Thursday, September 10, 2009

PD Coverage of Yesterday's Successful Luncheon!

Calls to Cleveland Rape Crisis Center are up 50 percent this summer, taxing services

Posted by Margaret Bernstein/Plain Dealer Reporter September 09, 2009 21:11PM

Calls into the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center are up 50 percent this summer compared with last from persons who had been sexually assaulted in the past 30 days.

The agency also saw calls for its therapy services jump by 80 percent over the same period. "We can't keep pace with demand," said Executive Director Megan O'Bryan, who shared the statistics at a Wednesday luncheon that honored the agency's 35th anniversary. "Clients in need of services often face waiting lists that are months long."

O'Bryan said increased public awareness of sexual abuse and economic factors could be responsible. "A recession could cause increased stress and that can translate into aggression within families and relationships," she said.

Also, medical and mental health cuts might be why more people want the center's free services.

The sold-out luncheon at Windows on the River, with nearly 500 attendees seated at birthday-cake-topped tables, illustrated that Cleveland's Rape Crisis Center enjoys healthy community support. An anniversary fund-raising appeal brought in $800,000 for services, including a 24-hour hot line (216-619-6192), and enabled the center to move to a bigger downtown office. The center just landed more than $500,000 in federal stimulus money to hire at least seven people to work in therapy, advocacy and crisis intervention for one to two years. "The timing couldn't be better," O'Bryan said.

Keynote speaker was Linor Abargil of Israel, Miss World of 1998 who was raped six weeks before the pageant.

She wept on stage, not as she recounted her story of being assaulted by a stranger with a knife, but as she talked about the aftermath. "Rape is so isolating. Even if you tell people what happened, they're afraid to mention it, so you're surrounded by sadness," she said.

So many survivors have the same story, said center co-founder Lorraine Schalamon, who wiped away tears. She became an activist after being raped in the early 1970s and seeing how sketchy Cleveland's services were.

"We were a small underground group just trying to get heard," recalled Schalamon, who now lives in New York. "I'm just so impressed with how the community has embraced this agency."


  1. I heard this event was amazing! I am so sorry i missed it. It is such an inspiration to hear how survivors take what has happened to them and turn it into a positive motivation to help those in need! Survivors stories like these are what truly helps me as an advocate to keep volunteering.

  2. I'm glad it went well! I was disappointed I wasn't able to go, but classes own my soul until mid-December.