by Auburn Petty – Multimedia & Design Editor – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Buncombe County rape crisis service center Our VOICE provided
counseling and other services to more than 250 sexual assault victims in the area last year, according to the agency.
“Our VOICE grew out of a movement that was happening all across the country,
providing services for victims of sexual assault. Around that time, there were a lot of other rape crisis centers that were being founded, and it was in the era of the women’s movement,” said Leah Rubinsky, Our VOICE’s client services coordinator.
When Our VOICE opened in 1974, volunteers maintained all of Our VOICE’s services,
but funding from the state and local donors now allow the agency to employ a full-time staff in addition to its volunteers, Rubinsky said.
“We are grant-funded and state-funded, and also we receive funding from individual donors,” the Asheville resident said. “We simply would not be able to keep the doors open if we weren’t the recipients of the wonderful funding that we receive from the state and local, individual donors.”
Our VOICE received $338,336 from government grants, donations and fundraising,
according to their 2012 financial report. The revenue covered the cost of utilities, programs, salaries and other fees associated with running a business.
The center aims to create a community free of sexual violence and works to make that a reality with its programming, Rubinsky said.
Last year, volunteers helped with more than 250 crisis calls, Rubinsky said.
Our VOICE routes its crisis line through United Way, Volunteer Coordinator Danny Lee said. When a call comes in, United Way contacts a crisis response advocate with the victim’s contact information. Every few months, United Way sends a call report to Our VOICE, he said.
Last September’s report shows 16 crisis calls; however, Lee says they average between 20 and 30 calls per month.
“We sort of had a lull here with our outreach. I do know that after we do outreach, or if we do an event that gets our name out there like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, we’ll get a lot of clients that way,” Lee said. “It’s really about how we’re doing with outreach, not how many assaults are happening. Those are happening. It’s just a question of whether people know about us.”
Lee, 29, started as a volunteer with Our VOICE before becoming the full-time volunteer coordinator for the agency.
“I started in the prevention education, doing the dating and communication workshops for ninth graders in Buncombe County high schools. That’s where I started with Our VOICE, but then I took the training and became a crisis response advocate a couple years ago,” Lee said. “When this position opened, I applied.”
Lee became the volunteer coordinator last November. He also focuses his attention on community outreach, attempting to educate the public about the services Our VOICE provides.
Lee and the Our VOICE volunteers visit Buncombe County schools for education
“We get a lot of ninth graders that take it very seriously,” Lee said. “There are some kids who act up, but I think this is just a really difficult topic to discuss.”
Even if the students seem to be acting out, Lee said he tries to stay positive.
“I think that all students want to hear an adult like me say, ‘Everyone deserves respect.’ I think they appreciate that,” Lee said. “Even if they don’t seem to be taking it seriously, I hope my voice will be in their head later. At some point, they’ll remember that, and it will make some sort of difference.”
Our VOICE also offers a hotline for sex workers in the Buncombe County area called
Kelly’s Line, Rubinsky said.
“It’s named after a woman who was murdered while doing sex work, and it sort of
brought the attention around this idea that folks who do sex work are very vulnerable to violence. It’s a population that also may not feel like they can go to the police and report and be validated and listened to,” Rubinsky said. “So, Kelly’s Line is a free and confidential anonymous reporting tool for sex workers.”
With each of the programs Our VOICE offers, the agency focuses on awareness,
education and prevention, Rubinsky said.
“We strive to maintain a good presence in the community and to be there as best we can for survivors of sexual assault,” she said “There’s this idea that we can’t really talk about it. It’s really taboo and dirty, and (in our society), we just want to sweep it under the rug and blame victims. On a wider, community level, we just want to change the attitudes concerning sexual assault and refocus the blame to where it belongs, which is on perpetrators.”