The concept of The Abuse Network began in the summer of 1983 as a result of staff concerns at the Mifflin-Juniata Women’s Health Services. Many of the women they came in contact with were victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault; however, there were no services available to such victims in Mifflin or Juniata County. The need to address these issues was apparent. After several community meetings of interested individuals, human service agencies, and criminal justice system representatives, a volunteer program – similar to existing rape crisis centers – evolved in our area.
The first volunteer training was held in the spring of 1984 and the Mifflin County Abuse Network came to fruition as a 24-hour hotline began operation in June, 1984. Thirty-five calls were received during the first month of operation. A full-time Director was in place by January, 1986, as a result of grants from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV) and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR). In February, 1987, The Mifflin County Abuse Network became a member agency of the Mifflin-Juniata United Way. Due to increased funding from PCADV, an office was opened in 1988 in Juniata County. In 1989, Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) funds were received through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency (PCCD) to provide victim services in both Mifflin and Juniata Counties.
In February, 1988, the agency opened a shelter for battered women and their minor children at an undisclosed location. The shelter provides a secure, comfortable environment for women and their children when home is not safe.
In July, 1994, the organization moved the Mifflin County Office to a location at 217 East Third Street, Lewistown. At this time, The Abuse Network received additional funding through PCAR to provide services to victims of sexual assault in Juniata County. In 2008, the agency was approached by the Mifflin-Juniata Special Needs Center to move its operations to a newly renovated building for multiple social services – The ComPASS Center. The Mifflin County Office and our formerly undisclosed domestic violence shelter moved to its current location in the ComPASS Center in November, 2008.
In the fall of 1989, The Abuse Network began the Child Assault Prevention (CAP) Program in Mifflin County elementary schools. The program was designed to teach children to become safe, strong, and free. The program consisted of several role plays by Abuse Network instructors regarding a class bully, a stranger trying to entice a child into a car, and inappropriate touching by a relative.
In 1996, the agency’s name was amended from the Mifflin County Abuse Network to The Abuse Network, Inc., in recognition of service to victims in both Mifflin and Juniata Counties. In July of 2012, the agency was awarded the contract by PCAR (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape) to be the accredited, recognized center providing sexual assault services in Huntingdon County. The Abuse Network opened an office at 500 Washington Street, Huntingdon, in September of 2014 to meet the goals of this new center.
Since 1990, The Abuse Network has provided services to nearly 17,500 victims of crime. Although victim services are typically provided to women, their children, and significant others, in recent years the agency has observed an increase in the number of men accessing the same services.
The dedication of its employees and volunteers continues to be the strength of The Abuse Network. Although much progress has been made in the awareness and acknowledgment of violence and abusive behaviors in our local communities, there is still more to be done. A unified and collaborative response by human services agencies, law enforcement personnel, and the judicial system to domestic violence, sexual assault, and abusive behaviors is paramount to decreasing the instances of violence in our service region. The Abuse Network is committed to a more peaceful, violence-free community through its collaborative partnerships with others.