This summer, thanks to an influx of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and the addition of 11 new staff, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has eliminated its client waiting list for the first time in decades. Now, when a rape or sexual abuse survivor calls to request therapy, an appointment can be made within days.
“This is monumental,” said Megan O’Bryan, president and CEO of the Center. “Sexual assault survivors deserve immediate access to free services that can help them heal. Now for the first time in a very long time, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has the resources to meet that demand.”
Last year, the Center received more than $600,000 in federal and state grants that allowed them to expand their staff from 16 to 27 professionals. All of the positions added are in client-serving roles, such as therapists and justice system advocates.
Research shows that the sooner a rape survivor accesses healing services after an attack, the less likely they are to experience long-term trauma symptoms, like nightmares, flashbacks or anxiety. Yet, more than half of the adult women and men that call the Center have waited years or even decades to ask for help.
“The stigma that surrounds sexual violence is still very real,” said Kirsti Mouncey, vice president of client services at the Center. “A large percentage of the people that call for services survived a rape or long periods of sexual abuse 20 or more years ago and never told anyone. When someone finally calls to ask for help with something they have been coping with for decades, it is absolutely critical that we can respond immediately.”
A recent United Way report estimates that more than 150,000 Cuyahoga County residents have survived a rape and have never sought services. National studies suggest that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.
Cleveland Rape Crisis Center received 3,174 calls on its 24-hour hotline last year and offered therapy to 1,032 survivors before the positions were added.
“Sexual violence is a pervasive problem in our country and in our world and there have never been even close to enough resources to adequately respond to survivors,” added O’Bryan. “We are fortunate to have a temporary increase in funding from the federal and state government as a result of the ARRA grants.”
O’Bryan said temporary because none of these positions that have helped the Center eliminate the waiting list is permanently funded by ARRA. Many are contracted for only 12 or 24 months.
Cleveland Rape Crisis Center is committed to sustaining at least some of the staff positions for longer periods. They have asked local foundations for help and their recent fundraiser, Sing Out! for Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, raised a record-breaking $318,000, compared to $255,000 in 2008.
“The Cleveland community has been extremely responsive to our requests,” said O’Bryan. “We are very grateful for the confidence that the federal and state governments and local philanthropists have shown in our work to support survivors of sexual assault.”
“For now, women, men and children can call the Center and get help immediately. After decades of waiting lists, we are thrilled to make that statement.”