The STTAR Center, a 30-year-old Columbia nonprofit founded to help victims of sex crimes, announced yesterday that it will extend its services during the next year to victims of serious traffic accidents and all violent crimes.
Jeannie Meece, executive director of the Sexual Trauma, Treatment and Recovery Center, announced the expansion during a Howard County Police Department ceremony marking victims' rights week.
The center on Patuxent Woods Drive counsels about 400 victims of sexual abuse, rape and assault each year, and Meece said the group will take on about 100 to 150 more clients by the time all of the new services are up and running. Meece said her staff is training volunteers to counsel victims and their families at Howard County General Hospital after serious car accidents.
"The need is not being met fully, and for no other reason, we stepped up to the challenge," Meece told the audience of about 60.
Howard County police began a victims' assistance unit in 1991, helping 37 families maneuver through the investigative and grieving process that first year. Last year, the unit assisted 4,228 families.
"What a comparison," Police Chief Wayne Livesay said during the ceremony. "But we still haven't served all of them."
Howard County helps victims of crime through a coalition of nonprofits and government agencies, each with its own area of expertise.
Referrals are made to Columbia's Domestic Violence Center, for example, and the STTAR Center, which specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder. The state's attorney's office has a team that assists victims and their families through emotional criminal trials, especially helping them cope with their anger when the outcome is not what they had hoped.
Howard County's Child Advocacy Center, which is in a brick house behind police headquarters, is where abused children go to answer difficult questions from police.
"We have nurses on staff, detectives, representatives from the state's attorney's office, counselors, advocates," said Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman. "They all work under one roof."
Meece said that one of her volunteers could meet a rape victim at Howard County General Hospital immediately after an incident, refer the victim to the Police Department's unit, which would refer that person to the prosecutor's office if there is a trial. But the victim could return to the STTAR Center for long-term counseling services.
"Howard County is progressive in many areas," said Anne Litecky, of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s office of crime control and prevention. "It's no surprise that victims are taken care of here."