When I interviewed the executive director of what was then Rape Victim Advocates a few years ago, she told me they recommend saying these three things when someone discloses that they’re a survivor of sexual violence: 1) I believe you; 2) it’s not your fault; and 3) you have options and resources. The recent airing of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly documentary series fueled this list of Chicago organizations making that third one a reality for tens of thousands of survivors every year.
These nonprofits and agencies offer free or low-cost services such as medical and legal advocacy, emergency and transitional housing, and individual, group, and family counseling for survivors of all ages and their loved ones. They also provide education, training, and prevention programs to stop rape culture once and for all.
Founded by sisters Scheherazade and Salamishah Tillet in 2003, A Long Walk Home provides art-based sexual violence prevention workshops, lectures, leadership institutes, art therapy, and other programs for young people. Through the Girl/Friends Leadership Institutes, for instance, teens design campaigns and policies to end dating violence, sexual assault, and street harassment. Events and resources can be booked and accessed on the organization’s Programs page.
Apna Ghar, which takes its name from a Hindi-Urdu phrase meaning “Our Home,” works across immigrant communities to provide crisis counseling, emergency shelter and transitional housing, legal advocacy, and individual, family, and group counseling. The organization’s 24-hour help line is at 773-334-4663 or 800-717-0757. Texts can be sent to 773-899-1041, and email sent to email@example.com.
The Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center brings child protection workers, law enforcement, medical professionals, and mental health clinicians together under one roof to coordinate investigations of sexual and physical abuse. Having everyone together in the same place—child and clinician on one side of a two-way glass, child welfare investigators and police on the other—minimizes the number of times a child has to tell their story and ensures everyone involved in a case is working with the same information. Note that all CAC clients need to be referred through the Department of Children and Family Services or Chicago Police Department. If you suspect a child is being abused, call the state’s child abuse hotline at 1-800-252-2873 or 911.
Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline
Volunteers and staff are available 24 hours a day seven days a week at 888-293-2080 to provide support, crisis intervention, and referrals for survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones. The Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline is also the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) affiliate for Chicago.
Howard Brown Health, one of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) organizations, has a Violence Recovery Project that offers individual and group counseling to survivors and victims of domestic or intimate partner violence. For more information, contact the Violence Recovery Program Coordinator at 773-388-8882, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mujeres provides support, in both Spanish and English, for adult survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones, as well as the parents of children who have been sexually abused. The Sexual Assault Program offers individual and group counseling, medical advocacy, legal advocacy, community education, training for professionals, and therapy. For more information about the Sexual Assault Program, contact Maritza Reyes at 773-890-7656 or email@example.com.
Resilience, founded in 1974 as Rape Victim Advocates, is the only independent sexual violence crisis center in Chicago and one of the few organizations of its size in the country. More than 200 volunteers provide 24-hour crisis intervention at 14 Chicago area hospitals free of charge and in both English and Spanish. Resilience also offers individual and group trauma therapy, family counseling, public education, professional training, and institutional advocacy. To learn more about their services or to schedule an appointment, call 312-443-9603 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. v