FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — Roughly a third of Rockford’s violent crimes are related to domestic violence, but it is not just a Rockford problem.
One stateline organization in a different county said that it struggles with the same statistic.
“Voices is at a turning point for the organization,” said Beth Maskell, executive director of VOICE of Stephenson County. “This past year we’ve been presented with an influx of need…influx of need within walk-in services and crisis, with law enforcement, and with our local schools.”
That is a big job for VOICEs of Stephenson County. The agency has been around for four decades and provides help to survivors of domestic or sexual abuse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That includes orders of protection, guiding survivors through the court system, group counseling and prevention.
Maskell has led the way for the last six years.
“We see clients of all realms, all ages, all sexes, all colors, all backgrounds,” Maskell said.
That is about 650 individuals a year on average; 500 for domestic violence, 150 for sexual assault or abuse. Thirty percent are kids.
“Children are affected, regardless of whether they’re the primary victim or not, and often times we want to think the child isn’t experiencing or doesn’t understand what’s happening. They do,” Maskell said. “And that long-lasting trauma resonates and we see that time and time again.”
That has led to an increased need in local schools for domestic violence and sexual abuse survivor services. VOICES has about 30 staff members, but it relies on volunteers to meet the community’s demands.
Some of those volunteers help at the VOICES “Book Nook” inside Freeport’s Lincoln Mall, while others are part of crisis response teams who meet with survivors at the Freeport Health Network ER.
“That’s a 24/7 response, and without our core volunteers that are willing to go and provide that absolutely necessary service, it would be hard to respond every day all the time,” Maskell said.
Volunteers who have direct contact with clients go through 40 hours of specialized training. VOICES added an onsite emergency shelter this past fall.
“It’s important for people to know that they can present anonymously if they prefer and call and seek support,” Maskell said. “They don’t have to disclose who they may be seeking support against, and they can just kind of run scenarios by us if they want to have that education.”
VOICES is in the middle of its annual half-price book sale at the “Book Nook.” It runs through Saturday.
If you’d like more information about services, volunteering or donation call VOICES of Stephenson County at 815-235-9432 or voicesofsc.org
The 24-hour domestic violence crisis line is 815-235-1641.
If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.