DANVILLE — An organization with a long history of helping survivors of sexual assault and their families has a new name and location.
The Vermilion County Rape Crisis Center is now known as Survivor Resource Center, and it has moved into a bigger building at 923 N. Vermilion St., in Danville.
Executive Director Marcie Sheridan said the new name better reflects what the organization does and who it serves.
"A lot of people come to us for assistance, guidance, support and healing, but don't necessarily feel like they're in crisis," Sheridan said.
"We're survivor-centered, and we want people to know they can come in and get support, information, referrals to other organizations that can help them. They can guide us as to how they want to be helped."
The center provides individual, family and group counseling to survivors of sexual violence — not just rape — in Vermilion, Edgar and Clark counties; 24/7 medical advocacy; legal advocacy; and awareness and prevention education programming to students and adults "with the goal of ending sexual violence in the community."
All services are free and confidential.
During the 2018 fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30, the center served 244 clients with counseling and advocacy and provided programming to about 6,000 students and adults through trainings and presentations to businesses, church groups and other organizations.
And this year, Sheridan and Assistant Director Crystal Burson said referrals are up and counselor's caseloads are full.
"We have six counselors, and we'll continue to add more" as funding is available, Burson said.
Federal funding hike
The organization started more than 30 years ago as part of the former YWCA, now Crosspoint Human Services' domestic violence and women's homeless shelter.
In 2008, it moved to a stand-alone site on Georgetown Road in Tilton and rebranded itself as the rape crisis center.
"When I started here, we had five staff, so the space fit us well," said Sheridan, who has been at the helm for five years.
Since close to half of the organization's revenues came from state funding, Sheridan was forced to make layoffs during the state's budget impasse — and still provide services under its contract.
"Eventually, we came through that and received a substantial increase in federal funding," she said.
"That allowed us to hire enough staff to better meet our need for services. So, we outgrew our space very quickly."
The center currently has 15 full-time staff, including a new advocacy director, Cheryl Roadruck, and a volunteer coordinator, outreach specialist and two medical advocates, all of whom are working part time.
Roadruck supervises the advocacy program and volunteer coordinator; serves as one of two legal advocates who accompany clients through the criminal justice process and assist them in completing civil "no contact" and "no stalking" orders; and networks with legal and medical professionals.
She also coordinates the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).
The task force — which has representatives from social service agencies, law enforcement and the medical community — meets monthly for cross trainings or to learn more about a topic from an expert.
"It's allowed us to come together to provide the best response we can when a sexual assault occurs," Sheridan said.
"Even though we all have different jobs, we all want what's best for the victim."
New program on tap
Sheridan said she's also excited to be bringing the nationally-recognized Green Dot bystander intervention program to the area, made possible by a grant from the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the state Department of Public Health.
A four-day training will be put on for school personnel, who can then train others at their schools.
"It's a program that teaches (high school) kids to trust their feelings, and if they feel like something is off with their peers, how to recognize that and intervene in a way that keeps them safe," said Sheridan, who hopes to form another task force aimed at violence prevention among students.
In addition to those initiatives, Burson said the center — which currently offers support groups three nights a week, each of which has about 12 members — is looking to start a support group for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the summer.
And she's already thinking ahead to the start of the next school year in August.
She hopes to hold another ice cream social at the Fair Oaks public housing complex, where the center gave away 235 backpacks stuffed with school supplies, all donated by area businesses.
"It really kicked off providing counseling services on-site at Fair Oaks," Burson said, adding it was offered on a weekly basis, but now by appointment.
Burson said some residents may not have transportation or child care, but she doesn't want those issues or other barriers to keep them from getting any counseling or referral services they may need.
"The Danville Housing Authority has provided us with a space for counseling, so we can go to them," she said.
"We want to get the word out we're here to support them."
An open house at the Survivor Resource Center will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. March 20.
Artwork from survivors will be on display throughout the building.