South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Center for Victims expanding services at new So. Side facility


December 19, 2017

In July, 2016, “Hilda” sought refuge from an abusive husband in an emergency shelter operated by Centers for Victims (CV), a nonprofit provider of services, advocacy, and education for victims of all crime.

After one month in the shelter, Hilda moved into CV’s Transitional Housing Program. During her stay in the program, she obtained full-time employment, participated in therapy and domestic violence support groups, took a budgeting course, and began attending a local church where she found support and solace.

She remained in the Transitional Housing Program for a year, at which time she moved into her own apartment with the help of relocation funds.

Another client, “Betty,” called CV’s 24-hour toll-free crisis hotline (1-866-644-2882) after leaving the hospital following violent physical abuse by her boyfriend. At the shelter, she found some peace of mind through CV’s Jail Release Notification Program: if an abuser is released from jail, CV lets the abused know while providing safety planning and emotional support.

“The first 24 hours after release are the most dangerous,” CV director of development Fran Trimpey said.

An advocate in CV’s Legal Advocacy Dept. provided information and accompanied Betty to court hearings. Through a CV transitional housing case manager, she secured improved employment. She also utilized CV’s counseling services and, today, is thriving.

By this month’s end, CV is scheduled to relocate its headquarters from East Liberty to 3433 East Carson St. in South Side. Its shelter and counseling center will remain in McKeesport.

“This move to the new South Side location gives Center for Victims an opportunity to expand our services and expand our reach,” said CV President and Chief Executive Officer Laurie Z. MacDonald.

“With the addition of our new experiential learning and training, the center will be able to use research-based methodologies to help people truly heal from the trauma they have experienced,” she said.

The new South Side building will have three floors, with the second floor dedicated to a state-of-the-art educational and experiential learning and training center called The Healing Rivers Project.

There the public may walk through nine different stations, half of which will be about trauma and how it affects one’s thinking. The other half of the stations will be focused on healing and recovery and wellness plans, and involve music, art therapy, cooking, yoga, meditations, and more.

“People can learn to use these activities in their daily lives to increase their understanding of trauma caused by violence, and work toward a health and wellness plan toward recovery,” Ms. Trimpey said.

In mid-January, an open house will be held at its new site for funders and board members.

In April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an open house for the public will be held. It will likely be scheduled during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which will be observed April 8-14.

All services of CV are free, regardless of income, and confidential.

Those services assist women, men, and children who have been victimized by any type of crime in Allegheny County, including domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, physical abuse, elder abuse, homicide, burglary, and incidences of mass violence.

CV assists as a comprehensive crime victim and witness assistance center; domestic violence emergency shelter, housing, and counseling center; rape crisis/sexual assault center; community crisis response team; and professional development training, education, and advocacy center.

In fiscal year 2016-17, CV provided services to 16,000 clients, which includes calls to the hotline. Each year, CV also provides education and training services to more than 35,000 people, while an additional 100,000 people are reached through outreach and awareness activities.

Services are delivered in courthouses, hospitals, homes, community centers, senior centers, schools, and other community areas.

CV is the result of mergers with the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime and Pittsburgh Mediation Center and Womansplace, the latter a domestic violence shelter and counseling center.

Its vision is to work to promote values such as: break the cycle of violence in our community; ensure that the criminal justice system supports and protects victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault, and all forms of violence and crime; remain the trusted source for information about the rights and needs of all victims of crime, and the services available; and become a regional and national leader among victim service agencies.

Funding for CV is from federal, state, and local governments (80 percent), and the rest from donations and fundraising.

CV has a staff of 77 full-time employees, which includes legal advocates, therapists, shelter advocates, and satellite workers at the shelter.

Legal advocacy is its biggest department, with legal advocates working to ensure that victims’ rights are not being violated.

“They are responsible for navigating victims and witnesses and families through the legal system,” Ms. Trimpey said.

CV also has staff members stationed at the police investigative units of the city and county; Allegheny County Juvenile Court; and several local magisterial district justices’ offices.

Staff will also assist clients with emergency protection from abuse (PFA) filings at UPMC McKeesport and Jefferson Regional Hospital. There is also a child advocate at Children’s Hospital for child victims of sexual assault and rape.

Convinced education, awareness, and prevention efforts are key to reducing the prevalence of violence, CV also offers education and outreach programs.

Its educational programs and training topics include: domestic and sexual violence; teen dating violence; coaching boys into men; impacts of violence and trauma; victims’ rights and services; and conflict resolution and mediation.

Programs’ audience and settings include: law enforcement; prosecutors; healthcare personnel; caregivers; universities; after-school programs; senior groups; faith-based organizations; businesses; and community groups.

In March, 2014, CV launched the MEN [Men Ending Violence] Challenge & Pledge designed to engage more men in CV’s violence prevention programs, and to speak out about violence against women and girls.

CV believes men need to be a part of the solution, and that the MEN Challenge & Pledge gives them a place to start.

Ms. Trimpey said one of four women in the U.S. will suffer violence, including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, in their lifetimes.

“Men can sign a pledge to be pro-active. We have had 800 signatures since 2014,” she said.

(For more information on CV, visit:, and about the MEN Challenge Initiative,


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