Savannah victim advocacy agencies discuss 2020 struggles

Savannah victim advocacy agencies discuss 2020 struggles

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - 2020 posed a series of challenges for non-profit agencies throughout the community. Many have spent months adapting, paring down, and finding ways to do more with less. Several victim advocacy agencies that serve multiple counties in the Coastal Empire discussed the struggles they’ve endured, and the challenges that lie ahead in the near year.

“2020, we learned how to endure. We learned about a lot of our funders who have continued to support us even during the pandemic,” Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Doris Williams said.

“We were one of those agencies that obviously, we couldn’t close down. So that meant we had to basically rearrange everything,” Safe Shelter Executive Director Cheryl Branch said.

The executive directors for both Safe Shelter, which assists survivors of domestic violence, and the Rape Crisis Center, which focuses on victims of sexual violence, say the pandemic will have lasting effects on how they provide service to the community.

“It may be a while before they go back to having the support groups in person. Because that was everybody sitting around a table in the conference room. It’s going to take some time, and I think everyone, residents and staff, are going to have to feel very comfortable in getting back to the face-to-face kind of operation,” Branch said.

Branch says sanitizer stations will likely be permanent fixtures from here on out, and mask requirements being the last protective measure to go.

For the Rape Crisis Center, community outreach and prevention have taken a hit this year, so they’ve gotten savvier on social media.

“We’re doing a lot more social media. But we’re also doing Zoom, just becoming very diverse and creative, that’s going to continue. Because we’ve been able to reach more people,” Williams said.

And despite many having to pinch pennies throughout the pandemic, donors of both money and volunteer time have shown up. “We’re down to a staff of 12. So, we have 45 volunteers, and they are amazing,” Williams said.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were funneled into both agencies earlier this year by the district attorney’s office, helping keep services intact despite major in-person fundraisers cancelled this year.

But that assistance is finite, and other grant money is being reduced elsewhere.

Click the following links to learn more about these agencies: Rape Crisis Center, Safe Shelter.

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