Update to our Community

Update to our Community

I’m someone who loves a full calendar, and a whirlwind of meetings, conversations and ideas. But it’s a different world now for all of us.

One thing that remains unchanged: sexual violence continues to affect too many individuals and families.

As our daily routines shift to accommodate our new reality, I want to share with you what we’re seeing, hearing, and doing at the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.

First and foremost, we are continuing to provide services. Our top priority has been to pivot quickly to respond to our clients and our community while protecting our staff and their families. The biggest change is that most staff are now working from home, interacting with clients, systems, and one another via phone, video, and other electronic means.

Yesterday I sat in on a video meeting with some of our key staff to learn what we are hearing from clients and those reaching out for help. 

We talked through the broader implications of a state of emergency that will likely affect victims and their families. Survivors may be more discouraged from speaking out. Disclosures by children may be more easily ignored. The momentum we’ve had in creating significant changes in public policies to help survivors could slow as lawmakers manage this public health emergency. We’ll remain vigilant and open to innovations that help mitigate these kinds of impacts.

Meanwhile, we’re responding to survivors, their families, and professionals in the field who continue to call our 24-Hour Resource Line and intake line. There is a palpable relief that KCSARC is still here, ready to serve. People have someone to talk with, whether to help them figure out what steps they can take to report a sexual assault, or deal with the added stress of what happened while everything is shut down. 

We have also put in place new ways to continue therapy via a secure telehealth system, helping to manage the increased stress and anxiety that many victims and families are feeling.

The criminal justice system, always confusing and frustrating for survivors, is now even more so. Our advocates are helping victims navigate added challenges associated with these systems shutting down. Those include additional delays for survivors whose trial was about to start.  This is just one more barrier to justice that victims already face.

There is also a real concern about safety: Defendants in sexual assault cases are now asking for release from custody, citing COVID-related health concerns – and the state Supreme Court has cleared a path. We are raising our voice on this, but bracing for the possibility these requests will be granted without regard for victim impact.

The way we provide services will likely look a bit different for the next few months. But we won’t lose sight of our mission to give voice to victims their families and the community to speak out about sexual violence.

As an organization, we are equipped to weather this crisis. What’s more, we’re in unique position to equip others to manage stress and uncertainty. After all, our core services boil down to challenging misinformation, correcting faulty thinking, and navigating systems. We’ll take all of what we know and put it into wider practice. Watch our social media channels and your inbox for more information over the next several weeks regarding dealing with stress and anxiety.   

We all know the best thing we can do right now is to help flatten the curve, to bring us back to the point where we can once again begin to have social interactions. Each of us has a civic and collective responsibility to change our behaviors in terms of how we work, and how we interact and live with one another.

We will get through this time. Most of the time, I hope, we can do this with grace and compassion towards each other. 

Mary Ellen Stone, Executive Director