Help us #FinishTheBridge

EFC needs your voice!

Like other survivor services providers in Massachusetts, we rely on federal dollars from VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) to fund some of our most vital programs. But this year, the Crime Victims Fund sits at a historic low, leading to a drastic decrease in the amount of funding awarded and leaving states to make up the difference.

The VOCA Bridge is a multi-year legislative fix proposed by the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance (MOVA). So far, the state legislature has funded $40 million of MOVA’s $60 million request; but without the remaining $20 million, organizations like EFC will still face devastating cuts to already strained budgets.

What does the VOCA Bridge mean for EFC?

Elizabeth Freeman Center relies on federal funding from VOCA to operate some of its most vital programs, including those that keep our clients safe and our services accessible.

  • SAFEPLAN sites specially trained and certified advocates in Northern, Central and Southern Berkshire district courts as well as Berkshire Probate and Family Court, to help survivors seeking protection orders. We provide survivors with safety tools like new locks and security cameras, emergency food and rent assistance, and safe shelter in cases of extreme danger.
  • The LGBTQ Access Project supports part-time, specially trained counselors in all three EFC offices to meet the specific needs of LGBTQ survivors, who historically have been overlooked by sexual and domestic violence programs. We maintain a close partnership with Berkshire Pride, and host an LGBTQ Action/Advisory group to connect with community leaders and activists.
  • The Rural Access Project addresses the unique challenges faced by survivors in rural communities. It makes it easier for clients across the county to reach us, by funding staffing in our North Adams and Great Barrington offices, increasing our bilingual service capacity in South County, and supporting economic and housing advocacy efforts in an area where places to live can be literally few and far between.

Each of these programs serves hundreds of survivors and their families each year, and the numbers continue to rise. But funding for SAFEPLAN has stayed flat for three years; the Victim and Survivor Services (VSS) Grant that supports our LGBTQ and Rural Access Projects has been level-funded for the past two. We are already stretched to our limit.

Without the Bridge, EFC could suffer a 30% reduction in our budget. That means crippling cuts in staffing, program availability, and material assistance for clients in need – losses we simply cannot afford to take.

But there is still hope. Governor Maura Healey has introduced a supplemental funding bill (H.4496) to the Legislature that includes the remaining $20 million investment to fully fund the VOCA Bridge. We need our supporters to speak out in support of the VOCA Bridge, by contacting your elected officials or spreading the word on social media.

How to tell lawmakers that we need the VOCA Bridge

Click here to find your legislators

(In Berkshire County, our legislators are Senator Paul Mark and Representatives John Barrett, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and Smitty Pignatelli.)

Make a phone call

Click here for a sample call script.

Send an email

Click here for an email template.

Post to social media

Right-click the image below to save it to your device and repost on your social media platform of choice, then copy and paste the suggest caption below – or write your own.

Suggested Caption

#VOCABridge is an initiative that aims to bridge the federal funding gap for victim service organizations. This funding is essential to mitigate the disastrous cuts that over 90 victim service programs in Massachusetts are facing. This issue matters to me because, [in 1-2 sentences explain why this issue matters to you, how VOCA-funded programs have impacted you or your community, or if you’re comfortable, share a piece of your story and/or identity as a survivor].

Governor Healey introduced a supplemental funding bill (H.4496) to the Legislature that includes the remaining $20M investment that would fully fund the #VOCABridge. Support the passage of H.4496 and its inclusion of  the VOCA Bridge to help ensure the sustainability of services for survivors. #FullyFundVOCABridge #mapoli  [tag legislators (Click here to find your legislators’ social media handles)] [tag @massmova]

More about the VOCA Bridge

VOCA Bridge 101- Learn About the VOCA Bridge and Why it is Important

VOCA Bridge Fact Sheet

How Does the State Budget Process Work?

What is a Governor’s Supplemental Budget?

Who was Elizabeth Freeman?

This gallery contains 5 photos.

“Any time, any time while I was a slave, if one minute’s freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it, just to stand one minute on god’ airth a free woman–I would.” — Elizabeth ‘Mumbet’ Freeman, as quoted […]

Yes on 3

At Elizabeth Freeman Center, we stand behind a “Yes” vote on Question 3, to maintain protections for trans and non-binary members of our community. We all deserve to be safe, wherever we go, however we look, whoever we are. This law supports our deeply-held belief that no one should suffer harassment, violence, or discrimination based on gender. We hope you will stand with us on November 6 in voting “Yes”.

In supporting Yes on 3, we are joined by other organizations across Massachusetts, including law enforcement such as the Pittsfield and Lenox Police Chiefs, anti-violence organizations including Jane Doe Inc and The Network/La Red, elected officials including North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard, Attorney General Maura Healey and Governor Charlie Baker, and newspapers including the Berkshire Eagle and the Boston Globe. We hope you join us in voting “Yes” on 3.

Please remember that a Yes vote will uphold our current non-discrimination protections, and that this question may be on the back of your ballot!


EFC stands with Yes on Question 3

Berkshire Eagle letter to the editor

Letter: Domestic violence is a tragedy, and an outrage


To the editor:

Again. It’s happened again. Another death. Another woman allegedly killed by her male partner (“911 call sheds light on killing,” Eagle, April 18). It isn’t a new problem and it isn’t unique to us. It happens in the city; it happens in the country. It happens to mothers. Their children are often witnesses. It happens to white women and even more often to women of color. It often happens when women are in the process of leaving or after they have left (so please don’t blame them for staying).

Kassedi Clark is the second woman murdered in the Berkshires in 2018 and it is only the middle of April.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost all women (95 percent) killed by intimates are killed by current or former partners. In 2015, it happened more than 1,900 times in this country. The weapon is most frequently a gun.

Every single one of these deaths is one too many! Every single one is both a tragedy and an outrage!

If you or a loved one has been affected by domestic violence or sexual assault call Elizabeth Freeman Center 24/7 at 866-401-2425.

Wednesday’s Eagle notes that donations to help cover the costs of Kassedi’s funeral can be made via a GoFundMe page at

It is my hope that Kassedi rests in peace, but the rest of us cannot rest at all. We have a lot of world-changing to do!

Susan Birns,


The writer is a board member, Elizabeth Freeman Center.

Berkshire Eagle letter to the editor

Letter: Late but timely celebration of global Women’s Day


To the editor:

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 every year. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights. But for some there is still a question: Why is International Women’s Day so important?

Here in the U.S., women have made undeniable advances, from American boardrooms and courts of law to universities and sports arenas. Yet disparities remain, especially in poor or rural areas and in communities of color. We are liberated, but not empowered. We are burdened by unequal pay, high risk of domestic violence and sexual assault, outright denial of access to affordable healthcare, and although we make-up 51 percent of the population only 19 percent of Congress is composed of women.

We’ve seen a great swell in women leaders coming forward with actions that continually bring to the stage the reasons women need to be celebrated. We are the keepers of rhw survival of humanity. Study after study shows that when women do better, their communities see a direct benefit. Therein is the answer as to why celebrating and ultimately sharing “power” on a true equal scale with women is nothing short of enlightened.

Justice, dignity, hope, equality, collaboration, tenacity, appreciation, respect, empathy and forgiveness. These 10 values are why the Elizabeth Freeman Center has adopted IWD as one of its favorite holidays, with its global focus on equality and celebration of women. These values drive the agency’s mission. Since 1974 Elizabeth Freeman Center has provided leadership and services to address domestic and sexual violence in Berkshire County, every day, 24 hours a day. International Women’s Day puts women back at the center and reminds us of their goodness. It reminds us why the struggle is important and to not lose hope — and why “failure is impossible.”

This year our beautiful but strong (much like women) Berkshires weather asserted itself. We had to postpone the March 8 IWD community celebration due to a nor’easter. With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we’re inviting everyone to join us at Flavours of Malaysia with our friends and supporters to celebrate the wondrous achievements of women and come out in support of IWD and the work of Elizabeth Freeman Center. Join us on Thursday, April 12 at 6 p.m. More information and tickets for the evening are at

Kim Rivers,


The writer is a member of the board of directors for Elizabeth Freeman Center Inc.