MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld marked Domestic Violence Awareness Month Thursday by highlighting the important work of two organizations helping to combat the problem in the region.
Ihlenfeld was joined by Jo Elliott, Executive Director of Community Alternatives to Violence, and Katie Spriggs, Executive Director of the Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center, to discuss their response to domestic violence.
Although his office has accelerated its efforts to address the issue through additional prosecutions, Ihlenfeld explained that enforcement is only part of the solution.
“We will continue to be aggressive in our prosecution of domestic violence offenders while at the same time collaborating with agencies that support victims and rehabilitate offenders,” said U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld.
Community Alternatives to Violence (CAV), a licensed Batterer’s Intervention and Prevention Program, serves approximately 400 people in the Eastern Panhandle each year, offering classes for men and women to help build respectful relationships and prevent domestic violence.
“CAV is honored to be a part of this coordinated community response to domestic violence in our region. The role we play, intervention and prevention, provides those who use violence with an opportunity to learn how to be nonviolent and respectful in their families, and in all their relationships,” said Elliott. “We challenge these individuals to examine their belief systems and uncover how those beliefs have led to patterns of behaviors that create harmful dynamics in their homes. We then help them create their own plan of accountability; this is their road map for moving intentionally and with integrity towards a life of respect and empathy.”
The Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center (EPEC) in Martinsburg plays an equally critical role, offering services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking.
“The Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center provides direct services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and human trafficking. I have been in the movement to end interpersonal violence movement for over a decade, and the only response that I have ever seen functionally work to address these issues is a collaborative approach and that is exactly what we are working to build in Martinsburg with this new initiative. Survivors get more efficient, client centered, and more culturally responsive services when the team that is providing those services trusts each other and works well together. We are excited to continue working with this team and making our community safer,” said Spriggs.
Both CAV and EPEC are part of the recently formed Berkeley County Domestic Violence Reduction Initiative. Other participating agencies include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office; the Martinsburg Police Department; and the West Virginia State Police.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go to thehotline.org.