Get to Know Our Director of Clinical and Wellness Services, Sabrina Calle-Bunyi

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Sabrina Calle-Bunyi  is the Director of Clinical and Wellness Services at OCRCC.  Sabrina oversees our therapy program, support groups, and workshops.  As a licensed mental health professional, she is also one of our therapists, providing therapy to survivors and secondary survivors in both Spanish and English. These services are free and can include up to 16 sessions. For more information on those programs, give us a call at 919-968-4647.

Below is a Q&A with Sabrina.

Q: How long have you been a therapist?

I have been a social worker since 2016, but the journey started way before that.  I worked in social services for 10 years before becoming a therapist practicing in a variety of settings, including: a community health center, a group home for teenagers, a juvenile detention center, a youth organization, a psychiatric hospital, and a legal defense firm before focusing my work in the field of trauma as a clinical therapist.

Q: What made you want to be a therapist who works with survivors of SA?

While I have extensive experience working with folks presenting with symptoms of anxiety, depression, or challenging life transitions, I have come to specialize in helping Spanish speakers, teens, young adults, and those with marginalized identities in their healing from relational trauma, including experiences of sexual violence. I would say my focus on the treatment of trauma symptoms became a specialty influenced from both personal professional experiences. As a trauma survivor, I have intimate experience with how acutely disruptive trauma is to not only the mind, but also to the physical body. Experiences of trauma can radically transform how and where pain manifests in our body and our social interactions with others due to a fractured relationship with ourselves.

When trauma stems from sexual violence, the disconnection and mistrust to one’s physical body is often at issue. Having been to therapy to heal from my own experiences of trauma, I took note of how and why certain interventions were or were not chosen. I kept an internal catalog of what approaches helped and which ones very much did not. Through my education and work experiences, I learned why some interventions are more successful than others in healing from trauma and eventually developed my own ideology of practice. As a professional, it became my life’s work to honor the experiences of trauma as uniquely situated in accordance to a person’s specific cultural or social orientation and consider the many factors at play. I focus on alternative treatment options that seek to heal the entire person (i.e. mind and body) versus a cognitive, talk-therapy approach. I have developed the current therapy program at OCRCC with the therapeutic ideology of integrating the mind and body into our treatment approaches. Survivors are resonating with this holistic and integrative therapeutic approach, so we know we are on the right path to providing the best care we can to those in need.

Q: What is your approach when working with a client?

My approach is client-centered. All of our clients are voluntary. Clients present what they would like to discuss, they decide on their therapy goals and suggest the pace accordingly.  I work holistically & collaboratively to help folks re-discover their voice, identify their inherent strengths, and to trust their intuition & bodies, again.

Q: What kind of interventions do you like to use?

We use a combination of interventions, including but not limited to: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR); Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT); Art and Music Therapy; Somatic experiencing techniques; and mindfulness practices, to name a few. We do not limit our intervention choices, as we like to allow a client’s presenting need lead us to the right intervention for that specific client. Thankfully, having formal training in various interventions allows that flexibility.

Q: What else can you tell us about therapy?

Therapy is not easy. It is for the brave. What do I mean by that? I mean to say that the process of looking at your patterns of behavior alongside another spectator (your therapist) is not easy. It takes a certain level of courage to discuss and approach topics you may have never discussed with anyone before. Additionally, there is so much stigma around accessing mental health services that often people do not present to therapy until things have been disrupted enough by their traumatic experiences to reach out for help. Maybe they lost a job, a partner, a friend, or have already fully isolated from places or people they used to enjoy being around. People arrive wanting to fix it fast, and this is not how therapy works. There is no quick fix and it can be discouraging to hear this truth particularly given in our current social culture of instant gratification.

The reality is that healing is obtainable, but it takes commitment and a trusted therapist. Key to the success of therapy is having a therapist you just vibe with. Someone with whom you can build a strong and trusted relationship with is very important to the process. The search for the right therapist can feel daunting, but stick with it and you will feel stronger, more capable, and recognize and overall shift that will help you to move through toward healing. It is worth it to seek help and find someone whose approach and therapeutic style works for what you need. We all deserve the space to heal.


Therapy & Counseling: What’s the Difference?

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The terms “therapy” and “counseling” can be used in many different ways, but in our work, we use them to mean different and specific things. To distinguish between the two, it may be helpful to refer to the latter as “crisis counseling” or “crisis intervention.”

Crisis intervention is a brief service conducted by trained professionals that focuses on offering stability and support during an episode of crisis or period of specific need. The advocate provides emotional support, assesses the client’s needs, brainstorms and explains options, and assists the client in connecting with helpful resources. Depending on what’s needed at the time, the session may aim to resolve an emotional or mental health crisis, or it may aim to answer specific questions or connect to specific resources. Crisis intervention is intended to be a short-term intervention rather than an ongoing source of support: Most OCRCC clients talk to an advocate anywhere from one to five times. When someone is in an immediate crisis, crisis intervention works to resolve the current episode so that the client is able to focus on their long-term healing process. Often one of the helpful resources that advocates connect clients to is therapy.

Therapy goes beyond immediate stabilization to help clients begin the journey of healing from trauma and other major life stressors. In the process of healing, therapy aims to manage and resolve trauma symptoms in the long term. Therapy is an intervention delivered by licensed mental health professionals who are required to document and justify their treatment strategies. Therapy is a longer-term service designed to move past stabilization and delve into the causes of stressors. The Center’s Bilingual Therapy Program provides up to 16 sessions of trauma-focused therapy to aid survivors in processing their trauma and alleviating their triggers and symptoms.

Sexual assault victim advocates and trauma therapists often work together to meet all of the survivors’ needs so that they can move from surviving to thriving. Advocates – like our expert staff and trained volunteer Companions – help to stabilize clients during episodes of crisis, whether prior to beginning therapy or in between therapy sessions. Our therapists provide a safe space for survivors to dig deeper into painful experiences and resolve emotional and somatic reactions so that they can live a full life.

Learn more about our Bilingual Therapy Program at ocrcc.org/therapy, or call our help line at 866-WE LISTEN or 919-967-7273.


Myth or Fact: “She Asked for It”

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Myth: If a woman is raped, she probably asked for it in some way.

Fact: Only the perpetrator is responsible for the decision to violate someone. 

This myth restricts women’s behavior and places blame on survivors rather than perpetrators. Women and those who identify as female are often expected to dress or behave in certain ways and to follow strict but contradictory rules to protect themselves from harm. This myth perpetuates the double standard that reinforces an expectation of male aggressiveness and the perceived responsibility of women to avoid any behavior that could be seen as provocative.

This myth also helps distance non-survivors from survivors. By insisting that a survivor played some role, others can alleviate their own fear of assault by assuming that certain behaviors will protect them from a similar circumstance. For example, if you believe women are partially responsible for being assaulted if they were drinking, then you can take comfort in the idea that you are not at risk if you don’t drink too much. Or if you believe women are partially responsible for being assaulted if they were dressed provocatively, then you can take comfort in the idea that you are not at risk if you dress more modestly.

But offenders select their victims not based on the way they dress, but rather on their perceived vulnerability. Rapists target people who seem vulnerable to assault and who seem less likely to report them.

Asking potential victims to be responsible for protecting themselves from victimization is a form of oppression. Only perpetrators are responsible for their behavior, and they should be held accountable. Even if you believe that women should adhere to certain behavioral standards – how they dress, how much they drink, who they spend time with, etc. – the consequences of not meeting these standards should never be rape. No one “asks” to be raped, and no one deserves to be raped. There is never an excuse, an invitation, or a justification for sexual violence. Bottom line.

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This post is part of a series on Myths & Facts about Sexual Violence:

Myth #1: “He Didn’t Mean To”
Myth #2: “She Lied”
Myth #3: “She Asked For It”
Myth #4: “It Wasn’t Really Rape”


Myth or Fact: “She Lied”

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Myth: The rate of false reporting for rape is higher than for other violent crimes.hiring-myth

Fact: Rape is the most underreported crime, NOT the most falsely reported.

Actually, the prevalence of false reporting of rape is about the same as it is for other felonies – between 2% and 8%. A study of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston found only a 5.9% rate of false reports.

This myth serves to blame the survivor. It increases suspicion and hostility toward people who come forward. Although there are isolated incidents where people have lied about being raped, these are the exception rather than the norm.

One major reason that Americans believe that rape is often falsely reported is that the media sensationalizes false reporting stories, while it minimizes or fails to cover the hundreds of thousands of true stories that happen every year.

Another major reason this myth is so commonly accepted is the misconception that rape is “easy to claim and hard to dispute.” But this is far from the truth—many survivors describe their experience of pressing charges or reporting their assault to law enforcement as a “second rape.” Reporting a rape or assault is a difficult and lengthy process. The survivor must share very personal details with complete strangers, undergo a traumatic evidence collection process, and will likely be subjected to a great deal of scrutiny or suspicion. Most survivors experience negative impacts, such as trauma from re-living/re-telling violence committed against them, victim-blaming comments that compound self-blame, and a general lack of support.  It is unlikely that someone would go through this long and painful process if their story was not true. In fact, the reality is that rape is extremely underreported — most survivors never report their experience, especially on college campuses.

Furthermore, many cases are eventually dropped because the structure of the criminal justice system – from police to judge – is not designed to handle the particulars of sexual violence cases. RAINN estimates that out of every 1,000 rapes, only 6 rapists will be incarcerated, meaning that “perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals.” Considering this, most survivors feel that there are enormous costs to reporting with usually very little to gain. So very few reports of rape are false — which means that the vast majority of them are true.

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This post is part of a series on Myths & Facts about Sexual Violence:

Myth #1: “He Didn’t Mean To”
Myth #2: “She Lied”
Myth #3: “She Asked For It”
Myth #4: “It Wasn’t Really Rape”


5 Tips for Finding the Right Babysitter

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blog postWhether you’re rushing to complete errands or enjoying a nice date night, it’s likely that you often find yourself in need of a babysitter for your kids. However, it can be difficult to find a person you trust completely to take care of your child. 1 in 10 children experience sexual abuse before the age of 18, and 40% of instances of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by older youth. With Child Abuse Prevention Month coming up in April, here are some tips for choosing the right person to care for your child.

1. Ask the potential babysitter for references. Talk to parents of kids they have cared for in the past as well as references for any other jobs they may have held to get a better sense of who they are. Read more


Why I Decided to Become a Companion

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men can stop rapeTo start, I am a man — a white heterosexual man to be exact.  I am probably not the first image that comes to mind when talking about an advocate at a rape crisis center.  But here I am, volunteering with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center as a Companion for survivors of sexual violence.  In sharing my story of how I got here, I hope that other men will read this and consider getting involved, either within our community or by taking a firm stand against sexual violence.

When I was finishing my final year of my undergraduate career, I began to take an interest in women’s issues.  To this day I cannot pinpoint what started it, but I do remember reading more blog posts and articles through Facebook about women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted, as well as more generic commentary about the everyday discrimination women encounter.  By the time I was in graduate school, my awareness of the frequency of sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, led me to change my academic focus toward women’s rights and gender equality.  Although my studies focus on the global stage, my conviction that women’s issues needed to be addressed only grew.

I volunteered as a Companion to learn more about sexual violence and how to combat it from a third party perspective.  Reading about instances of rape left me feeling angry that such actions occurred with stunning regularity, and frustrated that people could either brush it off or treat it as “just the way things are.”  While I am grateful for the training provided by the Center and have enjoyed my experience so far, I cannot deny that it has been emotionally trying.  Exposing myself to a subject that I could not personally relate to was difficult.  I certainly cared about what happened, but I understood very quickly that I could never fully comprehend the harassment, the violence, or the subtle discrimination because I was born a man. Read more


Purple Ribbon of Excellence

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purple-ribbon-of-excellenceWe are excited to announce that the Orange County Rape Crisis Center has been awarded the inaugural Purple Ribbon of Excellence! Presented by the Training and Education Committee of the North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission, the Purple Ribbon of Excellence recognized the Center’s efforts to prevent child sexual abuse through our community education programs.

Over the last thirty years, our Safe Touch program for children and our Start Strong program for teens have helped prevent child sexual abuse by teaching children and adolescents to identify inappropriate behavior, to develop an understanding of consent and healthy relationships, and to stand against sexual violence in their schools and communities. These programs are designed for continuous learning, which means that students in every public school in Orange County will receive Safe Touch (preK through 5th grade) or Start Strong (7th and 9th grade) programming year after year, so the skills and knowledge they gain are consistently reinforced and built upon. Conversations that start with learning your own bodily autonomy and boundaries eventually shift to how these ideas apply to treating and respecting others. Read more


Tips for Supporting a Partner in Crisis

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d6eb60bcbd2c14fb8daabc773cd99ffcThe impacts of sexual violence can include a wide array of frustrations and barriers to daily functioning for survivors. Watching from the sidelines as a loved one struggles with those difficulties can bring a similar yet different sense of helplessness and frustration. Secondary survivors — the partners, friends, and family members of survivors — often go through their own trauma response as a result of hearing about the survivor’s experiences and witnessing the negative impacts.

Whether a primary survivor is still reeling in the immediate aftermath of having experienced sexual violence, or whether they are struggling with flashbacks and triggers months or years after the initial incident, it can be painful to watch someone experiencing a crisis. It is important to note that a crisis is different than an emergency. An emergency presents imminent risk of physical harm, whereas a crisis is the mental and emotional response when a situation is too overwhelming to be handled by regular coping methods.

As the person on the outside watching someone suffer, it is a common response to want to do anything you can to make it better, and also common to feel like there is nothing you can do to make it better. While you may not be able to fix the whole situation, your presence and support can be an invaluable benefit to your loved one. Here are a few suggestions for small ways to help someone through a crisis: Read more


5 Tips for Supporting a Survivor of Sexual Assault

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Parents, friends, and others who want to support survivors of sexual assault may not know exactly how to do so. These loved ones may feel helpless and worry about saying the wrong thing or pushing too hard when attempting to offer love and support. We share some of the best tips for supporting survivors so that you can help them feel empowered and start on the road toward healing.

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  1. Accept that you will not have all of the answers or be able to fix it.

It can be especially frustrating to help a loved one who survived sexual assault, because you may feel overwhelmed and struggle with not knowing exactly how to help, even though you wish you could make things better immediately. It is important to keep in mind that just being there for the survivor can make all of the difference in the world. Your loved one does not expect you to have all of the answers, and they know that you cannot repair the damage.

However, you can listen and let them know that you care. Offer unconditional support and believe them. You respond to them in non-judgmental ways and offer support in any way that you can. Do not blame them, question them, or push them for more information. Let them know that you believe in them and will support them for as long as it takes. You also need to validate their feelings and acknowledge them in positive and empowering ways.

  1. Help them feel empowered and regain control over their life.

One of the worst effects of sexual assault is the sense of helplessness that it instills in the victim. They lose power during the assault, so it is critical for you to support their decisions and choices to help them regain a sense of control over their life. Avoid telling them what to do, but offer suggestions and options to help them make decisions that are right for them. Share resources with them for other support systems, such as counselors, sexual assault support groups, and others.

You also could suggest that they ease back into a routine that does not involve a great deal of stress by finding a job that serves a therapeutic purpose. There are many options for working at home or working with their hands that would empower them by allowing them to work as much or as little as they’d like. For example, they could set her own hours and rates by becoming a dog walker. Studies show that petting and playing with dogs reduces stress and alleviates depression and anxiety.

  1. Take a cue from the survivor themselves.

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The Empowerment Model

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Contrary to rape culture and social norms that suggest sexual violence is rooted in sexual desire, lust, or uncontrollable biological urges, rape is a crime deeply embedded in power and control. When a perpetrator commits an act of sexual violence against another person, they deny that person the ability to exert control over their own body, the power to enforce their own boundaries, and the basic necessity of maintaining a sense of safety and well-being.

When a survivor discloses an experience of sexual violence to friends or family, the person hearing the disclosure may respond by trying to fix the situation. That could include things like insisting on going to the hospital, filing a report with the police, moving to a different location, or one of many other actions that prescribe a specific avenue of healing and recovery. Although this response comes from a place of good intentions, these actions often increase the feeling that the survivor has no control over their own life.

Rather than having yet another person impose their will, their concerns, and their priorities on the survivor, it is more beneficial to start from a place of empowerment.

Empowerment means helping the survivor reestablish a sense of control and agency. This may happen by allowing the survivor to recognize their own strengths and capabilities (instead of insisting that they are strong for having gone through something so horrific), helping them find the information necessary to make their own decisions (instead of making decisions without consulting them or against their wishes), and allowing them to take actions they feel comfortable with (instead of pressuring them to do things they don’t want to do).

When we don’t empower survivors to make their own choices within their personal healing process, it can feel re-traumatizing because the survivor is again in a situation beyond their control. Responding from a place of empowerment, however, restores control to the survivor and allows recovery to happen at a pace that feels comfortable.

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  • 24-Hour Help Line:

    • 866-WE-LISTEN (866-935-4783)
    • 919-967-7273 (Local)
    • 919-338-0746 (TTY)
    • 919-504-5211 (Text)