I walk because I’m a survivor of sexual violence. I walk in solidarity with other survivors of sexual violence. I walk to raise awareness. I walk so that survivors here in Boston and across the country have access to justice and healing.
On Sunday, April 7, I will be Walking for Change with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC). BARCC’s Walk for Change is an annual event to raise awareness about sexual violence and funds to support BARCC’s important work. Every weekend, there are dozens of charity walks, 5k races, cocktail parties, and galas. What makes this one different? Why should you participate in a rape crisis center awareness or fundraising event?
With events focused on ending sexual violence, the very act of showing up is making a difference. It’s a way of demonstrating your support, your personal willingness to break silence, and your commitment to reducing the stigma that prevents survivors from coming forward to seek justice and healing. It’s also a way to learn more about the facts and myths surrounding sexual violence, and educating your friends and family about it’s impact on the community.
I’m proud to support my local rape crisis center, which is one of 1100 rape crisis centers across the country. Some rape crisis centers are small. Some of them are quite large. All of them provide critical services to survivors of sexual violence and their communities free of charge – and play a central role in equipping communities with the tools they need to prevent sexual violence from taking place at all.
A few things that you may not know about rape crisis centers:
- Last year, 50 volunteers responded to over 3,000 hotline calls from survivors, family members, and community members concerned about prevention, intervention, and recovery from sexual violence. Increasingly, local rape crisis centers like BARCC are responding to calls from across the country thanks to the National Sexual Assault Hotline operated by RAINN which routes calls to available advocates. Volunteers take calls from survivors seeking emotional, medical, or legal support, family members desperate for information, and other concerned community members looking for resources.
- BARCC’s volunteer medical advocates accompanied more than 350 survivors of sexual assault to hospitals to provide information and emotional support throughout the forensic examination. In Boston, we are fortunate to work in a community committed to providing trauma-informed care, and most hospitals have Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners on hand who are specially trained to support survivors while maintaining evidence collection procedures. This may not be the case in your community, which makes the support provided by rape crisis centers even more critical.
- Rape crisis centers aren’t just about crisis intervention. They also promote awareness and prevention. Last year, 28 BARCC volunteers delivered over 300 trainings to schools, law enforcement, health care institutions making our community better equipped to respond to survivors and prevent sexual assault. BARCC’s staff trained over 500 staff and advisors at 15 colleges and universities, making these campuses safer for male and female students from across the country and more responsive to sexual violence incidents.
Rape crisis centers provide critical services 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365 days a year at a remarkably efficient cost. BARCC’s staff of 28 people manages 150 volunteers who contribute the time and services of more than 20 full-time staff members. By using volunteers effectively, BARCC can increase its capacity and impact, and create a legacy of trained advocates who will raise awareness about sexual violence for a lifetime in Boston and beyond.
If you don’t know your local rape crisis center, look them up today. Keep their number handy in case you or someone you know needs it. Invite them to train your colleagues or classmates on sexual violence prevention. Don’t wait until a crisis happens. Do it now.
BARCC – and all rape crisis centers – could do even more with more resources. That’s why I walk. My town didn’t have a rape crisis center, and my healing journey was longer and more painful because of it. I walk to ensure that every single man and woman in my community can have access to services that I didn’t have. Please walk with me here in Boston on April 7th or support the next event benefitting a rape crisis center near you.