PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (Oct 19, 2020) – Kirk Ray Smith, President and CEO of Hope Villages of America (formerly RCS Pinellas), announced today that Pinellas County and 16 cities have joined the nonprofit in dedicating the month of October to raising awareness of domestic violence.
“The sad but relatively unknown truth is that every minute 20 people are abused in the U.S.,” Smith said. “We are proud to have these communities join us in our mission to expose the scope of the problem and destigmatize being a survivor.”
Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Clearwater, Dunedin, Gulfport, Kenneth City, Largo, Madeira Beach, Oldsmar, Pinellas Park, Safety Harbor, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs and Treasure Island and Pinellas County each issued proclamations naming October Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“Preventing abuse and protecting survivors is a 24/7 mission for Hope Villages of America,” said Smith.
In addition to a 24-hour domestic abuse hotline, Hope Villages of America (HVA) operates a certified domestic violence center that has an Outreach Center and an Emergency Safe House. Staff and volunteers at the Outreach Center work with 14,000 people each year to provide legal advocacy for domestic violence survivors and assisting them in filing for injunctions for protection as well as providing support during return hearings. Advocates also work with local police departments and review domestic violence police reports for high-lethality cases (incidents involving a weapon, strangulation, etc.) and contact the survivors to provide services.
The Emergency Safe House has 36 beds for women and children fleeing domestic violence. While staying in the shelter, the women and children receive everything they need, from toiletries to food to job placement assistance. Additionally, Haven House shelters 300 survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking each year—more than 30 percent of whom are children. HVA also offers support groups for women and children affected by domestic violence.
HVA also has advocates in schools teaching de-escalating behaviors, bullying awareness and prevention and teen dating violence. Their advocates can also offer domestic violence prevention and recognition training to businesses and groups of all sizes.
“You can’t prevent it or react to it if you don’t recognize it,” said Smith of the organization’s extensive educational efforts.
On October 1, HVA kicked off a monthlong campaign to gain support for domestic violence survivors with their first-ever virtual event, Faces of Domestic Violence.
“HVA remains unwaveringly committed to the safety, security and success of survivors of domestic violence,” he continued. “We’ll continue helping and supporting survivors and their families 365 days of the year. We invite every member of our community to join us by donating or volunteering.”
Learn more about how you can get involved at rcspinellas.org.
About Hope Villages of America: Formerly RCS Pinellas (RCS), the organization established in 1967, is a registered 501(c)(3) organization that addresses the needs of the hungry, homeless and victims of domestic violence in Pinellas County. This mission is advanced through five distinct but integrated programs: The Food Bank, Basic Services, Affordable Housing, The Haven Domestic Violence Shelter and Grace House. These programs operate in more than 60,000 square feet of service space and serve more than 130,000 participants annually throughout Pinellas County. In 2019 RCS was awarded GuideStar’s Gold Seal of Transparency for the second year in a row and the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce Biggest Community Impact award. For more information, visit www.rcspinellas.org or call 727-584-3528.