For nearly 40 years, the Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education (“The Center”) has provided victims of sexual abuse in lower Fairfield County and beyond with a safe place to turn for help and has raised awareness about how to prevent these crimes. Through a combination of counseling and education, this nonprofit organization is speaking out for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Rebecca Surran, Mary Abbazia and Judy Goss at last year’s Women Empowering Women event
Rebecca Surran, Mary Abbazia and Judy Goss at last year’s Women Empowering Women event. Women event

HOW IT WORKS

In 1977, volunteers started a program in a trailer behind Stamford Hospital to provide rape victims coming into the emergency room with counseling. The Center was officially established in 1979 and has expanded since into a 24/7 haven, where victims can obtain free, confidential bilingual services, including up to 12 sessions of one-to-one crisis counseling, a 24-hour hotline and access to support groups for survivors and families. The Center also sends advocates to meet clients in hospitals and police stations to help with evidence collection, give support during judicial proceedings, aid child sexual investigation teams and more. Last year, The Center counseled 484 individuals and provided prevention education to nearly 14,000 people.

SOCIETY’S ROLE AND CHALLENGES

“Although the issue is talked about a lot more [now], it doesn’t necessarily mean that people think differently about it,” says Ivonne Zucco, executive director of The Center. “You can see…the media openly blaming the victim and supporting perpetrators, or public figures joking about [this] delicate issue.”

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH

The Center works with students, starting with age appropriate lessons at the elementary school level and continuing through college, a crucial demographic: 20 to 25 percent of college women are sexually abused during their college career, according to The American Association of University Women. Outreach programs are also focused on informing others who may observe sexual abuse, like police forces, medical professionals and social workers.

WOMEN EMPOWERING WOMEN

The 4th annual Women Empowering Women event, hosted by The Center at the Sheraton Stamford Hotel on February 25, brought together a panel of leading women from the region, including Connecticut State Representative Caroline Simmons and Kate Bohner, Managing Director of DMS Offshore Investment Services, to share their inspiring stories.

FUTURE PLANS

Zucco says the ultimate goal is to help eliminate sexual violence. “We are right there in schools making sure that [the younger generations] understand their rights and the importance of empathy, feelings, respect and intervention,” Zucco says. “The change in the world will only happen when we understand this, and what a better place to start than right here at home with such an amazing message of empowerment to women.”

BY THE NUMBERS

1 in 6 American women  and 1 in 33 American men  has been the victim of rape or attempted rape.

1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys  will become the victim of sexual  assault before the age of 16.

65% of sexual attacks on college women go unreported.

CONTACT

The Center,  203-348-9346, 733 Summer Street, Suite 503, Stamford, CT, thecenter-ct.org. 

HOW TO HELP

VOLUNTEER: The Center recruits volunteers to work with clients in support groups or through the 24-hour hotline, as well as coordinating events and joining the public awareness campaigns. All direct service volunteers complete training in order to be the first point of contact for clients reaching out to The Center for assistance. To learn more, call 203-348-9346 or email info@thecenter-ct.org.

DONATE: One of the biggest challenges in running a nonprofit, Zucco says, is getting enough funding to support the expanding range of programs and services. To donate to The Center, visit thecenter-ct.org.

SERENDIPITY EXCLUSIVE: Serendipity has partnered this month with Very Lovely Soles; 20 percent of the retail price of their Geneva flats will be donated to The Center.

$1 from each Serendipity subscription purchased in March goes to The Center.