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Today, we celebrate the birth of our nation. Happy Independence Day! We also take this opportunity to express our hope for another type of freedom: freedom from violence.

Across our community, far too many women, children and men live with the present reality or the aftermath of violence. Their lives are impacted on a daily basis by domestic abuse, sexual violence, stalking, sexual harassment, bullying, and other forms of violence and abuse.

Each year, Blackburn Center serves thousands of people in Westmoreland County. Between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017, we answered 3,040 hotline calls and provided a total of 4,217 days of emergency shelter. In that same time period, Blackburn Center provided a total of 9,655 hours of counseling and therapy to 3,675 individuals in Westmoreland County. We also provided 1,919 legal accompaniment contacts at Protection From Abuse (PFA) and District Justice hearings, and other court proceedings. Our medical advocates made 207 contacts with victims in Westmoreland County hospitals in this time frame.

These numbers show the scale of the problem right here in our community— and these numbers represent only those who reach out to us for help. We know that there are many more women, children and men who choose to not seek help, or may not know that help is available.

We cannot be free from violence unless we work together to address the underlying causes. At Blackburn Center, we strongly believe in primary prevention, which is the idea that we can take steps to prevent the problem from occurring instead of waiting for it to happen and reacting to it.

It can be difficult to see past the symptoms of a problem to identify the underlying — or “root” — causes. In the case of gender-based violence, such as domestic and sexual violence, addressing the immediate needs of those affected often takes priority. However, if we want to end the violence, we must look deeper to discover why this violence continues to occur

The root causes of gender-based violence can be hard to see, particularly because they are so deeply entrenched in our society. But by examining them and working to change them, we can make a difference in the level of gender-based violence in our communities. These root causes include:

Like the struggle to become independent, our primary prevention efforts are not an easy challenge. But we strongly believe that this work is critical to FREEDOM for all — and that is a goal worth fighting for today, tomorrow, and always.

And if you know of someone who needs help, please share information about Blackburn Center’s services.

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