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Column: Feeling unsafe in your relationship? DVI is here to help.

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By Mike Ritter,

The mission of Domestic Violence Intervention of Lebanon County, or DVI, is to unite and educate the Lebanon County community by advocating for justice and creating safety for victims of domestic violence and their children, so they may live free from abuse. But don’t be fooled by their name. DVI serves all victims and survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, stalking, harassment, bullying, and human trafficking. 

Founded in 1990, DVI offers a variety of supportive services, all of which are free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The first line of contact is DVI’s crisis hotline, available by calling (717) 273-7190 or toll-free 1-866-686-0451. Trained and compassionate advocates support survivors emotionally, assess their safety and needs, set them up with other DVI services, and make referrals to other appropriate community services. For times when a phone call is not safe, DVI is currently working on setting up a text line and a web chat option, and hopes to have both up and running in early 2022.

For survivors who would benefit from it, DVI offers emergency shelter for up to 30 days in a safe, secure, and undisclosed location. Intake is available 24/7. During Fiscal Year 2020 – 2021, DVI sheltered 100 women, 75 children, and 15 men. Survivors entering shelter are offered continuous emotional support, safety planning, goal planning, financial empowerment, and counseling. In a typical year, DVI provides more than 3,000 hours of counseling. DVI counseling is educational and empowerment-based. The goal of this approach is not to “fix” survivors. Rather, the focus is on a survivor’s strengths, not their inadequacies. Counselors help survivors shed light on how oppression, discrimination, stereotyping, and other environmental factors contribute to the many issues they face. Counseling services are available to both adults and children, and survivors do not to be in shelter to receive it. Non-resident appointments can be scheduled by calling the DVI hotline at (717) 273-7190. 

DVI also maintains an off-site PFA Office, currently located inside the Law Library on the third floor of the Lebanon County Municipal Building. Advocates in the PFA Office assist survivors in filing for Protection from Abuse (PFA) Orders, Sexual Violence Protection Orders (SVPO), and Protection from Intimidation Orders (PFIO). In Pennsylvania, a PFA order from a court gives protective “relief” for a victim (and sometimes their children) for a period of up to three years. A person can file for a PFA Order from the court for themselves, or on behalf of their minor children. A PFA describes various types of protections for the victim. For example, a PFA Order can make it illegal for the abuser to contact, harass, and abuse the survivor and the survivor’s children, or it may order the abuser to return personal property. An abuser’s violation of a PFA may result in criminal charges. SVPOs and PFIOs apply to adults and minors (children younger than age 18) who are victims of sexual violence, harassment, stalking, and intimidation when the person who is abusing them is not a member of their family or household. During Calendar Year 2020, DVI advocates helped more than 350 individuals file for protection.

Beyond supportive services, DVI also offers free programs that connect the agency to the local community, as well as create awareness and dialogue around issues related to domestic violence and trauma. DVI wants everyone in the community empowered with the knowledge and skills they need to help end and prevent domestic violence. DVI provides trainers as a community service to various groups and organizations in Lebanon County and, in some cases, the surrounding area. To request a speaker or trainer, or technical assistance and consultation, contact DVI’s deputy director at dvipec@dviolc.org or (717) 273-7395.

All DVI programs are facilitated by a Certified Trauma-Competent Professional and trained Domestic Violence Victim Advocate, and can be tailored to fit a group’s unique needs. From brief lunch-and-learn meetings to interactive skill-building trainings to conferences, DVI is available. They often visit small and large groups in the workplace, places of worship, schools, civic group meetings, health care providers, and many other settings. They also participate in vendor fairs.

As a reminder, if you feel unsafe in your relationship, or if you are concerned about a friend or loved one, contact DVI on their free, confidential, 24/7 hotline at (717) 273-7190.

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