BARCC's first Take Back the Night march in 1973 in the Boston Fens
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center started with a needs assessment. In the fall of 1972, a group of women in the Greater Boston area began looking for resources for survivors of sexual violence. They found nothing—and decided to do everything.
In the beginning, BARCC was a collective. The all-volunteer organization worked out of a room on the second floor of the Cambridge Women’s Center with a single mattress and a desk phone for the 24-hour hotline, which took calls from men, women, and people beyond the gender binary from the beginning. They met in shared space in the center and made decisions collectively.
“When you’re in a collective, everyone does everything,” said Janet Yassen, one of the founders of BARCC.
Back in 1972, on the tail end of the Civil Rights movement, Women’s Liberation movement, and other important milestones of social justice, there was a feeling of hope, said Janet. At the crux of many of those movements, a group of women—many of them survivors—founded BARCC.
Volunteers’ roles depended partly on need and partly on interest. The majority of BARCC programs have existed in some form since the beginning, growing and formalizing along the way. Volunteers did speaking programs, which is now known as BARCC’s Community Awareness and Prevention Services branch. They accompanied people to the hospital after a sexual assault, which is now formalized as BARCC’s Medical Advocacy program.
The foundation of BARCC has stayed the same. The organization was founded on listening to survivors, building programs based on the needs of survivors, and influencing social change and policy reform.
“BARCC has always been an innovator,” said Lois Glass, who volunteered with BARCC from the beginning. “The thing that runs through is a commitment to equality, feminism, and social justice.”