauma victims. As a consequence of having so few programs on the Eastern Shore to deal with these issues, we were asked to help victims of human trafficking.  Many of these victims are non English  speaking which presents particular  challenges.  We currently employ native Spanish speakers as well a Creole speaking consultant to make certain that these victims of sex trafficking are given the best services available in a way that they both understand and are comfortable with.  Why are you a member of MCASA? Life Crisis Center, Inc., is a long standing member of MCASA because of the wonderful work the agency does in the field of Sexual Assault prevention and advocacy for survivors. MCASA has played a key role in passing legislation that supports survivors of sexual assault to get much needed relief through laws that support victims rather than re-victimize them. In addition, we cannot say enough about the work of the Sexual Assault Legal Institute.  SALI has represented many victims from the Lower Shore and has helped us to keep victims safe from further abuse and harassment. What Sexual Assault Prevention work does your program do? Our Sexual Assault Prevention work entails hundreds of presentations and trainings throughout the Lower Shore of Maryland every year. Trainings from the criminal justice academy to community groups cover everything from dating violence to rape trauma,  as well as, how to support survivors. Many awareness activities are held, especially in April, Sexual Assault Awareness month. The agency also works with the 3 local colleges to promote prevention and awareness. LCC has between 100 and 150 outreach activities every month to raise awareness, promote prevention and assist survivors. In addition to these efforts, LCC also has a Darkness 2 Light facilitator on staff who presents child sexual abuse/assault prevention trainings throughout the region. We work with the two universities, Salisbury University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore to ensure that students and staff understand the dynamics of sexual assault and know that services are available locally.  We normally present “In Her Shoes” to one or both schools each year. Does anything make sexual assault work different on the Lower Shore compared to the rest of Maryland? Being part of a rural community does make this work more challenging at times. Lack of public transportation makes it particularly difficult for survivors to get to appointments. The nature of a rural area also means many victims are also isolated and less likely to get the help they desperately need. On a positive note, most of the rural communities work well together because resources are so limited in this region.   If your program received $100,000 in new funds today, what would you do with it? The Life Crisis Center would hire a seventh therapist to work with victims of trauma, and a 15-20 hour per week attorney to supplement our full time staff attorney. Have you had any recent events or actions that you'd like to tell us about? Any upcoming ones? October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and we have been busy with a number of activities that cross over between dv and sexual assault. Many of our victims of domestic violence are also adults who were molested as children and both traumas have to be addressed.  We have presented “In Her Shoes” four times this month, including to all three local Departments of Social Services and the Department of Juvenile Services staff.  We also have a gallery at the local museum where art made by children who are victims is displayed, along with a ribbon quilt and stained glass installations made by victims who received services from the Life Crisis Center.

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