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Cleveland Rape Crisis Center opens Westlake office

Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, explains the need for a location in western Cuyahoga County at a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house June 21. (West Life photos, Kevin Kelley)

By Kevin Kelley

WESTLAKE – The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center serves more than 28,000 people in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula counties annually. It has 14 satellite offices at Northeast Ohio social service organizations, but many of its services, such as counseling and legal advice, are offered at its main office at the Halle Building, on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland.

Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, hopes the organization’s new standalone office in Westlake will allow it to provide help to more survivors of rape and sexual abuse.

Miller explained the reasons for opening a site in western Cuyahoga County at a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house June 21 for the new Westlake office, located in a quiet office park on Clemens Road.

“By opening this beautiful, welcoming, warm facility and new space, our goal is to serve more survivors of rape and sexual abuse in western Cuyahoga County closer to home,” Miller said in remarks to center employees, public officials and area law enforcement officers.

Rape and sexual abuse do not know any geographical boundaries, Miller said. Survivors who seek the center’s services live in every ZIP code in Cuyahoga County and beyond, she said.

“We have been answering a number of phone calls that go something like this:

‘I need help.’

And we say, ‘Our offices are downtown.’

And we hear, ‘Click.’”

Many barriers already prevent individuals from seeking help after rape or sexual abuse, Miller said, but distance from that help should not be one.

“Now by opening this office here on the West Side of Cuyahoga County, we’re taking down another barrier,” Miller said, “which is simply, ‘I can’t get to where you are, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.’ And by doing that, we hope that we’re going to get more people who can benefit from our help walking through our doors and leading healthy and happy lives.”

Rape is the most underreported crime, with two-thirds not reported, Miller said.

“The No. 1 reason is fear,” Miller said. “[Survivors] at times, we hear, are afraid of retaliation from their perpetrator or the perpetrator’s family and friends. They are afraid they will not be believed by whoever it is they are telling. Some are ashamed of what has happened. Some feel like it was their fault. And some simply think they can just move on and forget that it even happened.”

Incredible courage is required for survivors to come forward and tell their story and seek help, Miller said.

“We consider it a great honor that survivors would entrust this very personal care to us,” she said.

Survivors deserve access to help, no matter how long ago or where they were harmed, Miller said. Many who seek the center’s help were assaulted years or even decades ago, she said.

Miller closed her remarks with a message to survivors: “You are not alone. And you can recover. Not just recover, but you can heal and thrive.”

Miller credited Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and a grant from the state’s Victims of Crime Act program for helping to fund the new Westlake office.

Located at 27887 Clemens Road, the Westlake office will be staffed by two full-time therapists, two justice system advocates and support staff, said Sarah Trimble, the center’s chief development officer.

Trimble said she hopes the opening of the Westlake location will help the organization “reach more survivors sooner in their healing journey.”

Both Miller and Trimble cited a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that determined nearly one in five women and one in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped at some time in their lives.

To make an appointment or learn more about the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, call 440-354-7364, ext. 141, or request an appointment online at clevelandrapecrisis.org. The organization operates a 24-hour hotline, which also accepts text messages, at 440-423-2020.

 

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