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The Orange County Rape Crisis Center is dedicated to stopping the cycle of sexual violence through education and prevention.

photo: Orange County Rape Crisis Center

Finding hope

Orange County Rape Crisis Center supports area victims

by Jessica Mattison


Someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the U.S. Coupled with this jarring statistic is the fact that according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, only 6 percent of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.


Founded in 1974 by the local chapter of the National Organization of Women in response to several local high-profile rapes committed against the elderly, the nonprofit Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC) is a volunteer agency devoted to stopping sexual violence and its impact on victims through support, education, and advocacy.


When it first opened, the center consisted of an all-volunteer staff that serviced those living in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Today, OCRCC serves the entire county through its offices in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. It also has expanded to hire five full-time and eight part-time employees, and now offers everything from crisis counseling and referrals to a large-scale education prevention initiative.


Reaching out

This education initiative, originally launched during the 1980s, partners OCRCC with area school systems to offer a Safe Touch program for children in preschool through fifth grade, as well as a variety of education programs for older students and teachers.


All information is introduced in unique ways that are best suited for each age bracket. In preschool, such tools as picture books, puppets, and songs are used to explain to young children about what is considered a safe touch, as well as how to say “no” and get out of a difficult situation. Different lessons are taught throughout middle and high school, where teens are informed about the issues of date rape and acquaintance rape. By this later stage, kids are encouraged to engage in open communication and learn how to take preventive measures.


Outreach programs also are offered to adults and discuss issues like faith, problems with dating and communication, and keeping children safe.


“We provide services to all survivors of sexual violence regardless of race, socio-economic class, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, language, national origin, and immigration status,” says Shamecca Bryant, the center’s executive director.


Keeping connected

OCRCC provides several services to residents, including a 24-hour crisis line originated by Miriam Slifkin, one of the organization’s founders. Years ago, the line was directed to a room in Slifkin’s home, where volunteers would answer calls.


Additional services include support groups, community education, a sexual assault response team and outreach into the Hispanic community. There also are resources available on medical and legal processes, support for sexual assault and abuse survivors, and programs on sexual assault awareness and prevention.


All services are free and confidential for survivors of sexual violence, as well as for their families and friends. Staff members work to bring comfort, strength and awareness to all who choose to seek their help.


“The Orange County Rape Crisis Center provides a safe, confidential space for secondary survivors of all kinds of sexual abuse to step out of secrecy, reflect on their own patterns of behavior and gain the confidence that it takes to keep the cycle of sexual violence from repeating itself,” says an anonymous secondary survivor.


Looking ahead

The nonprofit’s future is geared toward expansion. Currently, OCRCC is working to provide professional training on sexual violence for professionals in the area and is further expanding education through workshops for teens.


On average, victims of sexual assault are highly likely to suffer from depression, alcohol and drug abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder. At its heart, OCRCC is all about expanding its goal of helping these victims see the light at the end of a very dark, seemingly endless tunnel.


“This group brought me comfort and made me feel like I wasn’t alone,” says one survivor. “It helped me identify parts of my personality that enable me to be a strong survivor, and it allowed me to share and learn from others.” 


Jessica Mattison, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, lives in Cary.


To learn more

The Orange County Rape Crisis Center is a nonprofit dedicated to stopping sexual violence and its impact through support, education, and advocacy. The organization, which has locations at 1506 E. Franklin St. in Chapel Hill and at 109 Millstone Dr. in Hillsborough, offers a 24-hour crisis line at (866) 935-4783 or (919) 338-0746.


For more information on the organization, call the Chapel Hill office at (919) 968-4647 or the Hillsborough office at (919) 643-0722, or visit