The Crime Victim Center of Erie County is a place you never want to go. But it's also a place there to help when you most desperately need it.
"Our purpose is to serve people who are in most need. Who have had their whole life shaken up and who need to get back on their feet," said executive director Paul Lukach.
It started as the Rape Crisis Center in 1977 in the back of a station wagon. Today, the non profit employs 23 in its office on West 18th St.
Because of its former name, you may think the clients are treated for a rape or a sexual assault. But you may be surprised to learn how many services they can actually offer.
"Any type of crime. Break-ins, assault, any kind of abuse or neglect, robbery. Any of these kinds of things. Anything that we as a society say this is not okay to do to another person," said Lukach.
Through her nine years as a councilor at the center, Martine Holquist dealt with just about everything.
"There's a lot, unfortunately, of home invasions and some of those things that make the news that traumatize people certainly. But there's a lot of things that don't ever make the news that are just as impactful," said Holquist.
In 2010 alone, the center served 5,668 clients. The majority of them sexual assaults. But one recent trend is worrisome.
"We do have some concerns about the trends of some of our youth getting into more trouble that we have seen in the past. We definitely have had a little more violence with guns and shooting incidents than we've had in the past year. So we're a little bit concerned about that," said Lukach.
But no matter who the victim is, and what they need help with, the Crime Victim Center will be there to offer a hand, always free of charge. And that's what makes Holquist's job worthwhile.
"Empowering people to make their own choices and to smile again and to get that little glimmer of hope," she said.