Victim Services of Cullman sees needs increase in 2020

Victim Services of Cullman’s facility provides a comfortable environment which appears to have support dog Bella’s approval. (2019 photo courtesy of VSC) 

CULLMAN, Ala. – The year 2020 was a hard one for all, but victims of domestic violence faced twice the catastrophe as the issues of the pandemic and shutdown led to increases in violence and difficulties in getting help.

Victim Services of Cullman Executive Director Carol Horstman told The Tribune, “2020 was a busy year for Victim Services. One of the effects of last year’s pandemic has been an increase in domestic violence worldwide, and our community is no different. For victims of domestic violence, quarantines and lockdowns increase the isolation they already experience and make it harder for them to get help. The shelter provided a place to live for 48 women and 11 children, some for emergency housing and others for longer term as they transition to living on their own. These numbers are higher than in typical years. Similarly, 57 clients received individual counseling in 2020, a higher number than recent years.

“Our increased focus on intervening in the lives of children who have been exposed to violence has resulted in twice as many completing the Supporting Kids in Transition (SKIT) Program as in 2019. Through SKIT, children’s support groups and individualized activities, 46 children received emotional support and advocacy in 2020. Thanks to much community support, our Annual Christmas Gift Drive was a great success, making Christmas brighter for 32 children this year.”

The agency’s advocacy services included:

  • assisting 28 clients with safety plans
  • 24 protection orders
  • 24 court advocacy actions
  • 25 applications and referrals for legal services and victim compensation
  • 40 legal advocacy actions
  • 24 accompaniments to court, forensic exams or medical care
  • 12 referrals for other community services 

COVID impact

Horstman said, “Weekly Parenting Class and Support Groups had to be suspended in March due to COVID concerns. We have adapted and learned in order to function remotely and continue providing services, such as using ZOOM for staff meetings, providing counseling and advocacy services through e-mail, phone and other media.

“Due to COVID-19 concerns, our annual St. Paddy’s in the Park event was canceled in March, as well as 

the fall Masquerade Ball. However, we did have two events while maintaining COVID safety measures.  

The First Annual Ride for Justice took place in June with 30 participants. In October, we held our first

Jail and Bail fundraiser.  We appreciate all the good sports who were ‘arrested’ and those who bailed them out! Over $9,000 was raised during this fun event.”

Community support crucial to the mission

Horstman shared, “There are so many people to thank for their service and support in 2020: First Annual Ride for Justice- Iron Order Motorcycle Club of Moulton, Iron Rockets 256 Krew Motorcycle Club of Cullman, Law Tigers of Alabama, Sarge at Hawg Engineering and Daystar Church; Christmas Toy & Gift Card Drive- St. Andrews United Methodist Church, Daystar Church, Peoples Bank, Toys-For-Tots, The Freeman Sunday School Class from First Baptist Church in Cullman, Bethel Baptist Church, Cash Express, and Mr. Rickey Foster and friends. Thanks also to volunteers from REHAU for painting the fire escape and to Daystar Church for landscaping and grounds cleanup.

“We are especially grateful for our community partners who provided support in 2020: United Way of Cullman County, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama Department of Public Health, City of Cullman, Cullman County Commission, CCCDC, Wal-Mart Distribution Center and our Board of Directors: Cindy Rohrscheib (president), Crystal Parker (vice president), Gwen Parker (treasurer), Alicia Alldredge (secretary), James Fields, Amber Hembree, Josh Speakman and Tosha Quick.”

The final word

Said Horstman, “This coming year is a big one for Victim Services because 2021 will be our 30th year of service! As we strive to find new ways to reach those in need of our services, we will continue providing shelter, advocacy, empowerment programs and trauma counseling to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Cullman and Winston counties.”

If you need help

24-Hour HELPLine 256-734-6100

24-hour Spanish HELPLine 256-708-4769 

Facebook messenger @victimservicescullman 


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W.C. Mann