Empower Yolo was recently awarded a Cal OES grant to help provide victim advocacy in detention facilities in Yolo County. “The purpose of the program is to increase access to appropriate services for victims of sexual assault in detention facilities,” says Celina Alveraz, Associate Director of Empower Yolo. The program funds three full-time employees as sexual assault counselors to focus solely on serving victims in local detention facilities, and to act as a point of contact to assist in removing any physical or programmatic barriers to services for victims in these detention facilities.

Empower Yolo has served survivors in detention facilities since 2008, however our advocacy efforts have been largely unfunded since 2013 with only a few staff supporting survivors. This new funding allows for the expansion of services for victims currently incarcerated and will increase services to include more discharge planning, court accompaniment, advocacy and support with community partners such as Yolo County Sheriff’s Office, Health and Human Services Agency, Public Defender’s Office, Victim Witness, District Attorney’s Office, Child Welfare Services and more. Additionally, “Empower Yolo offers domestic violence and sexual assault support groups to female inmates, which help raise awareness, provide education, and to offer hope through healing and support,” Alveraz says.

The “victims” Empower Yolo is serving in these detention facilities are individuals who were arrested for some type of crime, but disclose current or previous victimization. Most victimizations have come from current or previous intimate partners, family members, or strangers. Other populations the program could serve include individuals who were assaulted by another inmate, or by an officer while in custody, and individuals in juvenile detention centers. These situations will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

“The majority of these survivors experience complex trauma, many of whom have never had the opportunity to discuss, process and heal from violence or abuse. The need for support inside the detention facility was greater than Empower Yolo could provide. Studies have shown that women are the fastest growing incarcerated population; the need for services to treat victims in detention facilities is greater than ever,” says Alveraz.

Empower Yolo’s support groups offer individuals a chance to learn how sexual assault and domestic violence have impacted their lives, often from childhood. “Clients are able to identify patterns of unhealthy behaviors and learn new coping skills, which increase self-esteem and self-efficacy,” says Alveraz.

Empower Yolo has been successful in its outreach to victims in detention facilities. In the first 6 months of providing victim services in detention facilities Empower Yolo has worked with 53 clients. “Since our advocates are working with clients in the jail, they are able to help connect them to services outside of the jail. We have seen an increase in clients contacting us for resources and services post-release,” says Alveraz. Services include: clothing closet, hygiene products, support group, housing resources, case management, and individual therapy.

The community can support our efforts by providing care packages for clients to access at the office when they get out of custody. Care packages can include hygiene products (such as travel-size shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant and toothpaste), clothing, water and snacks. Additionally, supplies such as two-pocket folders, paper, and composition notebooks are helpful. Donations can be dropped off at main office at 175 Walnut Street, Woodland, Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Fridays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For questions about victim services, or donations for clients being released from custody please contact Celina Alveraz [email protected].

To learn more about Empower Yolo’s victim services and our other life-saving services and programs please join us for our annual Summer Solstice Celebration on Saturday, June 22 from 6-9:30 p.m. at the UC Davis Alumni Center. For more information and to purchase tickets to the event go to empoweryolo.org.

For more information on Empower Yolo and a full list of services please visit us at: www.empoweryolo.org.

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