On March 26, 1973, the Boston Globe published a blurb no more than three inches long: “Rape center opens today.” The headline caught the eye of a man who had taken his coworker to the hospital and police after an assault the night before.
He told his coworker, “you have to call these people.”
Dory Cote was the first person to call the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center hotline. When she called, she was ready for a conversation similar to her experiences at the emergency room and police station, which were marked by lots of detailed and unpleasant questions about the assault.
“I think my expectation was probably that there would be more of the same,” Dory said. “And it just wasn’t at all. That was such a relief.”
“There was somebody there who was compassionate and understood about rape and didn’t retrigger me in any kind of way,” Dory said of the volunteer who answered the phone. “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.”
Her first call to BARCC was the first of many and led to her participation in support groups, court counseling, and eventually a volunteer position at BARCC.
“That one hotline call really led to me being supported in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined,” Dory said.
Part of Dory’s healing process was to turn her outrage into action. More than a year after her first call, she began answering calls on 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, that I could be the voice on the other end of the line.”
Dory has stayed connected to BARCC in a variety of ways over the past 45 years, and memories of BARCC’s first office—a tiny room out of the Cambridge Women’s Center—have stayed with her.
“I could walk into that building at anytime 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,” she said. “And that, from my perspective, at my age, 45 years later, I know that saved my life.”