The Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County, Inc. (CVC) is a private, community-based, non-profit 501(c)(3) comprehensive victim services agency. CVC is the designated provider of services to sexual violence victims for Chester County.
The history of CVC began with a cross-section of individuals from various communities in Chester County coming together for a common cause. The agency originated in 1973 as a rape crisis center through the initiative of a variety of concerned individuals, and, from its earliest stages of development, experienced strong linkage with and support from other agencies who came into contact with victims. Housewives, students, professional and business persons and senior citizens throughout the county joined forces with the criminal justice system, hospitals, and social service agencies to assist in the effort to develop an atmosphere which would encourage the victim of sexual assault to seek appropriate medical, psychological, and criminal justice system assistance.
Below is an overview of the important events that have affected and shaped our agency over the last three and a half decades:
- 1973 CVC was founded as The Rape Crisis Council of Chester County, Inc. as part of a grassroots effort by number of concerned individuals to provide assistance and services to victims of sexual assault and their families. A Steering Committee was formed during the summer and incorporation took place in November, 1973.
- 1974 The Volunteer Program was developed and remains a vital part of CVC today.
- 1974 CVC‘s Prevention/ Education Program was formally established. Although presentations were made to adult groups from the very beginning, in 1974 a series of meetings with the Junior New Century Club of West Chester culminated in the development of a skit that could be adapted to educate children from nursery school-age through elementary school. The Junior New Century Club members convinced the West Chester School District to allow CVC to bring the skits into schools. Each year since 1974, CVC has expanded its Prevention/ Education Program, adding new programs and reaching more participants. During the 2005/ 2006 school year, CVC presented 1,818 programs to 47,071 participants to students from nursery school through college, community groups, professional groups and at community-wide events.
- 1975 CVC organized a two-day conference at West Chester University. This was a forum planned by staff, volunteers and the Steering Committee (Board) of The Rape Crisis Council. The forum, entitled Concern '75 brought together grassroots sexual assault victim service organizations from five states and the District of Columbia. The various needs and issues of their clients were discussed. One of the outcomes of Concern '75 was the establishment of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).
- 1975 At the urging of the criminal justice system, CVC broadened its mission to include victims of other crimes, such as assault, robbery, burglary, harassment, stalking, DUI, attempted homicide and to support the families of homicide victims. To accommodate the more comprehensive services, the agency incorporated as the Victim/Witness Assistance Services of Chester County, Inc. (VWAS) but still maintained the sexual assault program as a formal entity. This enabled CVC to continue as the sexual assault services provider for Chester County.
- 1980 During this year, the Chief Deputy District Attorney of Delaware County left that office and joined the District Attorney’s Office of Chester County. Working closely with the Victim/Witness Assistance Services Staff, John J. Crane, Esq. was able to establish new protocols for sexual assault victims. Through his efforts, the Criminal Justice System became more considerate of the needs of sexual assault victims.
- 1982 Child Protective Services Laws were changed and all suspected child abuse had to be reported to the police, putting children into the criminal justice system for the first time and thereby requiring protocols for dealing with child victims. CVC was instrumental in training prosecutors, medical personnel and law enforcement personnel on meeting the needs of the child victims. Prior to 1982 suspected child abuse was reported only to Children and Youth Services and was handled through an internal civil process.
- 1985 VWAS underwent yet another name change and incorporated as The Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County, Inc., by which it is known today. This change was made to avoid confusion with the District Attorney’s Office's newly established Victim/Witness Assistance Unit.
- 1988 CVC received national recognition; the Tadini Baciagalupi Memorial Award for Programs of Excellence in Victim Assistance was presented to CVC by the National Organization of Victim Assistance (NOVA).
- 1988 Constance C. Noblet, who had served as CVC's Executive Director since 1973, retired. Peggy Gusz, who had worked in a variety of positions at CVC since 1973, took over that position and remains there today.
- 1991 The Pennsylvania Bill of Rights for Victims of Crime was enacted. This statute not only gave crime victims rights, but also designated who was responsible for fulfilling those rights. Responsible parties included law enforcement, the District Attorney and local and state prisons. CVC worked closely with all entities responsible for providing victims of crime their rights in Chester County to establish policies/procedures. The Chester County DA’s Office contracted with CVC to provide the necessary entitlements to victims set forth in the Bill of Rights.
- 1993 CVC Executive Director Peggy Gusz was honored by the National Organization for Victims’ Assistance (NOVA), receiving the Margery Frye Award for Outstanding Victim Service Practitioner.
- 1993 CVC Staff worked with then Chester County District Attorney, Anthony Sarcione, to standardize a policy that included CVC advocates as part of the County’s immediate homicide response protocol. This process provided guidelines that included contacting CVC advocates to provide on-scene response to homicides. This policy acknowledged the importance of immediate crisis intervention and support for those affected by homicide -- family members and witnesses – and the value of victim advocates at the scene to provide this support.
- 1995 CVC was requested to staff an office within the Chester County Juvenile Probation Department, where CVC would provide victims of juvenile offenders with notification of rights, assistance with Victim’s Compensation and advocacy/accompaniment services. Currently, two CVC staff members work at this office.
- 1998 After John Crane died, the John J. Crane Allied Professional Award for Excellence in Service to Victims of Sexual Assault was established by his family in memory of his compassionate work on behalf of victims. CVC bestows the award annually on an individual who exemplifies Crane’s outstanding service and commitment to victims of sexual assault, especially child victims.
- 2000 The Pennsylvania Victims’ Bill of Rights was expanded to include victims of juvenile offenders. With this expansion, funding was continued so that CVC could maintain an office and carry on its services within Juvenile Probation as it had done since 1995.
- 2001 CVC, partnering with the victim service agencies in Bucks, Montgomery and Delaware Counties, applied for a grant to undertake a new project, The Four-County Crime Victims Law Project (CVLP). Through this collaborative Project which continues today, CVC was able to expand its services to include civil representation for victims of sexual assault and stalking.
- 2002 CVC coordinated the formation of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) in Chester County. This team is composed of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, Law Enforcement, Department of Children Youth and Families (CYF) Case Workers, representatives from Chester County District Attorney’s Office, and CVC Advocates. SART meets twice a year to facilitate respectful treatment of sexual assault/abuse victims and to encourage teamwork and professionalism.
- 2002 CVC received international recognition when it was featured in a documentary on victim services for Japanese television. A film crew, Group Gendai Films,LTD, under the watchful eye of Director Hiroshi Serita, spent a month (March 2002) with CVC filming footage for the documentary. The documentary aired on NHK, the Japanese equivalent of PBS on May 12, 2002. The documentary was based on the book written in Japanese by CVC intern, Eri Atarashi. The purpose of the documentary was to demonstrate to Japanese audiences how Japan could benefit from the development of victim services such as those offered by CVC, a successful community-based victim services program.
- 2003 CVC was chosen to receive the Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Pathfinder Award for Outstanding Victim Service Program. This award is given to select Pennsylvania- based victim service programs that have made notable contributions to the field of victim service, a history of meeting the needs of the total community and a recognized reputation for delivering services to the community as a whole. Recipients must also have a history of stability, longevity, outstanding administrative practices, collaborative efforts, and a spirit of safety.
- 2003 In October, CVC’s Executive Director, Peggy Gusz, was nominated and chosen for the Achievement Award in the Field of Health. The Award was presented at the 2003 March of Dimes Salute to Chester County Women of Achievement Awards Dinner. This honor was the result of her positive influence regarding awareness of victims’ issues and the delivery of victim services in Chester County.
- 2004 The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) honored Peggy Gusz, CVC’s Executive Director with the 2004 Award for Outstanding Advocacy & Community Work in Ending Sexual Violence. This award recognized Peggy, along with CVC, for exceptional work in the significant task of eliminating and preventing sexual violence, assisting others and promoting health and safety.
- 2004 Sue Stallard, a Direct Service Volunteer with the agency, was selected as a finalist for the Eagles Community Quarterback Award and received a $1,000 grant for CVC. The award presentation took place at the Eagles NOVA Complex in Philadelphia. Sue was accompanied by her family and CVC Staff as she accepted this award.
- 2005 CVC was selected to receive the Mosteller Outstanding Community Service Award from Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce. This award recognizes organizations that have provided exemplary community service and who have made a positive impact and significant contributions to the community.
- 2005 At the request of The Honorable Paula Francisco Ott, then in her role as Juvenile Court Judge, Chester County Court of Common Pleas, CVC developed and piloted a new program - The Link: Anti-Drugs, Alcohol, and Sexual Assault, which is geared to teens/adolescents, ages 11-18, and focuses on the connection between drug and alcohol usage and sexual assault within this age group. The program presents strategies to help this population avoid or minimize participating in these at-risk behaviors.
- 2005 CVC’s Projects Supervisor Donna R. Hull was awarded the Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Victim Service Award for Individual Direct Service at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) Pathways Conference for her 16-year commitment to victims and their issues.
- 2005 Eri Atarashi, a former intern at CVC during late 1990s and frequent visitor thereafter, opened Japan’s first victim advocacy agency -- The Crime Victims’ Center of Osaka -- and serves as its Executive Director. It was co-named ‘The Margaret’ in honor of CVC’s Executive Director Margaret D. Gusz. The Center in Japan, modeled after CVC, is considered CVC’s sister agency.
- 2005 The dedication of the Victims’ Memorial of Chester County, located in Downingtown at The Ponds in Kardon Park, took place on Sunday, October 16, after five years of planning, fundraising, and networking overseen by the Victim’s Memorial Committee (made up of family members of homicide victim Eileen Clark Wallace) and CVC. The ceremony was attended by over 300 people including families of homicide victims, federal, state and local dignitaries, law enforcement and criminal justice officials.
- 2006 In November, 2006, Dr. Mario Spoto, Chester County Victim’s Memorial Committee Chair and brother-in-law of Eileen Clark Wallace, was awarded the Pennsylvania Governor’s Victim Service Pathfinder Survivor/Activist Award for his dedication and work in leading Chester County’s Victim Memorial Committee and making the Memorial a reality.
- 2006 Kim Lyster, a CVC Direct Service Volunteer, was selected as the first runner-up for the Eagles Community Quarterback Award. Kim was selected from 10 finalists and received a $2,500 grant for CVC. The award presentation at the Eagles NOVA Complex was attended by Kim’s family and CVC staff.
- 2007 In March, 2007, as part of the Downingtown National Bank (DNB) Service Award Presentation, CVC’s Executive Director, Peggy Gusz, became the first-ever recipient of the Honorable Robert J. Thompson Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Service. The Loyalty to Service awards was established by West Chester University and DNB First National Association.
- 2008 In November, CVC recognized its thirty fifth year of providing services to crime victims. Peggy Gusz, Executive Director was awarded the Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Victim Service Organizational Capacity Building Award for her commitment and leadership throughout CVC's thirty-five year history. Brooke Hedderick, Managing Supervisor was recognized by Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape for her commitment to victims of sexual violence.