Posted on Leave a comment

Supporting Clients From An Intern’s Perspective

On my dresser sits a seemingly insignificant pile of items: a change of clothes, my wallet, keys, a coloring book, and a folder. Someone could walk past this pile a hundred times and not think anything of it, but for me, it carries a very special meaning. This collection of materials is ready for me in the event I need to meet a survivor at the hospital. When I’m on call, that means anytime, day or night. I need to be prepared, always, for the next phone call.  

 As I reflect over the last several months of my internship at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, I’m reminded of the countless examples of the power of the human spirit I had the honor to witness. Somehow, despite experiencing unimaginable trauma, I saw survivors continue to hope, to dream, to support one another, and to fight back against biased, frustrating systems. This didn’t happen in the absence of difficult days; the challenges and hopes co-existed, even when that hope was understandably limited.  

 I learned so much from the staff and the clients we supported; much more than I could ever capture in a short blog. That said, there are some key lessons I’d like to share with people who interact with survivors. Given the frequency of sexual trauma, that includes everyone. In speaking with many survivors, the responses they received after disclosing sexual trauma ranged anywhere from supportive to retraumatizing. Helping survivors in their healing journeys requires all of us, and the good news is that there are many things we can do to make this process better.  

 Listen: There is no substitution for non-judgmental, supportive listening when someone discloses sexual trauma. This means we may have to push back against our human nature to instantly try to solve or fix someone’s situation. Listen without trying to make someone immediately feel better – just hear them. It’s really important that survivors of sexual trauma feel like they have some control. Keep in mind that they likely experienced a situation where they were robbed of control. Stay as calm as possible, validate the survivor’s experience, and ask how you can best support them.  

 Maintain Trust: If a survivor discloses their trauma it means that, on some level, they have decided to put their trust in you. I cannot overstate how important this is. Justifiably so, survivors may have difficulty trusting people after what they’ve experienced. This is an incredible opportunity to provide an example of what a trusting relationship can look like and help create an environment of support and healing. Respect the survivor’s boundaries: if they do not want to talk further about something, that’s okay. If they ask you not to share what they’ve told you, keep it private. If a survivor is trying to decide next steps (report to police, go to the hospital, etc.), help them research their options so they can make decisions they feel are best for them. Acknowledge the strength and courage it took to disclose their trauma and make this experience as positive as possible for them.  

 Patience: There is no direct, linear pathway to healing from sexual trauma, and everyone responds differently. During my internship, I learned quickly that no two hotline or hospital support calls were the same. Some people may show emotion, others may not. Some survivors report being able to heal from their trauma relatively quickly, while others may take a lifetime. All of these responses and everything in between are completely valid. Trauma work can be extremely complex and exhausting for survivors. For those operating in a supportive capacity to survivors, patience is critical. If the survivor is someone close to you, it may be very hard to manage your own emotions. Often, caregivers and partners of survivors are referred to as secondary survivors because of the wide-reaching impact of sexual trauma. Your own self-care is very important in this process, too. It can be difficult to support others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves.  

 Support Is Available: Sexual trauma can feel extremely isolating. Despite statistics illustrating how frequently sexual violence occurs, it is still largely kept in secret. This secretive nature of sexual violence is one of the reasons it has been able to persist. If we’re not supposed to talk about it, it must be something shameful, right? Sadly, this mentality denies survivors the type of support they need and deserve as well as limits critical dialogue about preventing sexual violence. When someone has experienced sexual trauma directly or they are supporting someone who has, support is available. The Orange County Rape Crisis Center offers a variety of support groups, a 24/7 helpline (call, chat, or text), therapy referrals, education and outreach, and advocacy.  

 In closing, the most significant lesson from my internship is that survivors and secondary survivors do not have to navigate the complexities of sexual trauma alone. There are many people committed to this work: to supporting survivors; to changing conditions that perpetuate sexual violence; and to transforming systems that fail at obtaining justice for survivors. As a survivor myself, having the opportunity to support fellow survivors and work with others who tirelessly strive to end sexual violence has been life-changing. Like I was throughout my internship, these advocates will always be ready to take the next call, until we finally end sexual violence.

Posted on Leave a comment

Asking About Pronouns is for Everyone – An Intern Publication

In the U.S., it’s estimated that about 0.6% of people identify as transgender. That’s about 1 in 165. This population is highly vulnerable: almost 50% experience sexual trauma in their lives. It’s important in our work here at the OCRCC that we serve this community with humility, sensitivity, and respect. 

As a nonbinary person, I often think about how unfortunate it is that our language and culture is so gendered. Every time I talk with a stranger and they “Sir” me (or “Ma’am” me, sometimes), I wince a little inside. I get it, though. I was also raised to “Sir” and “Ma’am” people, and I know it’s an attempt to show respect and politeness.  

The thing is, for someone like me it always has the opposite effect. I’ll be completely honest here and say that I don’t know what a nonbinary version of “Sir” and “Ma’am” might be. I just know what it feels like for people to always put me in the wrong box. If you happen to have a name that is common for both men and women, such as Alex, Leslie, or Jamie, you may know this feeling too. 

If you’re cisgender—that is: if your sense of your own gender matches what the doctor wrote on your birth certificate when you were born—and you’re reading this, I’m sure you can imagine what it would feel like to have strangers call you “Sir” (if you’re a woman) or “Ma’am” (if you’re a man). If it happens once, it might feel awkward. If it happened continuously though, you might feel embarrassed, frustrated, or worse. 

But the fact is that English is gendered when we talk about people, and pronouns are the most common place where that shows up. Pronouns are a marker for gender as surely as that M, F, or X on a driver’s license or passport. 

When we ask you your pronouns, your gender identity, or “how would you like me to address you,” we are expressing our respect for you as a person, and a desire to be as respectful as possible. If you are a cisgender person and struggle to understand why things like pronouns are important, you might think about what it would feel like if people consistently referred to you as the opposite gender. 

But this is more than just respecting trans and nonbinary people. Plainly asking for pronouns and preferred ways to address someone you’re talking to—and making that practice a normal part of everyday speech—benefits everyone, especially when we talk over the phone and in text messages. Instead of guessing (and sometimes guessing wrong) we can avoid that awkwardness by asking.  

Instead of assuming that everyone is comfortable being addressed by their first name, or that everyone hears politeness in “Sir” or “Ma’am” or “Mr. Jones” or “Ms. Smith”… we can ask. And then we can show our respect by consistently using the address they prefer. 

We can also all be a part of respecting others by making it a habit to introduce ourselves with our pronouns or with how we’d like to be respected: “Hello, I’m Jamie, and my pronouns are he/him.” “Hi, I’m Alex, and my pronouns are she/her.” “Hi, please call me Mr. Jones.” “I am Mrs. Smith.”  

Because the English language makes gender an issue even in situations when it shouldn’t matter, we’re all better off when we’re clear about our own identities. When we don’t try to guess other people’s gender, and don’t make others guess ours, we can interact from a place of mutual respect. 

Posted on Leave a comment

OCRCC Roe v. Wade Statement

OCRCC Roe v. Wade Statement

The US Supreme Court’s vote to overturn Roe V. Wade is imminent. Overnight, abortion will become illegal in over half of the states of our country.  Roe v. Wade has always been the floor, not the ceiling, for abortion access. Removing this federal protection may be one of the biggest public health crises of our lifetimes- which is saying a lot in 2022.

Abortion is healthcare. OCRCC supports all survivors’ right to access the healthcare that they determine is right for them. Regardless of changes to federal protection or state law, we commit to always helping survivors get what they need. 

Over the next weeks and months, OCRCC will commit to sharing information about the unfolding attacks on public health and bodily autonomy with the following priorities:

  • Reproductive Justice is Bigger than Abortion: Even with federal protection, abortion access has never been equitable. But a reproductive justice lens goes way beyond issues of right and access: it includes Black maternal health and mortality, Medicaid expansion, universal Pre-K, ending state violence against Black bodies, ending family separation at the border, gender-affirming healthcare, and so much more. It encompasses movements for voting rights, racial justice, violence prevention, and queer and trans liberation. We will center the perspectives of those fighting for the totality of reproductive justice.
  • Action over Despair: This is the time to get involved. We will share groups to follow for action updates and alerts, information on how to find and support your local abortion fund, how to help clinics do what they do, and how to show up for one another with compassion and respect for the trauma this chapter of our history will bring up for folks. We’ll also share information about how and where abortion is showing up at the ballot box.
  • Focus on Resources: People who can get pregnant have immediate resource and information needs, and we will be sure to share information about where to go for questions about legal issues, financial support, locating and accessing abortion care, medical abortion, etc. 
Posted on Leave a comment

Champion Voting in Your Community

I don’t vote, it doesn’t matter. I’m a college student so I don’t live here. Who has the time with everything else going on in my life and in the world right now?

I’ve heard them all! And if you are (or want to be!) the person in your community who helps your circle of friends and family be empowered voters, I’m sure you have or will too.

As the Campus Organizing Director with the nonpartisan nonprofit organization You Can Vote, I’ve had the opportunity to inform many college students that they have the option to register at college, or back home. It’s their choice! And you too can help the people in your life be informed voters.

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing being a voter is an important part of your sense of identity. I know it is for me. And I want to share some information that will help you help the people in your life identify as voters too.

Public policy and public funds for crucial services are decided by those who show up, and it’s all about helping potential voters connect with what they care about. I have seen so many people become motivated to vote when they can connect voting to issues that are important to them. Whether that’s health care, criminal justice, education, civil rights, or climate change, they can learn how both local and statewide offices impact these issues by using our “What’s On the Ballot” tool.

www.youcanvote.org/wob

This tool helps folks see, for example, how County Commissioners pass local budgets for funding local public health, human services, and mental health services, or how the NC General Assembly (our state legislature) makes decisions about whether or not to expand Medicaid.

Talk to the people in your life about what issues they care about and their plan to vote, whether that’s to vote by mail, to vote early, or to vote on election day. It makes a difference when people think through and actively share their plan with someone.

There are lots of options and it’s all about finding the right one for them. My personal favorite is early voting because same day registration, which is only offered during this time period, is a great safety net if any issues arise. And you can share our touch free voter registration tool to help your people check if their registration is current, to update their registration, or to register for the very first time.

www.youcanvote.org/register

Voter Registration Deadline: October 9th
Early Voting Period: October 15th – 31th
Election Day: November 3rd

Thank you for being a voter, and for championing voting in your community!

Onward,
Jake Gellar-Goad
Campus Organizing Director, You Can Vote
Former Orange County resident

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit dolor

This is the heading

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit dolor

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   

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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)

Posted on Leave a comment

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.