WILLIAMSBURG — Avalon Center, a charitable nonprofit organization that works to end domestic and sexual violence by breaking the cycle of abuse through prevention, education, shelter and support services in the greater Williamsburg and Middle Peninsula communities recently received notice from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services that it has been awarded full accreditation as a dual agency by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Program Professional Standards Committee.
The Professional Standards Committee established
“We are accredited as a duel agency. Which means we provide services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. We do both in eleven different jurisdictions,” said Teresa Christin, Executive Director, “This distinguishes Avalon by stating we adhere to a set of standards that everybody recognizes in the field.”
The Avalon Center is a multifaceted organization that houses women and children, offers tools for healing, and provides assistance to those seeking employment and permanent housing, in addition to life skills training.
The Outreach office provides programs for adults including counseling and support groups, legal advocacy, and hospital accompaniment. Youth Services provides education on bullying prevention, safe dating, healthy relationships, and other programs in area middle and high schools.
“We hear from folks of all age groups, all income brackets, all race, creed and color. This cuts across every sector of our community. We can provide emergency shelter if someone may be in fear for their life and the lives of their children. But, we also can just provide resources such as a support group or counseling. We approach each person as an individual,” stated Christin.
Avalon envisions an aware community that works together to promote healthy relationships and to end domestic and sexual violence. The center works collaboratively with area police, hospitals, schools, courts and other community agencies to assure the best possible outcomes for survivors and their children.
“If you think you are in an abusive relationship, or if you want to help someone in an abusive relationship, you can call our helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and we will answer,” said Christin, “Avalon can arrange emergency shelter as well as providing information. We will never force anything, we are here to empower a person to make choices that are best for them. Everything is completely confidential.”
In addition to the emergency services, Avalon works to provide both education and prevention to the public.
“Within the community, we want to raise awareness of the signs of an abusive relationship so that folks can recognize it when it is happening,” explained Christin, “there are many times people call the helpline and when asked if they are victims of domestic violence they say no because they haven’t physically been harmed. They may be living under the threat of it all the time but because it hasn’t happened, yet, they don’t see that as abuse.”
The Avalon staff helps to raise awareness in the region by attending events and visiting local organizations, churches and businesses. Christin stated the group can also provide guest speakers for engagements.
“The whole point is to empower people to make decisions for themselves, we do not dictate what services someone may need,” Christin continues, “We try to focus on the positives. When someone reaches out to us, it begins the process of their healing and that is a good thing.”