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Cleveland Rape Crisis Center receives $1.3 million grant, plans to work with LGBT youth, victims of sexual assault

Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 7:36 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Rapes are on the rise in Cleveland and more children are reaching out to the Rape Crisis Center for help. Now a new state grant has come at the right time to bring hope to those sexual assault survivors.

Last week 19 News reported that the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has seen a more than 50% increase in child sexual assault survivors this year. Advocates said in 2021 alone they’ve seen more than 100 sexual assault survivors below the age of six.

The grant is coming from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. In total it’s more than $3 million in grants aimed towards promoting mental wellness during the pandemic – with more than a third of that money going to survivors of human trafficking.

“To kind of link that identity to possible victimization in an effort to come up with different ways to migrate youth to healing spaces and additional community resources,” explained Sarah Trimble, Chief External Officer of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. “In addition to developing the referral plan, and training others throughout the state, because that’s a big part of the grant as well because it’s one thing for Cleveland rape crisis center to think like we know what best practices in dealing with trafficked youth is we want to share that with our colleagues across the state, so there’s the widest network available to individuals who might need information and referral.”

Cleveland police received more than 500 rape reports just this year – however, advocates believe the true numbers of rape are far higher.

For every 500 rapes, it’s likely that around 1500 rapes actually occurred and with this grant, the center will also be able to expand their hours at their human trafficking drop-in centers.

“Survivors of sex and labor trafficking, they don’t just need services or a safe space to shower a hot meal nine to five,” said Trimble. “They need greater access and availability and services. So we aim to do that and meet folks where they are when they need it.”

For the first time in the state of Ohio, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has plans to use some of that money to partner with the LGBT Community Center, which will allow them to focus specifically on meeting the needs of LGBT youth who have suffered from sexual assault.

“So, unfortunately, the truth is that a disproportionate amount of individuals that identify as LGBTQI+ or trans are impacted and affected by both human trafficking, rape, and sexual assault,” Trimble said.

Advocates with the rape crisis center tell me they will be working with the LGBT Center to identify possible victims and make sure they are being referred to healing spaces. They will also use this money to train law enforcement, medical providers, and others to better serve those in the LGBT community.

“Over the past few years, after a lot of work to gain the trust of these communities, although we still have a lot of work yet to be done, we are seeing more individuals that identify this way, reach out for help and services,” said Trimble. “Which is why we’re so excited that our partnership with Equality Ohio has a specialization in that space was funded through OMASS and this kind of $1.3 million award because we’re going to be able to continue to do the work and peel back best strategies in how to best serve the trans and LGBTQ populations.”

So why is the rape crisis center seeing an increase in child and teen victims? Advocates believe the stay-at-home orders gave some sexual predators easier access to their victims – also school and daycare closures shut off the access to the safety nets that are often able to spot signs of sexual abuse.

Anyone who is seeking services or has questions can call or text the Cleveland rape crisis center’s 24-hour hotline at 216-619-6192. They also have an online chat feature on their website, ClevelandRapeCrisis.org.

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