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Thursday, November 03, 2016

Media: MBTA launches new anti-sexual harassment campaign

Media: MBTA launches new anti-sexual harassment campaign image

The Boston Globe covered the recent launch of our joint campaign with the MBTA, the T Police, and the Boston Center for Independent Living.

Excerpt: "The MBTA has launched a new anti-sexual harassment campaign to encourage victims and bystanders to report incidents. . . . The campaign was created by MASS Collaboration, a partnership between the MBTA, the MBTA Transit Police, the Boston Center for Independent Living, and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center. . . . 'The campaign is explicitly inclusive of people with disabilities, both as people who may experience sexual harassment and as people who can intervene to prevent sexual violence,' [BARCC Director of Organizational Learning and Development] Yen-Ewert said. 'National and state studies show that people with disabilities experience sexual violence at two times the rate compared to people without disabilities.'"

Read the full article on the Boston Globe's website. 
 

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Posted by Jessica L. Atcheson on 11/03 • (0) CommentsPermalink

BARCC, MBTA, and Partners Launch New Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign

BARCC, MBTA, and Partners Launch New Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign image

For Immediate Release

MBTA: MassDOT Press Office: 857-368-8500
Boston Area Rape Crisis Center: Jessica Atcheson, media@barcc.org, 617-649- 1288
Boston Center for Independent Living: Karen Schneiderman, kschneiderman@bostoncil.org, 617-338- 6665

Boston, Mass.—The MBTA, as part of a coalition of organizations, today launched a new information campaign to enhance passenger safety and encourage the public to report incidents of sexual harassment. The campaign’s message is that sexual assaults will not be tolerated on the T or anywhere else.

This year, the MASS Collaboration, a partnership with the Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL), the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), the MBTA, and the MBTA Transit Police, developed the campaign with a focus on people with disabilities. MASS—Movement for Access, Safety & Survivors—is a collaboration whose goal is to insure that survivors and victims of sexual violence with disabilities in the Boston area have access to quality support services.

“The MBTA is proud to continue its groundbreaking campaign to address sexual harassment and to let the community of riders know that the MBTA cares that each rider has a safe ride,” said MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve.

“One person victimized is one too many, and we are keenly aware that sexual harassment and assault are under-reported crimes,” said MBTA Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green. “We implore our riders to contact us if they see or experience any type of sexual assault. Be assured we take these reports with the utmost seriousness, and you will be treated with dignity and respect throughout the reporting and investigatory process. You are not alone—BARCC and the TPD stand with you."

“Findings show that people with disabilities experience sexual assault twice as often as those without disabilities. We have also been learning how people with disabilities can be active participants in preventing sexual violence against others,” said BCIL senior advocacy specialist Karen Schneiderman.

Boston’s public transportation system is one of the oldest in the country and is widely used by people with disabilities. MASS Collaboration works to create a safe environment for all customers, one that includes the needs of people with disabilities, including ensuring that reporting and response mechanisms are accessible. The MASS Collaboration is also increasing the skill and comfort of employees at BARCC, BCIL and the MBTA with respect to working with victims/survivors with disabilities. Efforts at the T have included developing information and trainings on topics such as responding to reports of sexual violence from those with disabilities, and how to secure wheeled mobility devices in a manner that is safe and empowering to customers.

As in past campaigns, advertisements will be posted on trains and buses, and postcards will be handed out to riders at several stations. Postcards will be available in large print and the MASS Collaboration has also created an online website to make the information accessible to those who are blind or have low vision: www.mbta.com/stopharassment.

“By increasing visibility of an under-addressed issue, we hope to let all riders know that you can make a difference if you intervene when you witness sexual violence. Accessible services are available at BARCC for survivors and those supporting and assisting them,” said Shelley Yen-Ewert, director of the MASS Collaboration [and BARCC's director of organizational development and learning].

MBTA car card: Image of woman with visual disability on left with text on purple background to right.

I could hear this dude saying, "I'm just fooling around, bro" . . . and then a young voice say, "Please, leave me alone," and I knew something wasn't right so I called the T police.

The car was packed and he couldn't maneuver his wheelchair too well. I knew he couldn't get away . . . from the woman harassing him so I squeezed between them and texted the T police.

I could tell the way she was looking at me she wanted me . . . to back her up. So, I told the guy harassing her to leave her alone and sent his photo to the T police.

I could tell she wasn't sure what to do . . . but I could see he was rubbing up against her. So we got off at the next stop and called the T police.

Everyone has the right to a safe ride, and anyone can experience verbal or physical sexual harassment. If it happens to you or someone else, report it to stop it. To report, call the Transit Police: 617-222-1212. For support, call BARCC's 24-hour hotline: 800-841-8371. 

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Posted by Jessica L. Atcheson on 11/03 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

2016 Champions for Change Gala & Auction Most Successful Yet

2016 Champions for Change Gala & Auction Most Successful Yet image

More than 620 BARCC supporters, volunteers, and staff gathered this past Friday for our annual Champions for Change Gala & Auction. In addition to a rousing live auction, the evening featured a moving speaking program to celebrate young survivors and the power we all have to end sexual violence. The event was BARCC’s most successful to date, setting records and exceeding our expectations by wide margins!

Attorney General Maura Healey welcomed everyone to the event: “Sexual violence affects people of every gender, every race, and every age, and BARCC has committed to serve all survivors,” Healey said, “It is challenging and emotional work, but BARCC confronts it bravely and with compassion, expertise, and commitment to healing.”

The highlight of the evening came when survivor speaker Shaira Medina (pictured above) took the stage to a standing ovation. Shaira shared her story and her experience at BARCC: “The Youth Leadership Corps really helped me develop a passion for activism. . . . Three years ago, I felt like life was no longer worth living. Today, I love my life."

Cathleen Bonner and Rob Almoney were honored as Champions for Change. Cathleen has volunteered for BARCC since 1998 as a rape crisis counselor and public educator. Rob, Cathleen’s husband, has volunteered as a fundraiser since 2007 and is now on BARCC’s staff as a development officer. "We want to put BARCC out of business,” they said as they accepted the award. “It won't happen overnight. But it won't happen at all without you." BARCC also honored volunteers of the year Schuyler Daum, who is a medical advocate; Jessie Lowell, who volunteers for the Community Awareness and Prevention Services program; and Jessica Nissenbaum, who is a hotline volunteer.

“Our annual Champions for Change Gala is a way for friends of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center to come together and celebrate the achievements of survivors as well as the individuals who sustain our work,” said BARCC Executive Director Gina Scaramella. “We are incredibly grateful for the generous support of our work given by our sponsors, supporters, and gala attendees.”

Activist sponsors of the Champions for Change Gala & Auction were 90+ Cellars, Accunet, Bentley University, Citizens Bank, Goodwin, Insource Services, Inc., Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Northeastern University, Ropes and Gray, and Uber. Community sponsors were Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston IT Services (BITS), Curry College, Eastern Bank, Eaton Vance, Emerson College, ExecuSpace Construction Corporation, Foley Hoag LLP, Funding Change Consulting, Massachusetts General Hospital, Mount Ida College, Partners HealthCare, Sherin & Lodgen LLP, and Wentworth Institute of Technology.

Were you at the Gala? Let us know how it was!

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Posted by Jessica L. Atcheson on 11/01 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Monday, October 31, 2016

Preserving Evidence, Empowering Survivors

Preserving Evidence, Empowering Survivors image

You may have heard the news about a new Massachusetts law mandating storage of sexual assault evidence for 15 years. The sexual assault evidence system can be confusing, so let’s break down the process, what this new law means, and how it empowers survivors.

The basics of evidence collection for survivors 16 and older

After someone is sexually assaulted, they may visit a local emergency room for medical care and, if they choose and it is within a certain time frame, a sexual assault exam with a sexual assault evidence collection kit (SAECK, often called a “rape kit”) may be conducted. A sexual assault exam serves two goals: providing best immediate care for the survivor and collecting evidence that may be used to investigate or prosecute the crime.

In designated hospitals in Massachusetts, the exam is performed by a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). If a survivor goes to a Boston-area hospital, they also have the opportunity to connect with a BARCC medical advocate. Our highly trained and supervised volunteer and staff advocates will meet survivors and their significant others at the hospital emergency room 24-7. The advocate’s purpose is to provide comfort to the survivor by sharing knowledge, reinforcing the control the survivor has, facilitating communication as needed, and ensuring the survivor has next steps and referrals.  

A survivor may undergo the sexual assault exam and evidence collection without reporting the assault to law enforcement. The SAECK is stored by a crime lab and is only analyzed if the survivor reports to the police. Toxicology kit results are available to a survivor no matter whether they report.

What the new law does

Up until recently, unreported SAECKs were automatically stored for six months, and the survivor had the option to extend that storage every six months. The new Act Relative to Preservation of Evidence for Victims of Rape and Sexual Assault, signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker on October 19, extends the automatic storage of unreported SAECKs to 15 years, the statute of limitations for rape. The new law takes effect 90 days from signing.

“This is progressive legislation that takes the burden off of survivors, and that’s why BARCC supported this improvement," says Katia Santiago-Taylor, BARCC’s manager of system advocacy. Under this new legislation, survivors no longer have to decide every six months whether they want to extend storage or keep track of making that request; instead, they can take the time they need to decide whether to report the assault or not, with the assurance that their kit will be available as long as the statute of limitations. This legislation increases options for survivors and brings Massachusetts in line with several other states that have passed similar legislation.

"It will be important for the media and the public to understand that this is not creating a ‘backlog’  of untested kits, as has happened in other states," adds Katia. Unreported kits cannot be tested as evidence until a police report is filed.

As the law takes effect

As this new legislation is implemented, BARCC will be paying attention to how agencies involved in the process are addressing two key considerations: appropriate storage and effective tracking. BARCC works in collaboration with many of these agencies—including police, the SANE program, and crime labs—to ensure that policies and procedures are more survivor-centered. BARCC will continue to raise the voices of survivors as all of these changes go into effect. BARCC is also eager to see various parts of the new law clarified, such as whether unreported kits already in the system will be included.

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Posted by Jessica L. Atcheson on 10/31 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Monday, October 03, 2016

Every Survivor Deserves Support—Including Those in Prison

Every Survivor Deserves Support—Including Those in Prison image

BARCC believes that all survivors deserve support in healing from the trauma of sexual violence. We also know that sexual violence affects thousands of people who are in the correctional system. That’s why BARCC established the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) Project in 2015 to provide vital support to survivors of sexual violence who are incarcerated in Massachusetts. The PREA Project is designed around federal regulations released in 2012 aimed at reducing sexual assault in prison.

Survivors in the system

“The rates of sexual violence in prison are very high,” says Dave Rini, BARCC’s PREA Project coordinator. In fact, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found, in its Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011–12 report, that about 4% of people in federal and state prison experienced a sexual assault in the past 12 months—that’s approximately 62,000 people. The percentage for survivors in jail was a little lower at 3.2%, which is roughly 20,000 people. Keep in mind that reported numbers are undoubtedly low given the shame and stigma that make sexual violence under-reported across the board.

In addition, people often come into the correctional system already being survivors. Dave explains, “A lot of people end up in the system in the first place because of incidents stemming from unresolved trauma, including sexual violence.” Examples include young survivors who use drugs as a way to cope with what they’ve experienced or survivors of sex trafficking, who may be prosecuted for prostitution. “We know that most people are coming into the system with multiple layers of trauma,” says Katia Santiago-Taylor, BARCC’s manager of system advocacy.

In prisons, jails, and correctional facilities, survivors face a host of challenges:

  • Limited resources: Prisoners can’t use the internet. They have less access to people and materials that will help them process the trauma they’ve experienced, find healing, and explore their options.
  • Lack of control: Being incarcerated significantly limits the choices survivors can make. Regaining a sense of control is a paramount aspect of healing and difficult to have in a correctional facility.
  • Goal of the prison system: The goal of the correctional facility is not to support healing for survivors. While BARCC works to empower survivors, the prison system works to maintain control over them and their activities.

“BARCC cares about supporting all survivors in their healing, and that’s why it’s important for us to be in prisons and jails,” Dave says.

What is PREA?

Thanks to advocacy from the prison reform community, the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) was passed in 2003 and the U.S. Department of Justice released PREA regulations in 2012. “In terms of real implementation of legislation, PREA is still really new, and not many providers are doing this kind of work yet,” shares Dave. “We’re learning about the best ways to do it, which we’ll then be able to share with other advocates to more effectively serve survivors who are incarcerated.”

BARCC’s work is about more than the law, though. “We are working to help prisons not only meet their legal obligations but to help them develop trauma-sensitive ways of interacting with survivors that can work for them,” Katia says. PREA work is about supporting people who have experienced the trauma of sexual violence both before and during the dehumanizing experience of being incarcerated.

What BARCC’s PREA Project offers survivors

BARCC works with three agencies—the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office, to provide support in 21 facilities throughout the state. “For survivors, we are creating a safer space in which they can be believed and supported, where they can confidentially discuss trauma they’ve experienced,” Katia says in describing what the PREA Project provides survivors.

BARCC’s free PREA services include the following:

  • Confidential PREA hotline, 12 hours a day, for survivors to get emotional support, information about making reports, and more
  • Accompaniment at the hospital when a prisoner is there for a sexual assault evidence collection exam
  • A mail program that provides resources, recommendations, and referrals
  • Orientation and education for prisoners on their PREA rights and how to access resources

From August 2015 through July 2016, the PREA hotline answered 108 calls and the mail program responded to 12 letters requesting resources. BARCC also provides training for correctional staff and administrators about the impact of sexual violence. BARCC has conducted multiple trainings for all three agencies on the following topics:

  • Understanding sexual violence
  • Obligations under PREA
  • Impact of trauma
  • How to support survivors by providing safety, offering options, walking through the process, and recognizing needs

Moving forward

BARCC is currently working on improving communication and visibility of our PREA services within the facilities we’re working with. “We are providing the most comprehensive PREA rape crisis services in Massachusetts,” says Katia, “and with additional funding we hope to do more. We are starting to see survivors seek services after being released.” Moving forward, BARCC is exploring ideas for reentry services to help survivors with their healing after their time in prison with solid connections and resources.

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Posted by Jessica L. Atcheson on 10/03 • (0) CommentsPermalink

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