Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Victory! Cook County Board Approves Amendments to Fund Rape Crisis Services by Serena Curry

Last week, the Cook County Board unanimously approved two budget amendments that will provide $275,000 in funding for six area rape crisis centers for the second consecutive year. This is a huge victory for CAASE and its partners who greatly benefit from these funds, including Rape Victim Advocates, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, and the YWCA, to name a few. Under the direction of Advocacy Director Lynne Johnson, I worked closely with Communications Manager Kristin Claes, and Advocacy intern Lindsey Lapointe to encourage County Commissioners to continue funding rape crisis services in the community.

Rape crisis services are a vital, valuable resource for rape and sexual assault survivors. In Cook County, the rape crisis centers that we work with provide around-the-clock bilingual and culturally sensitive counseling, legal and medical advocacy, and outreach services. Unfortunately, funding these services is difficult during an economic crisis, especially with the threat of State budget cuts and a lack of support from the City of Chicago. The grant that each rape crisis center receives from the County helps them to effectively serve the members of their communities, and improve each client’s quality of life.

While working with County Commissioners to advocate for funding, I was given the opportunity to meet with rape crisis providers and ask them specifically about how the grants have made an impact in their communities. I was able to collect survivors’ stories, and learn more about how absolutely crucial rape crisis services are to an individual’s mental and emotional well being. We then used this information to create a document which shared the survivors’ experiences at each rape crisis center to encourage the County Board to continue their funding.

The opportunity to meet one-on-one with clients and providers offered me a whole new perspective on CAASE’s advocacy efforts and the significance of the work that we do here. One woman that I spoke with at Mujeres Latinas en Acción explained that the services she received helped her come to terms with the fact that she is a survivor of rape, and empowered her to move forward with her life. Another woman explained that she received services that helped her re-build a relationship with her children. By working to maintain funding from the County, CAASE is helping improve survivors’ lives, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of these efforts.

-Serena Curry is a volunteer and intern for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.

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