Session One-Introduction and Intro to Cultural Competency

This course is designed to help you understand the purpose of our agency and how it functions. You will also learn about working with clients from varying diverse backgrounds.


The Women’s Center, Inc. of Columbia/Montour

Introduction and Intro to Cultural Competency


  • Understand the mission, philosophy, services, demographics, and historical background of The Women's Center, Inc.
  • Recognize how different cultural, social, and individual backgrounds shape people's perspectives, including our own.
  • Define culture, diversity, identity, intersectionality, and privilege, as well as various types of privilege and how they apply to the experiences of survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

A State of Many Firsts

  • Pennsylvania
    • Developed a protocol for the examination of rape victims in the ER that became a NATIONAL standard
    • Developed a video series on child sexual assault that was distributed NATIONALLY
    • Developed training materials to fill the void that existed
    • Passed the Confidential Communications to Sexual Assault Counselors (protecting sexual assault advocates from having to testify in court) 

Welcome to The Women's Center, Inc.

How we function as an agency:

  • Non-profit
  • All of our services are FREE and CONFIDENTIAL
  • First formed in 1974, Incorporated in 1976
  • Serving all residents of Columbia and Montour Counties


TWC Mission Statement

The Women’s Center, Inc. of Columbia/Montour provides direct services for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, prevention activities, advocacy and leadership to the community, aimed at eradicating domestic violence and sexual assault.

What does our mission statement mean to you?

Our Herstory

The Women’s Center, Inc. was one of the 1st programs in PA to provide free support to victims domestic violence, sexual assault, & incest.

Pictured Above:

Back Row from left to right: Director of Finance, Shelter Advocate, Administrative Advocate, Child Outreach Advocate, Administrative Assistant, Education and Marketing Coordinator, Executive Director, Deputy Director, Shelter Advocate, Volunteer and Community Outreach Advocate

Front Row from left to right: Medical Advocacy Coordinator, Legal Coordinator, & Santa



Our Philosophy


We value equality. All of our participants should be treated equally, regardless of race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability status, religious status, etc.

Non-violent Environment

We believe in providing a non-violent atmosphere for every client, every time.


All clients deserve respect and non-judgmental environment.

Gain Confidence

We work to gain client’s confidence to preform the best advocacy available, but also we encourage client’s to develop their own sense of confidence in themselves.

Peer Encouragement

We encourage our client’s through peer support, which is why we offer several different groups including our "Women Supporting Women" Group and allow the women to empower one another while staying in shelter. 


We ALWAYS support the client…no matter what their decision. For example, even if a client chose to leave shelter to return home to their batterer, we would show support for their decision, discuss all of their options, and extensively safety plan with them so they can be safe once returning home. 

Positive Self-image

We try to foster empowerment within all the clients that we serve by encouraging them to look at themselves in a positive live. 


We are a strengths-based organization. We focus on client’s abilities and strengths. We encourage those strengths.


We try to provide the client’s with numerous options to aid in THEIR solution. We never make decisions for our clients.

How we achieve this:

  • Support Services
    • Individual, Group, Children’s Counseling 
    • 24-Hour Crisis Hotline (always staffed by a trained staff member or volunteer)
    • Emergency Shelter for women and children (other housing options available for men)
    • Safety Planning 
    • Transitional housing
    • Legal Advocacy
      • Trainings

      • Legal information packets

      • Legal groups

      • Court accompaniment

      • File for Protection from Abuse Orders (PFA)

      • File for Sexual Violence Protection Orders (SVPO)

    • Medical Advocacy
      • Trainings for hospital personnel
      • Psychiatric support groups
      • Transportation from hospital to emergency shelter
      • Chair of the Columbia/Montour Domestic Violence Task Force
      • Advocacy in a hospital setting
  • Public Awareness Events
    • At community events
    • In legal and medical settings
  • Preventative Education Programs
    • School Trainings: Pre-school through College (age appropriate)
    • Professional trainings (Hospital Staff, Attorneys, Business Professionals, etc.)
    • Community Trainings (provided in a community setting: church, community human service agencies, health fairs, etc.)
  • Outreach:

Given this brief introduction to our services, which area(s) would you be most excited to volunteer in?

What does the term "empowerment" mean to you? Why do you think this concept is important to our agency?


How does The Women’s Center, Inc. use the term EMPOWERMENT?

  • Having the power to affect change personally & institutionally
  • Encouraging client's to tap into their own power
  • Providing the appropriate amount of support in a time of need

As you move through your training, you will learn much more about empowerment and how it functions at our agency.

Language is Important

Words are powerful & we each choose which words to use every day. Each person who understands the issues has the opportunity to help others understand as well, by choosing words that reflect the truth about domestic & sexual violence.”

--Women’s Crisis Service (Mid-Valley)

The words that we choose to use are incredibly important. We must always be mindful of the words we are using when working with clients. Something as simple as: "What happened last night?" vs. "What happened that makes you think you were assaulted?" can make a world of difference to a victim. We always want to be supportive and never blame a domestic violence or sexual assault victim for what has happened.

Organizational Structure

How we’re structured:

Our Participants are at the center of everything!

Client Demographics

Demographics of Columbia & Montour Counties

  • Population (2014 Census):
    • Columbia County: 67,122 people
    • Montour County: 18,641 people
    • Out of the 85,763 total population, we provided all of the following services in 2014:
      • 1,275 participants
      • 1,812 hotline calls
      • 4,713 shelter days
      • 18,549.79 counseling hours
      • 36,093 reached through education and outreach


Terms to Know

PCADV (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

PCAR (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape)

VOCA (Victims of Crime Act)

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

JARS: (Justice, Autonomy, Restoration, and Safety)

Empowerment: Increasing the spiritual, political, social or economic strength of individuals & communities.

Feminism: A collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women.

Feminist Goal: To work on creating a society where there is equality for everyone.


  • Recognizing the state's concern for victims of crime, it is the purpose of the Victims of Crime Act to assure that:
  • The full impact of a crime is brought to the attention of a court;
    • Victims of violent crimes are treated with dignity, respect & sensitivity at all stages of the criminal justice process;
    • Victims' rights are protected by law enforcement agencies, prosecutors & judges as vigorously as are the rights of criminal defendants.


  • FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.


  • Justice
    • Promoting access to opportunities and resources that assure victims/survivors receive responses from systems and communities that maximize safety and hold batterers accountable
  • Autonomy
    • Advancing the abilities of victims/survivors to exercise their own decisions in an informed and independent manner
  • Restoration
    • Linking victims/survivors with the resources they need to maintain their safety and autonomy
  • Safety
    • Enhancing the safety of victims/survivors

Funding Sources

Funding Sources (2013 Fiscal Numbers)

Power & Control Wheel

The cycle of abuse is based around Power & Control.

Battering is one form of domestic/intimate partner violence. It is characterized by the pattern of actions that an individual uses to intentionally control or dominate his intimate partner. That is why the words "power and control" are in the center of the wheel. A batterer systematically uses threats, intimidation, and coercion to instill fear in his partner. These behaviors are the spokes of the wheel. Physical and sexual violence holds it all together—this violence is the rim of the wheel.

The Power and Control Wheel was developed from the experience of battered women who had been abused by their male partners. It has been translated into over 40 languages & has resonated with the experience of battered women world-wide. It will be discussed much more extensively in the next course. 

Intro to Cultural Competency

What makes someone diverse? What makes you diverse?


We all have a variety of characteristics we identify with. Look at the list below do you identify with any of the various identities?

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Group Affiliation
  • Sex
  • Gender Identity
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Religion/ Spirituality
  • Social Status
  • Ability Status
  • Political Affiliation

List 5 identities you have. Which one do you identify with most? What are things people have said or ways they have tried to stereotype you because of one of your identities?

Was it hard to identify one thing you identified with most? Why or why not?

Where Does Identity Come From?

A lot of times our identity is encouraged or shaped by the following things in our life:



Social groups we belong to





Before advocates can understand & help others, they must explore & understand themselves.

It is also important to remember that just because someone has the same identity as us does not mean that we have had the same experience. For example, two different people could identify as middle-class, white women, but that does not necessarily mean that they have had all the same life experiences because of these identities.


  • Intersectionality is the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities.

Often times, our intersections can overlap in various ways.


Culture has a profound & significant influence in the decisions & actions abused women may make.

Therefore it MUST be something that we consider and take into account when working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Read the "Cultural Considerations" Handout. Which of these cultural considerations surprised you most? Which surprised you least?

Can you think of a time that a cultural difference played a part in a misunderstanding that you were involved in? What happened? How did you handle the situation?


Privilege is a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.


What is Privilege? [Video]

Video response: If you did this exercise, where would you fall? How does that make you feel?

White Privilege

Refers to the set of societal privileges that white people benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of color in the same social, political, or economic spaces (nation, community, workplace, income, etc.).

For Example: 


Other examples:

  • You can always find "flesh" or "nude" colored band-aids, tank tops, etc.
  • When you speak, you don't represent your entire race.
  • No one questions why you got that really great job; it is assumed you were just highly qualified.

Male Priv.

Refers to the social theory which argues that men have unearned social, economic, and political advantages or rights that are granted to them solely on the basis of their sex, and which are usually denied to women.

For Example:

  • You can decide not to have children without having your masculinity questioned.
  • If you have a bad day or are in a bad mood, people are not going to blame it on your sex (or, more specifically, your menstrual cycle).
  • You can expect to be paid equitably for the work you do, and not paid less because of your sex.
  • A decision to hire you will not be based on whether or not the employer assumes you will be having children in the near future.
  • (Violence-related) You can walk alone at night without the fear of being raped or otherwise harmed.
  • (Violence-related) You can go on a date with a stranger without the fear of being raped.
  • (Violence-related) You can dress how you want and not worry that it will be used as a defense if you are raped.

You can see more examples here.

Class Priv.

Classism is prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class. It includes individual attitudes and behaviors, systems of policies and practices that are set up to benefit the upper classes at the expense of the lower classes.

For Example: Most new products are designed for people with money.