Our Resilience Plan, A Letter from the Executive Director

It’s been a month now since our local schools sent students home to await the inevitable “stay at home” order from our state government. Like you, we’ve been taking it day-by-day at the OCRCC, doing our best to plan for a future we can’t quite envision while keeping our spirits up amidst the worry, fear, and grief.

There is tremendous unmet need in Orange County, and our current health and economic crisis has both amplified and exposed the gaps between what people deserve and what they can access. This goes both for basic needs like healthcare, food and safety, stable housing, as well as the emotional and psychological needs of trauma survivors. Personally, I grapple with a sense of smallness in the face of this enormity. Then I take a deep breath, lean into our mission, and remember a core truth of working in rape crisis: as a survivor-led movement, we are the embodiment of resilience.

We have a responsibility to stay grounded and committed. While we don’t really know exactly what to plan for, we have identified 4 critical priorities that guide our actions during this pandemic period.

1. Keep Our Promises

We have transitioned all of our client services to virtual models to minimize disruption to our clients. Our 24-Hour Helplines, case management, advocacy, hospital accompaniment, and support groups are all available via free, secure, virtual platforms. Tele-therapy will be available in May for survivors facing significant barriers to accessing trauma-focused mental health care. Our prevention team is hard at work converting their considerable toolkit of workshops, handouts, presentations, and trainings into content that is accessible to people ages 4-adult.  While the services may look a little different, we’ve committed to a pivot that maintains the highest standards of excellence and accessibility. 

2. Share What We Know

A well-coordinated system of care is critical to both prevention and support for trauma survivors. We’ve created a core team of staff tasked with curating a comprehensive resource page, updated weekly, to help you navigate the evolving availability of services in and around our community. 

3. Be There for Our Partners

The OCRCC is not a basic needs rapid response organization, but we work with several organizations that are. We’ve been in constant contact with our key partners, asking, “what do you need to do what you do best?” In addition to helping our clients access the things they need, we’ve allocated up to 5 hours of work time per employee per week to provide direct support to rapid response efforts with our community partners. This may look like helping people who lack personal transportation get food from the food pantry that now does curbside pickup, helping someone with high health risks living in shelter complete a housing search, or assisting a partner organization with translating their materials into Spanish. Visit our Resource Page to learn about the amazing rapid response work happening in our community, and how you can offer support by donating time, talent, funds, or supplies.  

4. Prepare for the Long-Haul

Even though we launched into this period at a breakneck pace, we believe that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Our work will be both more difficult and more critical in the “aftermath” of the stay-at-home order. As the social fabric shifts, access to stabilizing routines and hard-won social supports have been impacted, stoking trauma symptoms. As financial instability grows, we anticipate increased client need for direct relief. We’re looking ahead at what we’ll need in the next 12-18 months, making sure that money earned from our supporters can go directly to survivors getting their needs met.   

The OCRCC has served this community faithfully for over 45 years. As the current keepers of our mission, our staff and volunteers are focused and committed to keeping our promises — right now and into the future.  

Stay well,
Rachel Valentine
Executive Director

5 Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Coronavirus and Body Safety

By Sol Pederson, Youth Education Program Manager

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, many children and adults are experiencing heightened anxiety and concerns about safetyBetween school closures, economic uncertainty, and a news cycle that seems to release new (and more terrifying) information every 30 seconds, many parents may be reeling right now, wondering 

How can I talk to my child about Coronavirus?  

What will I do to help my children stay sane and grounded while they are cut off from their friends and routines?  

How can I keep myself, my family, and my community safe?  

There is so much that feels uncertain right now. But one thing we can control is having ongoing, open communication with our kids about their concerns, what we can do to keep each other safe, and how we will support each other through this. Silence around any issue only increases worry; while sharing and speaking openly with kids (and other adults in your life!) can increase feelings of support, connectedness, and safety. We can also use this time of heightened awareness around boundaries, body safety, and prevention as an opportunity to talk with children about how to keep their bodies safe from abuse.  

OCRCC’s SafeTouch program is a child sexual abuse prevention curriculum that has delivered safety and empowerment workshops to students in Orange County, NC for the past 40 years. We use kid-friendly, age-appropriate language to talk with children about how they have a right to feel safe in their bodies and that they can always tell a trusted adult if someone gives them a touch that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. In my research to understand how we can have supportive discussions with kids about Coronavirus, I found that the approach to discussing disease prevention is very similar to how we talk with kids about sexual abuse prevention. So, in that spirit, here are 5 tips for talking to your child about Coronavirus and keeping their bodies safe from abuse: 

1. Address your own anxiety first. Seek support.  

Feeling completely overwhelmed right now? You are not alone. Ideally, this might be a time to slow down on productivity and spend more quality time with family and loved ones at home, but that’s just not the reality for many families right now. Lack of access to childcare, losing jobs and income, food insecurity, housing insecurity, and inaccessible medical care may be just some of the difficult barriers facing families right now.  

With all the pressure you may be under, it’s ok to not feel ready to have these conversations. Give yourself permission to tell your child, “I’m not sure how to answer that right now, but I’ll think about it and get back to you” or even, “I need some space right now, but I can talk to you about that in 30 minutes.” Ultimately, it’s best to take care of ourselves as adults first before embarking on a potentially challenging conversation with our kids, because children easily pick up on our anxiety and distress (which becomes their anxiety and distress).  

If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of discussing any safety issues with your child, try reaching out to your support network first to discuss your anxiety around these conversations. Brainstorm ideas or practice having these conversations with other parents first. If you are a survivor of child sexual abuse yourself, you may feel triggered having these discussions with your childrenknow that you are not alone and the OCRCC 24-hour phone, text, and chat helplines are always available to you for support 

Also, don’t forgetfor the (many) times when you might be struggling to remain calm and carry on, there are tons of online media and resources that can be used as a conversation starter so that you can focus on taking some deep breaths (or getting done one of the million things you probably have on your to-do list right now!) 

PBS: How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus (includes videos, apps, and games) 

Just for Kids: A Comic Exploring the New Coronavirus 

A Kids Book About COVID-19  

Amaze.org has amazing age-appropriate videos for children and teens about puberty, sexual health, preventing abuse, and more.   

You Are A Special Person: Coloring book for children ages 4-6 that includes a story about safe touches, unsafe touches, and what to do if you get a touch that makes you feel confused or unsafe (say no, get away, and tell someone!) Available in English, Spanish, Burmese, and Karen.

2. Do your research. Share accurate information.  

Children may be hearing misinformation about Coronavirus from peers or not-so-reliable media sources. There is also a lot of misinformation and inaccurate myths that some kids (and adults!) may believe about sexual abuse. 

Educate yourself first about the facts around these issues so that you can share accurate information with your children that will reassure them and help keep them safe. Ask your kids directly what information they are hearing about Coronavirus, correct any misinformation, and set time limits on consuming news media or scrolling through social media (this is helpful for kids and adults right now)! 

We also want to have open conversations with kids about body safety to make sure they have access to accurate information. One common misconception about child sexual abuse is that perpetrators are most often strangers. In reality, 90% of children are abused by someone they know. Understanding this fact can aid us in preventing abuse. In talks with your child, make it clear to them that no one should be giving them an unsafe or confusing touch on their private parts, even if it’s another family member, teacher, friend, or anyone else they know. Have discussions with your child about the difference between someone helping them with their private parts and an unsafe touchand use concrete examples:

“Is it ok for your parents to help you change your diaper? Yes, because that’s to keep you safe and healthy. Is it ok for your friend to go with you into the bathroom? No, because that’s private time, but a trusted adult like mommy could help you in the bathroom if you asked for help. Is it ok for a doctor to help you with your private parts? Yes, but mommy stays in the room with you so you can feel safe and comfortable with the doctor.” 

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource (Available in English, Spanish, Amharic, Chinese, Korean, French, and Vietnamese) 

Facts about Child Sexual Abuse from Darkness to Light 

3. Focus the conversation on safety.  

Some parents may worry about scaring their child if they talk openly about topics such as sexual abuse or a global pandemic. Even though it’s valid to feel anxious or scared about these topics, the conversation itself does not have to be scary. Remember that it’s comforting for children to know there is a safe adult in their life who will answer their questions in a calm, reassuring manner, while silence around a topic will just cause more fear to take hold. If an adult can affirm for a child that it’s OK to talk and share their feelings about any topic, it can go a long way in reducing the child’s anxiety and increasing feelings of safety.  

When having discussions about Coronavirus, remember to keep the conversation age-appropriate by using clear, simple language and concrete examples. Children get lost if we use too many words and need to connect the information you’re sharing with them to their own experience. Some painful feelings could come up during these conversations. Children might feel disappointed right now about cancelled school events, birthday parties, or fun trips, or scared about the health and safety of other family members. It’s important to validate their feelings and let them know it’s ok to be upset about what’s happening. You can help them brainstorm some healthy and safe ways they could express what they’re feeling (draw a picture, scream into a pillow, cry, talk it out, etc.) If they are expressing lots of anxiety or asking the same questions over and over, remind them that adults at their school, home, and in their community are working hard to keep them safe.  

Give clear examples of things that we can’t do right now to stop the spread of germs, and then brainstorm specific activities that you still can do together- “We can’t go to the gym or school right now because of germs, and we did have to cancel your sister’s birthday party, which was really sad. But we can still make pancakes in the morning and walk the dog together! What ideas do you have about things we can still do?” 

Similarly, when discussing body safety with kids, focus the conversation on clear, concrete examples about safe and unsafe touches, using simple, age-appropriate language.  

 If you’re struggling to figure out where to start the conversation, start by framing it in terms of safety. You can use this comic as a tool to talk about Coronavirus and body safety together:

This script can be made into a game- write the list of different places/situations and corresponding safety practices down on a piece of paper. Cut each category out into squares, mix them up and turn them upside down. Have kids turn over 2 squares at a time to match the place/situation with their safety practices!

4. Don’t play the blame game.

There’s a lot of shame and blame being thrown around right now about who is “responsible” for the pandemic. Inaccurate and dangerous myths are being spread about certain groups of people being responsible for the spread of Coronavirus. It’s vital to combat these myths with accurate information to protect the safety of groups who are under attack from racist and xenophobic rhetoric 

Teaching Tolerance: Speaking Up Against Racism Around the New Coronavirus 

Just like our discussions around Coronavirus, we don’t want to use shame-based language when discussing questions related to sexuality, bodies, or sexual abuse with our children. If we shame children for wanting to ask questions about their body or sexuality, they will take that as a cue that it’s not safe to discuss those parts of their body and experience, and they may not feel comfortable disclosing sexual abuse if it happens later. Experts recommend that parents teach children anatomically correct language for their private parts, to reduce shame and stigma and so that children can communicate accurately about unsafe touches if they occur. 

“Just like mommy wants to know if you got hurt on your arm or leg, I want to know if anyone touches your private parts in an unsafe way to help keep you safe.”

AMAZE Parent Playlistvideos and resources designed to help parents engage young children (ages 4-9) in open, honest conversations about bodies and growing up in a fun, engaging, and age-appropriate way. 

5. React Responsibly. 

Just like every parent wants to know the steps of what to do if a child or another member of your household starts to show symptoms of Coronavirus (see the Center for Disease Control’s guide for how to react responsibly if you or someone else in your household gets sick: What To Do If You Are Sick), we also want to know the steps of how to respond with care and support if a child discloses abuse.  

One critical thing to remember is to avoid expressing anger towards the person responsible for the abuse in front of the child. While anger is completely valid and healthy to process with other adults, displaying anger in front of a child could unintentionally scare them and make them feel like they’ve done something wrong. Children could also have complicated feelings about the abuse that occurred, and may not want the person responsible to get in trouble. Showing anger in front of the child, or saying you will make sure that person is punished for what they did, could cause distress to the child. They may even change their story or stop sharing with you about what happened. See OCRCC’s guide below on how to react responsibly to support and care for a child if they disclose abuse: 

HOW TO HELP WHEN A CHILD DISCLOSES ABUSE

No matter how carefully we protect them, kids can be impacted by sexual violence. Support and understanding can help them recover.

1. Believe them. Young people need to be supported and encouraged by your listening.

2. Respond calmly and with assurance.

3. Tell the young person: I am glad you told me. It is not your fault. I am sorry this happened to you. I will do my best to protect you. It is normal and okay to have the feelings you are having.

4. Ensure their immediate safety. Note: Any adult suspecting the abuse of a minor is legally required to report to the police or to the Department of Social Services at (919) 245-2818. If you are unsure of your legal requirements, call the Center for advice at 1-888-WE-LISTEN.

5. Get help. They may need medical, legal, or emotional support from professionals.

6. Respect their privacy about the details of the incident and who is told. Let them lead the way in talking about what happened.

7. Try to follow normal routines. This provides reassurance while they seek to re-establish a sense of control over their life.

8. Recognize your own feelings. It’s okay to seek help for yourself while you are also helping others.

These are tough times for all families, but remember that taking these simple steps can help keep your family and our larger community safe. Just like Coronavirus could impact anyone, sexual abuse is an issue that affects all communities, and we must work together and take proactive steps to stop the spread of both. OCRCC will keep our 24-hour phone, text, and online chat helplines available if you have any questions or would like extra support during this difficult time. We hope for everyone’s health and safety.

Community Care and Mutual Aid Resources

Read our latest blog post with suggestions about conversations with kids about the Coronavirus

Mental Health Resources

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Additional Resources For Talking to Your Child About Coronavirus: 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With The Coronavirus Disease 2020 (Available in English, Spanish, and Chinese).

Prevent Child Abuse: Coronavirus Resources 

Psychology Today: Parenting During COVID-19 

Futures Without Violence: Resources for Kids and Families 

Child Mind: Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus 

National Association of School Psychologists: Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource 

CDC: Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19 

Online Learning Resources: 

Common Sense Provides Resources for Parents to Prepare for Coronavirus School Closures  

Amazing Educational Resources: Education Companies Offering Free Subscriptions due to School Closings  

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Simple Activities for Children and Adolescents 

EdNavigator: How Should Parents Prepare for Coronavirus, School Closures, and Getting Anything Done? 

Resources for Talking to Your Child About Body Safety: 

Committee for Children: Hot Chocolate Talk 

Advocates for Youth: Sexual Health Education for Young People with Disabilities- Research/Resources for Parents/Guardians 

Psych Central: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting Kids with Intellectual Disabilities from Sexual Abuse  

Child Mind Institute: 10 Ways to Teach Your Child the Skills to Prevent Sexual Abuse 

Stop it Now!: What Should I Do After A Child Tells? 

OCRCC: Helping Kids Stay Safe 

Family Support Resources in Orange County:  

COVID-19 Resource Spreadsheet – Chapel Hill NC   

OCRCC COVID-19 Statement

As of March 16th, the OCRCC offices are closed to both visitors and staff.

The health and safety of our employees, volunteers, clients, and partners is a priority for us at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.

Orange County Rape Crisis Center Icon

We are closely following the advice of public health officials at the CDC and the Orange County Health Department regarding the outbreak of the respiratory disease coronavirus/COVID-19. The situation is evolving rapidly and we anticipate conditions in our community could change very quickly.

It is important that we protect ourselves and one another during this time and during all moments of increased risk to our community. Groups at increased risk for complications in the event of contracting COVID-19 include people over 60, people with underlying health conditions such as diabetes and asthma, and those with compromised immune systems – all of whom are part of the OCRCC community. While the increased media attention and unknowns surrounding coronavirus may feel novel, much of the scientific advice for how to stay safe and protect one another from disease are applicable to a variety of viruses, including influenza. Most of the advice we’ve received is familiar- we should be washing our hands thoroughly and often, avoiding contact with sick people, keeping our office clean, and staying home when we’re sick.

At this stage, the CDC has recommended that reasonable practices be put into place to stop the spread of the virus and to be prepared if the situation escalates. As of March 16th, the OCRCC offices are closed to both visitors and staff. Staff will work remotely for the duration of the pandemic period until the agency determines it is safe to resume in person services again. Our plan for service continuity is as follows:

    • We will maintain 24-hour crisis intervention services through our phone, text and chat Helplines.
    • Hospital accompaniment will still be available via video chat. We have provided the SANE staff at UNC Hospitals with an agency cell phone with video chat capabilities, and registered for Vsee Chat, a secure encrypted HIPAA compliant telemedicine app that will allow survivors to connect directly with an advocate for emotional support during their medical appointment.
    • All client and community meetings will be conducted virtually either via phone or video chat. Secure video chat options will be used for any client contact. 
    • Support groups have been postponed by 2 weeks to allow us time to retool and assess feasibility and best practices for holding virtual groups as needed.
    • All other public events, including education programs, have been cancelled or postponed. Follow us on social media for continued updates.

A Note for Survivors:

In times of uncertainty and public anxiety, navigating the world as a survivor can feel even more heavy.  As we consider or prepare for precautionary measures like social distancing, self-quarantine, or sheltering in home, survivors may experience heightened feelings of isolation. If you are confined to a home or space where your assault occurred or where your harmdoer is also contained, planning for emotional and physical safety can feel even more daunting.  Our 24-hour crisis intervention and support services are still active throughout this pandemic period.

Help, Hope and Healing are still just a call, text or chat away- 24 hours a day, every day.

Call Us: (919) 967-7273

Text Us: (919) 504-5211

Chat Online: Click the button at the bottom of the page on our website

Additional Mental Health Resources for Coping with COVID-19 Outbreak and its Fallout

Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health, from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

How to Deal With Coronavirus If You Have OCD or Anxiety, VICE Magazine

How to survive coronavirus anxiety: 8 tips from mental health experts, TODAY

SAMHSA’s free 24-hour Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990

Dear Chapel Hill Community

On January 10, 2020 the OCRCC was alerted that public accusations of sexual harassment had been made against Al Bowers, local business owner and business sponsor of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center. While we do not typically comment publicly on local cases, our affiliation with the accused compels us to do so. We write today to affirm our commitment to supporting and believing survivors.

All survivors of unwanted sexual attention- including rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment- deserve safety and support. The Orange County Rape Crisis Center is committed to providing a safe space for hope, help and healing for all survivors in our community. We recognize that our public association with Mr. Bowers compromises our ability to be a safe space for all, and for this reason we have decided to cut ties with Mr. Bowers and his businesses.

Anytime someone goes public with their experiences of sexual harassment, the impact is immeasurable and far-reaching. Workplace sexual harassment is a widespread problem that affects millions of people every day, and is not isolated to this situation. Survivors who have similar experiences may be conflicted about whether or not to come forward themselves. Survivors of all kinds may find the increased public conversation about sexual harassment–including the commentary of those who will come to the defense of the accused- triggering for a variety of reasons. If you or someone you know is struggling with how to make sense of their feeling regarding these accusations, please know that expert advocates from the OCRCC are available 24 hours a day to listen, support, and connect you to resources that might be of use. If for any reason you are uncertain about utilizing the services of the OCRCC, we have included contact information for additional services in nearby communities at the bottom of this message.

Please take good care of yourselves and one another, and take note of the resources available to survivors in our community.

Sincerely,
Rachel Valentine, OCRCC Executive Director
Julia Da Silva, OCRCC Board President
Annie Johnston, OCRCC Board Vice President
Lauren Erickson, OCRCC Treasurer
Ryan Huckabee, OCRCC Secretary

OCRCC 24-Hour Phone Helpline: 1-866-WE-LISTEN
OCRCC 24-Hour Text Helpline: 919-504-5211
OCRCC 24-Hour Online Chat Helpline: www.ocrcc.org

UNC -Chapel Hill Resources: safe.unc.edu
UNC- Chapel Hill Gender Violence Services Coordinators: 919-962-7430, gvsc@unc.edu

Durham Crisis Response Center: 919-403-6562 (English), 919-519-3735 (Español)

Governor Cooper Ratified Bill to Modernize Sexual Assault Laws in NC

On October 31, 2019, the North Carolina General Assembly ratified Senate Bill 199, which strengthens laws and protections for survivors of sexual violence. This bill is a huge win for survivors, advocates, and allies, and brings NC up to date with the rest of the country in terms of how the law treats survivors. S199 was originally a bill to extend protections for survivors of child sexual abuse, and legislators added elements from other bills to address gaps and loopholes in sexual violence laws to create a singular comprehensive bill. The bill was signed into law by Governor Cooper on Thursday, November 7, 2019, and takes effect on December 1, 2019.

Prior to the adoption of
S199, many survivors of sexual violence were unable to pursue their case in the
court of law because NC did not classify some forms of sexual violence as
illegal. Megan Johnson, the Crisis Unit Supervisor at the Chapel Hill Police Department,
expressed her frustration with the law: “Our own law enforcement, they want
justice for victims, and sometimes the law isn’t set up in a way that we can
find that, and I think that is frustrating for everyone.” Once S199 takes
effect, survivors of sexual violence will have legal backing to pursue justice
in the legal system in ways they were not able to before.

With the passage of S199, NC will recognize the refusal to heed withdrawal of consent as a crime that can be prosecuted as rape or sexual assault. NC is the last state to legally grant the right to revoke consent, allowing prosecutors to take on cases that previously had no legal backing. The OCRCC recognizes that giving consent is ongoing and persons have the right to revoke consent at any time since the nature of sexual activity can change to become violent, painful, or otherwise unwanted. Due to the diligent efforts of survivors, allies, and advocates, the law will finally protect and give power to individuals who were previously not able to prosecute or seek justice because their experience was not recognized as rape by the law.

S199 includes provisions
that modernize sexual assault laws by expanding the definition of mental
incapacitation, as it applies to rape and sexual assault. Previously, a person
was only considered incapacitated by an act committed against them by another
person. S199 updates the language to include any act, meaning that if someone
is incapacitated due to voluntary consumption of drugs or alcohol, they will
now be able to pursue legal action against the person who committed violence
against them. This is a vital change in legislation, since many survivors,
particularly college students, were unable to pursue legal action due to
voluntary consumption of alcohol. When S199 becomes law, NC will finally
recognize what we know to be true: drinking alcohol or consuming illicit drugs
is not consent for any sexual activity, and engaging in sexual activity with
someone who is incapacitated due to alcohol or drug consumption is sexual assault or rape.

This bill retained the
protections it provided to survivors of child sexual abuse and increases
prosecutorial options for delayed reports of child sexual abuse. The statute of
limitations will be extended to 10 years after a crime for certain misdemeanor
offenses related to child sexual abuse. The statute of limitations for civil
action will be extended to 10 years after the minor turns 18, to age 28.
Extending the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse is extremely
important to allow survivors time to process their experiences and feel
empowered to speak out. Rushing someone to report can be re-traumatizing, and
extending the statute of limitations in both criminal and civil cases grants survivors
greater autonomy and choice, and allows them to come forward when they are
ready.

S199 contains other
provisions that expand the duty to report cases of child sexual abuse, protect
children from online predators, and require training for school personnel on
the topics of child sexual abuse and sex trafficking.

While S199 is certainly a
significant win for sexual violence survivors and advocates, it does not mean
that NC is done improving protections for survivors. Activists and advocates
must continue to push for legislation that protects survivors of sexual
violence and provides them with opportunities to pursue justice and healing. H29,
the Standing Up for Rape Victims Act, was not among the bills incorporated into
S199. This bill would establish processes and protocols to test the untested
sexual assault forensic exam kits (rape kits). A report in 2017 found that 15,160
untested kits exist in NC, and H29 would eliminate this backlog and ensure that
future kits are tested in a timely manner. Furthermore, increasing funding
levels for rape crisis centers across the state would prove to be extremely
beneficial to survivors of sexual violence, as many RCCs are underfunded and are
struggling to adequately serve an increasing number of help-seekers with
limited staff.

We must note that the
creation and passage of S199 did not happen in a bubble. Survivors of sexual
violence who shared their stories publically or allowed others to advocate on
their behalf were instrumental in the ratification of S199. In August, OCRCC’s
own Rachel Valentine, Executive Director, Taylor Hamlet, Crisis Response
Coordinator, and Abby Cooper, Policy Intern, met with the NC Joint Legislative
Women’s Caucus to discuss the need for updated legislation that better protects
and supports survivors of sexual violence in our state. The ratification of
S199 demonstrates the power of community members speaking up, advocating for survivors,
and demanding change.

When willing and able to
speak out, the voices of survivors of sexual violence, their loved ones,
advocates, and allies are invaluable to the fight against rape culture. Making
updates to outdated legislation is crucial to ensure that individuals have the ability
to pursue justice and accountability when their basic human rights are
violated. When the NC government stands with survivors, we are one step closer
to a world free from sexual violence.

Want more information?

Read news articles about
the passage of S199 here,
here,
and here.

Read the official bill
summary here.

Read language of the ratified bill here.

Written by Abby Cooper, OCRCC Policy Intern.  

OCRCC Pushes for the Reauthorization of VAWA

In April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC) launched its Policy Initiative. The OCRCC hosted a meeting with the office of Senator Thom Tillis to advocate for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), increased funding for the Rape Prevention and Education (RPE) program, and to lift the cap on the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) Fund. In June, the OCRCC’s Policy Fellow, Abby Cooper, continued this legislative work by meeting with the offices of Senator Richard Burr and Representative David Price in Washington D.C. The OCRCC relies on federal funding through VAWA, VOCA, and RPE to serve survivors of sexual violence and provide violence prevention programming to the community. Support from our elected policymakers is crucial to show survivors that we see them, believe them, and want to support them throughout their healing process.

This past year, the OCRCC served 658 survivors, a number that has significantly increased over the past 10 years. Furthermore, the OCRCC has expanded the types of services offered to clients to go beyond one-time crisis intervention. A growing staff now provides therapy, support groups, legal and medical advocacy, and case management services in both English and Spanish. Not only is the OCRCC serving more clients, but clients are returning for support and assistance at higher rates than in previous years; the average client receives OCRCC services on over five different occasions. At a time when the OCRCC and other rape crisis centers across North Carolina and the country are experiencing increased demand for services, support from the federal government is critical. Yet, Congress has not yet reauthorized the expired VAWA. In order to provide the highest standard of care to all clients who seek OCRCC services or educational programming, VAWA must be reauthorized, appropriations for RPE must increase, and the spending cap on VOCA must be lifted.

VAWA was authorized in 1994 as the first federal legislation to address sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking (the four crimes). VAWA provides critical legal protections, authorizes multiple grant programs to transform law enforcement and the legal system’s response to the four crimes, and funds organizations that provide direct services to survivors of the four crimes. The authorization of VAWA brought sexual violence into the public conversation and facilitated a shift in societal norms around issues of sexual violence. Twenty-five years later, VAWA has been reauthorized three times to integrate updated research and best practices related to sexual violence prevention and intervention. VAWA has drastically improved the criminal justice system’s response to sexual violence and expanded the capacity of direct service providers to support a greater number of survivors.

However, VAWA’s work is not complete – sexual violence still permeates our society and is far too common. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 92 seconds. Yet, only five out of every 1,000 perpetrators ends up behind bars. VAWA, with comprehensive updates, is necessary to increase perpetrator accountability, protect vulnerable populations, and support survivors of the four crimes.

While VAWA has expired, grant programs will remain funded for the remainder of the fiscal year. H.R. 1585, or the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, passed in the House on April 4 (NC District 4 Congressman David Price voted YES), but has not yet been introduced in the Senate. The 2019 reauthorization bill is based on extensive research and outreach to direct service providers, experts in the field, survivors, and other stakeholders, and contains new provisions which are crucial to address gaps in coverage and expand funding for services and primary prevention.

VAWA must be reauthorized in order to ensure survivors can access necessary care in a timely manner. Rolling back protections is not acceptable, and neither is maintaining the status quo; the new provisions in H.R. 1585 are essential to protect all survivors of sexual violence and increase the capacity of rape crisis centers and other direct service providers to serve survivors. The #MeToo movement encouraged more survivors to speak out about their experiences and seek help, which has been reflected by the increased demand for OCRCC services. Every survivor who comes to the OCRCC for support has a unique story and requires customized care. VAWA makes it possible for OCRCC staff to respond to each client and offer the type of care survivors need to heal.

You can help advocate for the reauthorization of VAWA too! Call the offices of Senator Burr and Senator Tillis and tell them why you support the reauthorization of VAWA. You can also send letters or tweet. Contact information and sample scripts/tweets are below:

Senator Richard Burr @SenatorBurr
Winston-Salem, NC Office: 2000 West First Street Suite 508, Winston-Salem, NC 27104
800-685-8916
336-631-5125
Washington, DC Office: 217 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
202-224-3154

Senator Thom Tillis @SenThomTillis
Raleigh, NC Office: 310 New Bern Ave, Suite 122, Raleigh, NC 27601
919-856-4630
Washington, DC Office: 113 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
202-224-6342

*Sample call script:

My name is [your name] and I am calling from [your location and, if you are affiliated with a domestic violence or sexual assault program, the name of your program]. I urge [Senator Burr/Tillis, depending on which office you called] to support the bipartisan H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Act of 2019. The Violence Against Women Act is one of the pillars of the federal response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. [Tell your Senator why VAWA has been important to your community. If you are from Orange County, cite the OCRCC’s work in the community. Otherwise, cite a local domestic violence or rape crisis center’s work, or, if you have a story you feel comfortable sharing, share your experience]. Every time VAWA has been reauthorized, it has been strengthened based on our increased understanding of gender-based violence. The Me Too era, when survivors are demanding change and stronger protections, is not the time to roll back essential protections or even to maintain the status quo. H.R. 1585 maintains protections for all victims, makes vital investments in sexual assault prevention, ensures sexual predators who prey on Native women are held accountable, protects victims of domestic violence from intimate partner homicide, and increases victims’ access to safe housing and economic stability.

*Sample tweets:

  • The bipartisan VAWA (#HR1585), introduced by @RepKarenBass & @RepBrianFitz, includes key enhancements for all survivors of domestic and sexual violence. @Senhandle can I count on you to help get this bill across the finish line?! #VAWA19 #VAWA4ALL
  • The Violence Against Women Act (#HR1585) is a bipartisan bill. @Senatorhandle can I count on you to co-sponsor this #VAWA4ALL survivors? #VAWA19
  • The Violence Against Women Act (#HR1585) is a critical bill that enhances protections for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. @Senatorhandle can I could on you to support this bill?
  • The Orange County Rape Crisis Center supports the reauthorization of #VAWA. @Senatorhandle, will you stand up for survivors of sexual violence too?

 
*Adapted from the National Task Force to End Sexual & Domestic Violence


Abby Cooper is OCRCC’s Policy Fellow doing important work on the ground.

Day of Giving

Join Orange County Rape Crisis Center for our 1st Annual Day of Giving On Tuesday, June 25!

Q: What is the DAY OF GIVING?

A: I’m glad you asked! It’s our first annual, 24-hour online fundraising extravaganza when your gift can go further to support the expanding needs for survivors and prevention services in our community. Our fiscal year is ending June 30th, and we’re still about $5,000 away from reaching our Annual Appeal goal for the year. For one day only, your gift will have twice the impact and will be matched up to $1,000 by a generous donor.

This Day of Giving will take place Tuesday, June 25, from 12 AM to 11:59 PM. You can make donations during this 24‐hour period through ocrcc.org/donate, Facebook, or PayPal. Our ability to keep breaking the silence around sexual violence depends on generous donors like you.

We need you to help us spread the word and make a direct difference in the lives of the survivors, schools, businesses, and loved ones we serve.

Q: Remind me why you need my money?

A: Sure! As the #MeToo movement has picked up steam, we’ve risen to meet our community needs with additional support, education, and advocacy. In the last year, our numbers for walk-in clients and medical accompaniments have increased by over 400%, and we’re managing more active cases right now than we’ve ever had at one time before. Additionally, our average contact time with each client has more than doubled, showing that the needs for long term case management and care are only growing day by day.

Though the conversation about sexual violence has gained momentum over the last couple of years, funding for local rape crisis centers doing the work on the ground remains as sparse as ever. Our services depend on individual donations from regular folks like you to provide stability, when government funds aren’t guaranteed, and to fill in gaps for unrestricted funding on things grants can’t cover.

By helping us reach our end of year goal, you’ll help us start the new fiscal year strong and give us the momentum to continue to support survivors with new initiatives like our new online helpline that will launch this July.

Q: I don’t have a lot to give. Should I just skip the DAY OF GIVING?

A: No way! Even a small gift goes a long way in reaching our goal since it will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $1,000) by a generous donor. On this day your $15 gift becomes $30, which can cover transportation costs to and from our free bilingual therapy program for one of our clients.

Q: Okay, I’ll donate. What do I do now?

A: You’re incredible! We’ve tried to make giving as easy as possible. You can make tax-deductible contributions during this 24‐hour period through our website, Facebook, or PayPal.

For Singer Jess Klein, the Power of the Voice Benefit Concert is Just Another Way to Give Back to OCRCC

Hillsborough singer-songwriter Jess Klein has a voice that Mojo magazine calls “one of those voices you want to crawl up close to the speakers to listen to.”   Fresh off of a 4-week tour through England and Ireland, Jess returns to North Carolina to perform at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center’s first annual “Power of the Voice Benefit Concert” On Saturday, June 1, along with Lydia Loveless and Reese McHenry.   For Jess, this is just another way that to give to an organization whose mission and values align so closely with her own.

“After the 2016 election I felt a need to get involved,” recalls Jess. “In my music I talk about personal and political things. I wanted to be with people who were taking action to create a better world in a more day-to-day way, not just for art. So I started volunteering once a week as a receptionist at OCRCC.”

Jess spent a year as on “office volunteer” at OCRCC, coming in weekly to do whatever tasks the staff needed help with.  She greeted clients, made copies, put together brochures, and helped craft pins for the Punk Cuts fundraiser. While the tasks may seem less than glamorous, having volunteers is crucial to the organization’s work and often uplifting for volunteers like Jess.

“For me it was one of the highlights of my week to be around the people who work there,” said Jess. “Everyone is very open and communicative and listens to each other. It felt like whatever I was feeling there was space for it there. I remember thinking, ‘if the world could be run like this organization is run, the world would be in a much better place.’”

Jess hopes that the “Power of the Voice” raises funds for the organization’s prevention work, including the SafeTouch and StartStrong programs at local schools.  She also wants people to know how much respect she has for OCRCC and it’s approach.

There’s a lot of places that people can donate their money, but from my personal experience having been inside the organization, it’s very well run, their objectives are very clear and they’re very holistic about reaching them,” she said.  “I’m thrilled to be able to be part of the benefit and I’m really grateful to the rape crisis center for all that they do. It’s so important for people to feel safe and empowered with their body and with their voices.

“Power of the Voice” takes place on June 1 at the Local 506. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. The show starts at 8:00 p.m. Visit etix to buy tickets and donate in advance.

To learn more about Jess Klein’s new album “Back to My Green” visit her official website.

 

Incarcerated Survivors of Sexual Assault Face Retraumatization and Barriers to Healing

Students and community members stopped by the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill on April 23 to write letters to incarcerated survivors with messages of caring and support during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

On April 23rd, we hosted a letter writing event directed to incarcerated survivors of sexual violence here at the OCRCC office. It was an evening to hold and care for survivors who, due to the combined tragedies of incarceration and sexual violence, could not be in the room with us. Noname’s music underscored conversations about the logistics of supervised and unsupervised probation (we were trying to understand what Cyntoia Brown, the sex trafficking survivor who recently had a successful campaign to commute her sentence, would experience when she is finally out of prison this August). People drew pictures and wrote messages of love and support inside beautifully hand-printed cards. Each survivor on our list got at least three cards!

We held this event because we know that there are particular barriers to paths of healing and recovery to survivors who are incarcerated. Survivors of sexual violence can be arrested for actions they took to navigate their survival in dangerous and abusive situations, for racist criminalization of their trauma processing, or on charges that are not directly related to their survivor status. Once incarcerated, survivors may have difficulty accessing services that are available to survivors on the outside. Access to mental and physical health services is limited, if truly available at all, in prisons and detention centers, and opportunities to speak with a trained professional or companion are limited. Phone services and letters all cost money, and are monitored, meaning that disclosing survivor status in a private letter to a friend or companion may mean inadvertently disclosing survivor status to all prison staff, prompting an investigation the survivor may not be ready for. Simply the barriers to movement can be another difficulty: survivors who are incarcerated can’t simply take a walk or go get a cup of tea when they experience triggers or crises.

The experience of being incarcerated can be traumatizing in itself, and particularly so for survivors of sexual violence. The loss of privacy, lack of control over what happens to their body, prevention from having their own resources, and prevailing culture of disbelief and suspicion that incarcerated people face can mimic some characteristics of abusive relationships. Survivors may be made vulnerable to triggers or flashbacks, or first-time victimization during routine pat-downs, strip searches, and monitored showers. Additionally, we know that sexual violence can be perpetrated in prisons and detention centers, and in North Carolina, it is extremely rare for a survivor of sexual violence in prison to receive institutional assistance after reporting sexual violence.

Thousands of incarcerated people are impacted by sexual violence: 2012 study by the Bureau of Statistics (BJS) found that 86% of incarcerated women are survivors of sexual violence. Another 2012 survey found that 10% of formerly incarcerated people had been sexually abused during their most recent period of incarceration, which, due to the BJS’ survey methods, is likely to be an underrepresentation of the actual rate. Thousands of people are being retraumatized and denied access to services through the cycles of sexual violence and incarceration.

Surveys show that 86% of incarcerated women are survivors of sexual violence. Sometimes, survivors are re-traumatized. The prevailing culture of disbelief and suspicion that incarcerated people face can mimic some characteristics of abusive relationships. Writing letters and signing petitions are two ways that allies can show survivors that they are not alone.

So, what can we do? Like with any survivor of sexual violence, offering a believing and supportive presence can be a powerful step on the path to recovery. Often, the least expensive and most accessible method of communication with incarcerated people is by mail. Through letters, we can let survivors know that they are heard, and provide crisis counseling and safety planning that we could offer to clients on the phone. If you would like the list of survivors we used on April 23rd to send a message of support, email me and I’ll send it along!

Another action we can take is signing petitions! Several of the survivors we wrote on the 23rd have petitions to the governor to commute, or decrease, their sentences. One incarcerated survivor, Brandy Scott, is a Black transgender woman who has organized support and advocacy for other incarcerated queer and trans people, and has written an after-school curriculum for gang members. You can sign Brandy’s petition here, and find other petitions for survivors here.

Finally, I’d like to highlight that incarcerated people are the ones taking the lead in fighting for their right to heal and be free from traumatizing conditions. One of my favorite zines, Queer Fire, shows a history of incarcerated queer people organizing against sexual violence in the 1970s, and this blog post from prisoner Michael Kimble describes organizing against sexual violence in Alabama prisons today. I’d encourage you to check out these readings!  The conditions of sexual violence and incarceration may seem daunting, but there are strong communities of survivors, incarcerated people, and allies, who are working together to create a world that is safer for survivors and free from sexual violence.


By Online Help Assistant
Orange County Rape Crisis Center

Cardinal Track Club Donates $9,400 to Benefit Sexual Violence Prevention Education

On April 30, the Cardinal Track Club presented the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and five other nonprofits with checks to support their work. Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle (bottom right) acknowledged how valuable Cardinal Track Club’s contribution is both to the organizations and community of Carrboro

One in four girls and 1 in six boys will be sexually violated before they turn 18. As many as 93% of victims under the age of 18 know their abuser. That’s why prevention education to children is a critical part of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center’s work.  Our SafeTouch and StartStrong programs teach children how to recognize inappropriate behavior and react when someone makes them uncomfortable.  This work is primarily funded through donations, not grants. We could not do it without the support of donors and community partners like the Cardinal Track Club.

For the past 10 years, the Cardinal Track Club has been supporting our work. They host three races in Carrboro every year and donate the registration fees to our organization as well as five other community partners.  On April 30th, they presented the Center with a check for $9,400. This donation means 7,000 children in will receive sexual abuse prevention education in school across Greater Orange County.

The Orange County Rape Crisis Center Executive Director Rachel Valentine received the donation from the Cardinal Track Club and plans to use the donation to fund staff to provide prevention education trainings in schools.

Cardinal Track Club events are staples for runners of all skill levels in the Carrboro-Chapel Hill community thanks to their shorter distances (10-miles or less) and family-friendly atmosphere. As Carrboro is the  “Paris of the Pidemont,” the Cardinal Track Clubs races are collectively known as “Le Tour de Carrboro” and include the “Carrboro 10K” in October, the “Gallop and Gorge 8K” on Thanksgiving, and the “Four on the Fourth” race on July 4.  In addition to creating inclusive, memorable community experiences, the races help foster stronger and healthier community through the money they raise for nonprofits.

“I’m so glad the funds are being used for prevention programs in the schools. My kids attended the Chapel Hill/Carrboro City Schools and participated in those programs, so I know how valuable they are,” said Sandra Padden, Chair of the Cardinal Track Club. “A big part of the reason the club has chosen OCRCC as a community partner is that not only does the organization provide resources for survivors of sexual abuse but it also works to end sexual violence and its impact in our community.”

To learn more about the Orange County Rape Crisis Center’s SafeTouch and StartStrong programs, click on the corresponding links.

Registration for the Cardinal Track Club’s  Four on the Fourth event is open on their website.