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Boston Rape Crisis Center provides confidential aids for sexual violence survivors

The Boston Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year since opening in 1973. BARCC is the only comprehensive rape crisis center in the greater Boston area and the oldest and largest in New England, according to their website. In an email sent by Gina Scaramella, the executive director of BARCC, “our mission is to end sexual violence through healing and social change.”

Scaramella began working at BARCC back in 1989 as a hotline volunteer before joining the staff in 1995. She has served in various other direct service positions over the years before becoming the executive director in 2003.

BARCC was founded at the “Cambridge Women’s Center by a group of volunteers and survivors who were dedicated to building a hotline to answer calls from rape survivors,” said Scaramella in an email to The Brandeis Hoot. “The organization was founded on listening to survivors, building programs based on the needs of survivors, and influencing social change and policy reform.”

The website also states that “our goal is to empower survivors to heal and seek justice in ways that are meaningful to them.” BARCC assists survivors ages 12 and higher, along with their friends and family. They help through all aspects of their lives, including healthcare, necessary criminal justice, social services and schooling.

Outside of empowering survivors, BARCC works with different schools and organizations to teach them how to make their school and work environments safe. “We provide training in how to respond to survivors and create cultures that prevent sexual violence in the first place,” explained Scaramella.

From Scaramella’s perspective, the maintenance of a large and dedicated volunteer base is one of the largest aspects that has kept BARCC as successful as it has been. Through the volunteer base, BARCC is continuously able to interact with the community and be part of the solution to end sexual violence.

Since starting at BARCC, “I think the biggest impact has been from creating a channel for survivors getting access to quality care in local emergency rooms through partnerships with area hospitals and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program,” said Scaramella in an email. “We’ve built a responding structure that has become vital in effectively supporting survivors at a critical time.”

Tying in to the increased interactions with the community, Scaramella has felt BARCC’s participation with the national conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement has increased the number of survivors who have sought out help “so we can move our culture forward on this issue.”

A reporter from The Hoot was offered the opportunity to speak to the first individual to call the BARCC hotline; however, due to the sensitivity of the topics, the interview was unable to occur.

Dory Cote was the first person to call the hotline in 1973. In an article published by BARCC, Cote was expecting her call to be answered the same way that her calls with the police and emergency room had gone: a collection of unpleasant and accusatory questioning.

But with the hotline, “there was somebody there who was compassionate and understood about rape and didn’t retrigger me in any kind of way,” Cote said about the volunteer she spoke to. “There was no doubt in my mind that she believed me. And I didn’t have to prove anything to her about the truth of what had happened.”

The article goes on to speak about how Cote has used her own experiences to empower others. A year after calling the hotline for the first time, Cote became a volunteer and started answering calls for the hotline.

“There was a lot of goodness that came from being on the hotline. To know that I could be of help to somebody,” said Cote in the article. “That I could be the voice on the other end of the line.” She has continued to be a part of the organization since she first called the hotline.

“I could walk into that building at any time and there was always someone there to greet me, to support me, to hear me, to let me express my rage, to let me express my grief without judgement,” Cote said. “And that, from my perspective, at my age, 45 years later, I know that saved my life.”

Students who are interested in getting involved can volunteer with different programs, intern at BARCC or take part in their Annual Walk for Change, according to Scaramella.

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