Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault continues to help during the pandemic

  • 4 February 2021
  • Author: Dan McNiel
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Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault continues to help during the pandemic

The pandemic has not stopped the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault from helping victims in the area.
Pee Dee Coalition is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to the reduction of sexual assault, family violence, and child abuse, and the needs of its victims.
The Marlboro County Satellite Center is located at 108 Parsonage Street in Bennettsville.
Wendy Woods, Marlboro County services coordinator, and Elizabeth Cox, volunteer, and community education coordinator talked about the location's services.
"We offer trauma counseling here," Woods said. "The main thing is advocacy for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault."
They also offer hospital and court accompaniments and help with filling out the order of protection.
Woods noted the hospital accompaniments have been very hard due to hospitals having COVID guidelines for who can enter.
A native of Marlboro County, Woods worked for about 18 years in higher education before coming to the Pee Dee Coalition in October.
"(This position) allows me to help, guide, support, and advocate for my community," she said. "I enjoy doing that and just hope to make a difference as it relates to advocacy.
Cox is a native of Cheraw and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. She started at the Pee Coalition on Nov. 30. This is an issue, she said, she is passionate about. 
"I want to do domestic violence law," she said. "I am happy I found the Pee Dee Coalition. This is what I was looking for."
Cox's position allows her to reach out to the community to let people know that the office is here in the county and educate the community on domestic violence and sexual assault. 
A lot of issues such as stalking and human trafficking are under this umbrella.
"As an organization, we have been trying to promote those issues and educate the Pee Dee Region on how we can be aware that those issues are prevalent here," she said.
Cox added that overall as a nation, there has been a rise in domestic violence because women are stuck in their homes with their abusers. 
"As a whole organization, we have been trying to figure out how we can help the victims when they are stuck at home and they may not have a safe way to contact us or police for help," she said. "We are trying to navigate how we can help those women who feel shut up with their abusers."
Woods agreed and said they know they have to be more visible in the community more than ever now because of COVID-19. 
"Our services have not halted because of COVID-19," she said. "If someone is seeking shelter, we ensure that is happening. If someone needs an order of protection or they need advocacy at the courthouse that has not stopped."
Staff is sticking to the guidelines of social distancing and masks. 
In a profession where someone might need a hug, the staff has been creative.
Woods said the tone and eye contact have always been important to her before COVID-19. 
"With COVID-19, it is very important that people see you and know that you are there with them," she said. "They can feel the hug and the support. There has to be more eye contact and to be more straight forward. I try to let them know that I hear them."
And for the staff, seeing someone complete their journey and process is important.
Cox's job is to host events and organize them. She has to try to figure out how to do everything virtually. She hosted a webinar for stalking. The Pee Dee Coalition has started a podcast. Other platforms being used include Facebook Live and Zoom to host events.
The Bennettsville satellite office has not recorded a podcast yet but plans to do one soon.
Woods and Cox encouraged those who need help to reach out. 
"Help is here," Woods said. "They are not alone. We can help them and advocate for them. Help is only a phone call away."
Cox added they could just be a listening ear because some victims are afraid to go through the process.
She encouraged people to make the initial phone call and go from there.
Hours at the Bennettsville location are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. The number for the office is 843-479-0882. The 24-hour crisis line is 1-800-273-1820.

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