When a domestic violence or sexual assault crisis occurs, Human Response Network of Lewis County is there. Responding as advocates 24 hours a day, they are the only local organization accredited to help victims regain their lives. In the last fiscal year, HRN served 701 victims of domestic violence and 157 sexual assault survivors.
HRN recently expanded its capabilities with help from Twin Transit, who sold the organization a bus for just $1. With the new bus, Human Response Network can do much more, including outreach into eastern Lewis County and transportation to the Capitol so residents can testify on behalf of survivors. And it’s not all work; taking shelter residents on enriching excursions is also a high priority for Executive Director Kris Camenzind. “It might be a trip to the roller rink,” she says, “something fun for the kids to enjoy. A lot of them don’t have access to enjoy something fun.” Those outings help create friendships in the shelter at a time when they’re needed most.
HRN’s advocates will now have an easier time accessing all parts of the county. Just this week, several advocates were in eastern Lewis County three times. “There is a high percentage of women in the east side of the county who are living in unsafe conditions,” Camenzind says. “Many are also unable to come to our office due to financial reasons. This is us providing the services we offer in this office out on the road.”
With the new bus, staff can also travel together, saving on costs. The bus is large enough to allow for a small office space and room to transport larger items to survivors in need.
Ongoing training is a Human Response Network requirement with 500 combined training hours in the last six months. Now they can travel to mandated training and conferences as a group. They can also coordinate visits and efforts with partner agencies like WIC and the Housing Resource Center.
Driving the bus requires a Commercial Driver’s License, which Twin Transit is also helping HRN obtain. “They will give us the class and let us use the bus to get the license so three advocates will have CDLs,” says Camenzind. “We’ve also toyed with the idea of having volunteers in the community with CDLs drive the bus.”
Both HRN and Twin Transit staff have enjoyed working together throughout the exchange. “[Twin Transit Director] Joe Clark has been nothing but a delight to work with,” says Camenzind. “He and his staff have really been more than accommodating to us.”
The bus donation is part of Twin Transit’s larger effort to support charitable organizations in the community. They also recently donated buses to Gather Church and Yelm Jesus Name Pentecostal Church. “It’s critically important that Twin Transit becomes a piece of the fabric of this community,” says Clark. “It is incumbent on all of us to support these organizations that are doing important work. It’s something we should all be doing.”
Human Response Network can always use more volunteers – especially now. They currently have only two. Volunteers are needed to assist with a variety of tasks including helping at community events, answering phones at night, working in the office, or caring for children during support groups. Another great way to support Human Response Network is with financial donations.
“I started this job a little over a year ago and I’m just completely amazed at how generous this community is and, of course, Twin Transit,” says Camenzind.
She is grateful for how far HRN has come and is focused on moving the mark even farther. “I do think we have a long way to go in Lewis County to coordinate our efforts to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” she says. “We need to hold perpetrators accountable.”
This means making sure victims and survivors know their rights. RCW 70.125.060 states, if the victim of a sexual assault so desires, a personal representative of the victim’s choice may accompany the victim to the hospital or other health care facility, and to proceedings concerning the alleged assault, including police and prosecution interviews, and court proceedings.
“It’s really important to know you have the right to have an advocate go to anything with you,” says Camenzind. “If you’ve been raped, you don’t have to report it to the police but we still encourage you to call our office. We can tell you about the different options you have. It’s important people know – men and women – if you have been assaulted sexually, you have the right to have an advocate navigate the system for you during legal or medical visits.”
Issues of domestic violence and sexual assault are widespread. “We are everywhere,” says Camenzind. “Even if you have never been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, they are your school teachers, your kid’s best friend’s parents. They might be your waitress, or could be your employee. Everybody, whether they realize it or not, is affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.”
HRN’s informed and caring advocates know what to do during what can be the most frightening time in a person’s life. This wonderful organization reaches out a hand to help those in need regain their lives, heal and move forward into a better future. Thanks to their new bus, they’ll be able to accomplish this important mission even better than before.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Human Response Network 24 hours a day at 360-748-6601 or toll-free at 800-244-7414.