Monday, December 28, 2020

Local Agencies Provide Help For At-Risk Women

By Andrew Vazquez
Assisting women who are at risk and likely to fall through the cracks is the aim of a number of Chicago organizations that provide everything from support groups to domestic violence services to court advocacy and educational training and housing. Advocates say their organizations, both publicly and privately funded, seek to provide a safety net for not only at-risk women but also for their children. Here’s a look at some of those services on the front lines working to save women and children:

Connections for Abused Women and their Children (CAWC) — Founded in 1976, CAWC offers recovery, counseling, and therapy for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse. CAWC offers women and children services, counseling, court advocacy, substance abuse treatment and a domestic violence hotline.
A not-for-profit organization based in Chicago, CAWC offers four different programs for domestic violence victims, according to Ashley Watkins, a licensed clinical social worker and CAWC spokeswoman. CAWC operates the 42-bed Greenhouse Shelter, one of the largest shelters in the city, for survivors of domestic violence and their children. The Hospital Crisis Intervention Project, housed at John H. Stroger and Northwestern Memorial Hospitals, provides services to domestic violence victims “at the critical time in which they seek healthcare,” according to the group’s website. The Humboldt Park Outreach Program offers bilingual mental health services for adults and children affected by domestic violence with an emphasis on the Latino community. CAWC also operated the Haymarket Center, a comprehensive alcohol and drug treatment program and one of the largest centers of its kind in the country, according to CAWC.

The group also provides a host of children's services. Among them: child advocacy, children’s activities, support groups, and counseling and facilities that include a shelter for children who are victims of domestic violence. Adult services consist of adult support groups, adult counseling and legal advocacy. CAWC runs a 24-hour domestic abuse hotline.
For more about CAWC, visit their website at 
To contact CAWC, call (773) 489-9081.

La Familia Unida—Founded in 1997 in the Little Village community of Chicago, La Familia Unida offers counseling services and programs to address domestic violence. The organization deals with the “aggressors” in the cycle of domestic violence.

Jose Luis Avila and Wanda DeCwikiel-Avila created La Familia Unida Corporation to counsel those who have found themselves inflicting violence in relationships. DeCwikiel, who is executive director of La Familia Unida and also a social worker, said that La Familia Unida provides services for men and women who have committed intimate partner violence.  According to DeCwikiel, the organization has a separate 24-week anger management program, for both male and female aggressors. The program is based on a psycho-educational curriculum that requires weekly assessments and groups meetings. 

“As a counselor in the program our job is to hold the participants accountable for their actions, words, gestures, and ideas that causes them to inflict control over their partner,” said DeCwikiel.

Although La Familia Unida is an organization that seeks to identify the issue that perpetuates domestic violence, their work is not limited to counseling aggressors. La Familia Unida offers counseling services, a parent education program, and an anger management program. It is also is a safe space for all who experience abuse. 

To contact La Familia Unida, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233

Mutual Ground—This Chicago safe haven for women experiencing abuse was founded in 1975.  Mutual Ground provides emergency shelter for families in crisis.  

“Mutual Ground helps women experiencing domestic violence through counseling, crisis intervention, and prevention education,” said Huma Zareen, a victim advocate at Mutual Ground.

While in the program Mutual Ground focuses on women empowerment through education. Survivors of domestic violence heal by gaining empowerment and confidence. Services provided by Mutual Ground include legal advocacy, medical advocacy, counseling services, family services and prevention education. The organization also has a 24-hour crisis hotline that gives immediate telephone counseling, assistance or information to victims of domestic and sexual violence, their friends and families, and community members. 

For more information about Mutual Ground, visit their website at

To contact Mutual Ground’s 24 hour hotline, call (630)-897-0080 or 830-897-8383.
Reporter Samantha Latson contributed to this report