Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center offers virtual resources

West Virginia

BERKELEY COUNTY, W. Va. (WDVM) — The Coronavirus pandemic has not only taken a tumultuous toll on our nation’s healthcare system but also on our mental health.

The Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center has long been a resource to residents all over the eastern corridor of the Mountain state offering in-person support meetings as well as group sessions to discuss topics and experiences related to interpersonal violence and other forms of trauma.

The EPEC also specializes in aiding survivors of interpersonal violence. Formerly known as the Shenandoah Women’s Center, the EPEC works towards assisting and empowering survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and human trafficking.

They now have a virtual and confidential chatroom that connects survivors of interpersonal violence provided by the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network or RAINN. This chatroom gives participants a secret identity in order to maintain confidentiality between the facilitator as well as the other participants.

These chatrooms are currently held on Mondays at 6 PM and Wednesdays at 2 PM and are available to residents outside of the Eastern Panhandle.

The EPEC recently launched their Virtual Support Groups to replace in-person meetings as the pandemic unfolded. The groups that were preciously held in Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan counties have been moved to an online meeting platform which provides a safe space for their clients to receive support. The main focus of the EPEC during these support groups is to provide a confidential and shielded space for people to discuss their experiences and receive support.

The Virtual Support Groups are held over Zoom and are held every other Thursday at 5 PM. The meeting link and password must be obtained from an EPEC facilitator in order to uphold the confidentiality of the groups.

Mary Francisco, EPEC’s community coordinator, noted that many of their clients face transportation issues that prevented them from using the EPEC’s resources. She explained that as resources have transitioned online, clients no longer have to physically visit one of the three counties to receive support and are now able to do so from home.

“So it’s really important for them, for people, to be able to use these resources I think more so because of the pandemic. It’s affected everyone’s mental health currently regardless if they’re facing a victimization or not. And during this time of the pandemic, we have seen a huge surge in clients.”

Mary Francisco, community coordinator

The Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center has resumed seeing clients for in-person sessions but both parties must wear a mask and maintain social distancing measures. Appointments must be made in advance.

The Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center also runs a 24-hour hotline to provide assistance to any person who is experiencing interpersonal violence or is a victim of sexual assault.

The hotline is completely confidential and does not require you to give your name to the operator.

To speak with an operator, call 304.263.8292.

For more information, visit their website.

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