The Year After

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A couple months ago, Chapel Hill native Ashley Warner, author of The Year After: A Memoir, spoke on WCHL about her book and held a reading at local bookstore Flyleaf Books, which was also a benefit night for the Center. Warner’s book is a beacon for those who are adrift, for those who feel like they are alone. And she is garnering recognition for her compelling testimony. As a winner of the 2014 Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Memoir and a finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards for Best Non-Fiction Narrative, Warner is gaining a powerful voice in the literary world and offers an inside look into the recovery process, the details of which are often unknown to those who have not directly experienced interpersonal violence.

In the book, Warner talks about her assault, which took place over 20 years ago. It was a book that Warner wished she had had at the time of the attack, because it seems more manageable when you know you’re not alone. “It’s really comforting to know how other people have handled it,” she said. She wanted to truly communicate the ups and downs that she experienced, and that’s why it took so long to write. For those who have experienced interpersonal violence or know someone who has, it is all too true that recovery does not happen overnight, nor is there some magic step-by-step plan to make everything ‘better.’

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Supporter Spotlight: Sonna Loewenthal

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“I truly believe that the Center’s programs help armor children against child sexual abuse and bullying and provide the words and process for them to disclose ongoing or past abuse.”

“I truly believe that the Center’s programs help armor children against child sexual abuse and bullying and provide the words and process for them to disclose ongoing or past abuse.”

Sonna Loewenthal has worn many hats at the Center. She has acted as a Board member, a Community Educator, and chair of the Nominating and Personnel Committees. Through all her different positions, Sonna has offered the Center invaluable support. We would like to both thank her and highlight her experiences at the Center.

After hearing positive reviews of the Center, Sonna decided to give her time as a member of the Board of Directors in 2004. During her tenure, she spent time as a chair of the Nominating Committee as well as chair of the Personnel Committee. Even having completed her term on the Board of Directors, Sonna still continues to serve on the Personnel Committee 10 years later!

Though her time on the Board and its committees allowed her to better understand the agency and its workings, Sonna finds her role as a Community Educator the most rewarding.

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Awesome Anti-Violence Campaigns from Around the World

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As a freshman in high school, I was required to take an introductory health course. Out of the months I spent in the class, there is only one lecture that I still remember. It revolved solely around the issue of rape and sexual assault. The first half dealt with your basic crime and perpetration statistics. It’s really the second portion of the lecture that’s stuck with me all these years. We were given a list of strategies for preventing sexual assault which included gems such as “don’t wear revealing clothing,” “never go out alone,” and “don’t consume alcohol.” From conversations I’ve had with peers, I’ve come to recognize that my experience was in no way isolated or unique.

Countless young people are taught, either through official school curriculum or through daily interactions with media coverage of sexual assault, that rape is a crime that can and should be prevented by the victim. In these lessons, the perpetrator is barely mentioned, much less held accountable. This strategy is problematic for a variety of reasons: not only does it make a survivor feel responsible for an experienced assault, it also creates an imagined ‘checklist’ in many people’s heads. “If a survivor didn’t follow all of these instructions, then what did they expect? Of course they were going to be assaulted!” Attitudes like this HAVE TO STOP. And employing accurate and supportive educational curriculum is one of the best ways to discredit these viewpoints.

Luckily, there seems to be an ever-growing trend of informed and sensitive ad campaigns that rely on principles of bystander intervention and enthusiastic consent rather than scare tactics, purity myths, and victim blaming. Read on for some of my favorite examples from around the (English-speaking) world.

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2014 Community Award Recipients

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Each year, we recognize individuals and organizations that have made substantial contributions to our cause of ending sexual violence. We recently presented awards to community members and partners at our Gratitude Gala in September:

  • The Mary Ann Chap Award for Community Service was presented to Mediterranean Deli of Chapel Hill and to Lt. Keith Webster of the Carrboro Police Department.
  • The Margaret Henderson Award for Service & Self-Care was presented to Christi Hurt, Assistant Vice Chancellor/Chief of Staff in Student Affairs at UNC-Chapel Hill.
  • The Margaret Barrett Award for Advocacy was presented to Kelli Raker, Sexual Violence Prevention Coordinator at UNC-Chapel Hill.

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October is Relationship Violence Awareness Month

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October is the month of frights. We spend time decorating our homes with caution tape, webs, and danger signs, surround ourselves with scary movies, and finding the perfect costume to disguise ourselves. The mysticism that surrounds us this month is reminiscent of a wide scale problem we often shy away from talking about. This October, as we recognize Relationship Violence Awareness Month, I ask you to take the mask off of domestic and interpersonal violence, so we can have an honest conversation about something that is truly terrifying.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that with every minute that goes by, 24 people are victims to sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Unfortunately, most of these cases are not reported. As a society we have formed a collective silence over domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. High profile cases, like that of NFL’s Ray Rice, paint a single view of relationship violence and put further blame on the victim. Instead of asking why he hit her, much of the focus shifted to why his partner, Janay Palmer, didn’t leave.

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NFL Announces Funding for Anti-Violence Programs

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On Friday, the National Football League (NFL) announced their commitment to multi-year funding to help state and local programs serve survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The funding will be shared between the National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), who will direct support to state coalitions.

In addition to funding, the NFL is committing to host violence prevention education sessions for all 32 NFL teams. Players, coaches, staff, and executives will receive education about domestic and sexual violence as well as information about resources and organizations in their own communities.

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How to Support Survivors: The Dos and Don’ts of Receiving a Disclosure

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Back-to-school carries with it a lot of expected stressors — upcoming exams, issues with roommates, cramped schedules. But these aren’t the only pressures college students face. With 1 in 4 college-aged women identifying as survivors of sexual assault, it is not uncommon to have a friend disclose an experience of sexual violence. Receiving a disclosure from a friend can be extremely disorienting, upsetting, and often overwhelming. This mix of emotions can make assisting a friend a confusing experience. What are the best ways to support a loved one in this situation?

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Do:

  • Do assess safety: The first concern when dealing with a sexual assault is the physical and mental well-being of the survivor. Without pressuring the survivor for any specific details, try to gently ask them if they feel safe in their home or workplace, or if they feel like they need medical attention of any sort. During your initial conversation with a survivor, it’s important to remember to pay attention to any clues of mental distress. Depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts are common issues for survivors of trauma, especially in the weeks and months immediately following an assault. If you notice signs of any of these issues, offer resources on both national (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, RAINN) and local (OCRCC, UNC Counseling & Wellness Services) levels.

 

  • Do respect the survivor’s choices: Sexual assault is a crime that specifically attacks a person’s autonomy and right to make decisions about their bodies. By listening carefully to the needs of the survivor rather than making suggestions or decisions for them, you are giving power and authority back to the survivor. This is an excellent way to help them feel that they’ve regained some control and normality.

 

  • Do appreciate the disclosure: Telling others, especially loved ones, about an experience with sexual assault is one of the most difficult things for a survivor to do. The decision to disclose is fraught with many unpleasant considerations: the possibility of reliving the experience during the disclosure, the chance of being blamed or belittled, the worry that they will be disbelieved or excessively questioned. All of these are very real possibilities being faced by a survivor who has decided to disclose. Respect all of these anxieties, and keep them in mind during your discussions. Thank the survivor for the trust they’ve placed in you, and reassure them that you believe them and would never blame them for what happened.

 

Don’t:

  • Don’t get emotional: An emotional response to a disclosure of this magnitude is completely understandable and normal. However, it is best to focus on the needs of the survivor, especially in the moments immediately following their disclosure. An overly emotional reaction such as anger or extreme sadness may be very alarming to a survivor and can make it difficult for them to remain calm. It is also important to keep in mind that the survivor is likely worried about your response and well-being, even in light of their own trauma. Keeping your emotions in check will be one less thing for the survivor to concern themselves with.

 

  • Don’t push for details: When tragedy strikes a loved one, it’s normal to want to understand as much of what happened as you can. While it may feel like it will communicate concern, asking a lot of questions could negatively affect the survivor and your conversation with them. Not only will probing questions serve to make a survivor relive their assault, some questions may even sound to the survivor like blame, even if they were not meant as such. Questions like “How much did you have to drink?” and “Why were you walking home alone?” have the potential to sound more accusatory than caring.

 

  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself: Although the safety and feelings of the survivor should be a main concern, it’s important to remember that you can’t help anybody without first caring for yourself. Secondary survivorship can be incredibly emotionally taxing, especially if the survivor is someone very close to you. Make sure to check in with yourself regularly, and don’t get lost in the support you’re offering to your friend. You can also access support for yourself from the OCRCC by calling our 24-Hour Help Line or participating in a support group for family and friends of survivors of sexual violence.

While these are all helpful suggestions, remember that what a friend needs most after a disclosure is for you to LISTEN. They won’t expect you to have all (or any) of the answers. The most beneficial thing you can do is to offer them your non-judgmental and open-minded support and concern.

Camille Zimmerman has been a Companion since 2013. She provides support and resources for survivors of sexual violence and is a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.


The Monument Quilt

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The Monument Quilt is a new project from FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, a creative activist collective that uses the intersection of art and action to garner media attention and ultimately dismantle rape culture in society. The project hopes to provide awareness and support for survivors or sexual assault by piecing together tangible stories and experiences to create a public space for healing.

In the past, FORCE has projected survivor’s stories on the US Capitol Building, floated a Styrofoam cut-out of a survivor’s poem in the Reflecting Pool, posed as Victoria’s Secret launching a consent-based underwear line, and posed as Playboy releasing a consent-themed campus rape prevention guide. With their latest project, they are collecting thousands of stories across the country to establish The Monument Quilt for victims of sexual assault and harassment. With our help, they hope to quilt a lasting message in front of the National Mall that reads, “You are not alone.” FORCE explains on their website:

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Educate Yourself While Educating Others

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AliceI started training as a Community Educator during my first semester of my first year of college. Going into the first meeting, I was pretty nervous — the room was filled with folks that were older than me as well as a couple of fellow college students. But we bonded quickly, and they became some of the people who helped me survive my first semester of school.

The college environment can be incredibly stressful for women and their allies in the fight against sexual assault. It’s easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed with the number of students who perpetuate oppressive ideas. The best way to combat this feeling is to put that anger and frustration into direct action — working with the Center is one of the best ways to do that.

Trainings are long, but filled with love and purpose. The time commitment is significant but so deeply worth it, and you really can’t have a bond with your fellow trainees without putting in that time.

Working with the Center gave me the chance to learn about rape culture in a safe environment. I wasn’t being graded, I had many opportunities to ask questions about the cause and effect of oppression, and I learned how to exercise self-care.

It was also a great chance for me, as a Women’s & Gender Studies major, to get a chance to see what day-to-day life is like while working for a direct service nonprofit. When you think of a rape crisis center, you tend to imagine somewhere cold and depressing, with lots of crying women and weird smells. But the Center radiates love and warmth. Every person there takes their job very seriously — but there’s also lots of joy and laughter in the room.

In the education trainings, we’re taught how to keep a conversation moving, dig deep, and avoid common conversational pitfalls. These skills come in handy in so many areas of life, and it’s great to learn them in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

I loved having the chance to connect with other students as well as adults from around the community. It’s so nice to get a break from the campus bubble and be around folks who are old enough to give you advice but are not, you know… your parents. It’s like getting to hang out with your cool queer aunts/uncles and help prevent sexual assault. Does it get any better than that?

Alice Wilder majors in Women’s & Gender Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has supported the Center in a number of capacities, including Start Strong Educator and Social Media Intern.

Safe Touch Educator training begins in August 2014, and Start Strong Educator training will begin in September. Find out more about our volunteer programs and how to apply at ocrcc.org/ce


Punk Cuts 2014

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Alex Stewart receives her third punk cut at the annual Punk Cuts to End Rape 2014.

If there is one thing that has remained consistent about me over the years, it’s that I am always concocting some controversial haircut (kindly referred to as my “five-year hair plan”). Last month marked the third year I participated in Punk Cuts to End Rape for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, and I couldn’t have been more excited to shear my mane for the summer. As the Administrative Services Coordinator for the Center, I feel it is both an honor and a privilege to sport a “punk cut” as I greet newcomers to the office.

Watching the Punk Cuts fundraiser advance, and foster more attention from the community, has left me inspired by the generosity and support of the area. What started off as a disordered house party, with haphazard haircuts, has transformed in merely two years, to a crowd-packed gathering, in a public venue brimming with supporters, professional hairstylists, a craft bazaar, and a total of seventeen shaved heads!

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