Rebuilding Hope, the Sexual Assault Center for Pierce County is 30+ Years Old
So Much Has Been Done and Yet So Much More to Do
The beginning of this agency dates back to 1972, the same year often quoted as the beginning of the ‘Sexual Assault Movement’. A group of young women attending the Tacoma Learning Center surveyed Pierce County and found there were very few services available to help individuals who had been raped or sexually abused. They decided to provide support services to victims of sexual assault in the local community and founded what was then called Pierce County Rape Relief, which formally incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in 1975. With no initial funding, they began to handle crisis calls from their own homes, with referrals and then housing and resources coming from other local organizations. Pioneers in the field have told us that when they started, they “didn’t even have language.”
Initially, agency services were designed and delivered to meet the needs of sexual assault victims during their time of crisis; hence advocacy was developed. Experience in the field, however, began to reveal more far-reaching effects of the assault on both the victim and those lives that were intertwined with the victim. Services were expanded to include secondary victim advocacy (for partners, children and other family members, and friends) and therapy, where behavioral effects could be identified and dealt with in an effort to re-attain healthy, whole individuals. In 1989, the agency changed its name to Sexual Assault Crisis Center of Pierce County to broaden the focus beyond rape to include all forms of sexual assault.
In 1997, the agency’s name changed once more to the Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County, lessening the focus on immediate crisis intervention and becoming more inclusive of prevention, education and long-term healing. During that same year, the agency become a Washington State Accredited Sexual Assault Program and as such, is responsible as the primary provider of sexual assault advocacy and education/prevention services for all of Pierce County. In the beginning, the agency struggled to meet the needs of victims; today we struggle to end sexual assault, through prevention and societal intolerance for sexual violence. Until this is accomplished the need for education and therapy services/advocacy efforts on behalf of victims, their families and friends will continue and grow as more victims become willing to step forward for help and assistance.
What finally seems to be changing is society’s unwillingness to permit sexual assault to exist. Furtherance of this progress requires us to continue to address the problem, quit blaming victims, and hold offenders accountable for their actions. Speak about these issues with your family, friends, neighbors and associates. Don’t excuse the perpetrators by blaming the victims. Work to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions and support legislation to keep them behind bars. Drop the pretense that excuses forced sexual contact as “boys being boys (smirk)” type thing. Adopt, rather a “respect for all” type concept that requires consent and dignity.