The Eastern Panhandle Empowerment Center (EPEC), is a non-profit, community-based agency that was founded in 1977 by a group of community volunteers who wanted to help women who were being abused by their partners. They formed the areas first crisis hotline for domestic abuse. Since then, EPEC has grown into a comprehensive resource and counseling center offering service to the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.
EPEC’s mission is to protect victims, prevent violence and empower survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking. We accomplish this by providing victims and survivors the resources necessary to effectively cope with the personal, social, emotional and legal ramifications of victimization.
EPEC is funded in part by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, the West Virginia Division of Criminal Justice Services, the U.S. Department of Justice Violence Against Women Act and Victims of Crime Act, the United Way, the Baltimore Conference of United Methodist Women, the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services, United Way of Berkeley County, United Way of Jefferson County, United Way of Morgan County, U.S.Cellular, and private contributions and donations.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behavior used by one person in order to maintain power and control in a relationship. Batterers repeatedly subject their victims to physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and financial tactics of control in order to force them to do something batterers want them to do without regard to the victims’ rights or well-being.
Why do victims of abuse stay in the relationship?
There are many reasons victims stay in abusive relationships – and they are all good reasons. They do not stay because they like the abuse or are stupid. They stay because of:
Emotional connections – Some victims find it hard to leave because they still love their partners. Even if they are abusive sometimes, they can also be kind and gentle. They also may feel that if they “try hard enough” to fix the relationship, they can work it out. Some people are afraid to be alone, and prefer to accept the abuse rather than try to live on their own.
Family – Some people stay because they think it is important for their children to have two parents, and don’t want them to be from a “broken home.”
Outside pressure – Some victims stay because their religion or family expects that they stay with their husbands through everything.
Shame and embarrassment – Some victims stay because they feel ashamed and believe that the failure of their relationship is somehow their own fault. This belief is supported by the abuser, who often tells them that they are to blame for all the abuse that is done to them (i.e., “If you didn’t make me so angry, I wouldn’t have to hit you/yell at you.”). Some people believe that domestic violence only happens to poor or stupid people, so they do not acknowledge that it is happening to them.
Financial considerations – Many people stay because of money, or lack thereof. If you have no job or work experience, no credit cards, no health insurance and no checks in your name, it is very difficult to imagine surviving on your own. It is even harder if children are involved.
Fear – Perhaps the biggest reason that women stay in violent relationships is that they are scared. When women decide to leave, batterers feel an even greater sense of losing control and they often increase their violent behavior. The abuser may threaten to kill the woman or himself if she leaves. Staying in the relationship may seem like the only way to survive.
What is the cycle of violence?
For many people in abusive relationships, the cycle of violence occurs in the following three stages:
Rising tension – You and the abuser may argue often. You may make extra efforts to keep the abuser from getting angry. But, the abuser continues to find fault with what you do and say, or don’t do or say.
Explosive incident – In spite of your efforts, the abuser will choose to allow the tension to explode into extreme verbal abuse or physical violence.
The reconciliation (honeymoon) period – After the violence, the abuser may apologize and promise not to hurt you again. This phase may persuade you to give the relationship another chance. You must remember that this phase will not last. Tensions will eventually increase and the cycle will begin again.
If I decide to leave the abusive relationship, what should I take?
Pack a bag. Preparing to leave means having your important things packed in a safe place and ready to take with you. Hide them outside your house if necessary, but somewhere you can get to them easily. Remember to pack:
Money – Cash, checkbook and checks, credit cards, bank book, half the money in any joint account
Identification – Birth certificates, social security cards/numbers, marriage license
Important records – Medical records, children’s school and immunization records, insurance information, phone numbers, address book, abuse journal and photographs
Car and house keys – Also car registration, house or apartment deeds or lease
Court orders or papers – Divorce order, protective order
Personal items – Medicine, clothes,cell phone chargers, special toys or blankets (You also might make copies of important documents and keys to keep at a friend’s house in case you have to leave in a hurry).
What is a protective order and how do I get one?
If someone is abusing you, you may be able to get a domestic violence protective order through the Magistrate court.