Dallas Area Rape Center Works To Counsel Growing Number of Victims

October 26, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Beyond the Bubble
By Jefferson Johnson
jwjohnson@smu.edu

The building is almost inconspicuous among neighboring shops and boutiques. A simple door stencil, DARCC, is its only identifying mark.

Upon entering through, the waiting area is reminiscent of a home, with two sofas, end tables and scented candles. The walls are decorated with photos of survivors and their personal tales of rape and healing and other inspirational motifs. The environment feels intimate and safe.

Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, affectionately called “Darcy,” opened its doors earlier this year as a pilot program. The center offers help from trained counselors, volunteers and interns to sexual assault survivors, according to Jana Barker, executive director of DARCC.

Jana Barker sits at her deck at the DARCC. (PHOTO BY JEFFERSON JOHNSON / SMU DAILY MUSTANG)

“We provide counseling,” said Barker. “It doesn’t matter when the rape occurred.”

Elizabeth Hays, a new counseling intern at the center in Richardson, knew she wanted to work with sexual assault survivors. Since starting her internship, Hays has begun aiding sexual assault survivors and shadowing trained volunteers and staff to help provide advocacy to survivors.

“You have to have a passion for the issue itself,” Hays said.

There are numerous rape victim services in Dallas, but none quite like the DARCC. DARCC is the only independent comprehensive rape crisis in the area, according to Barker. After the first rape crisis center program joined Parkland Hospital, there was no longer a 24-hour hotline for sexual assault survivors. Barker said Parkland uses physicians to perform the forensic exams and the advocates are actually employed by Parkland.

DARCC, on the other hand, uses trained volunteers and staff to provide advocacy at the new Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, she said. And from the Richardson center, DARCC offers additional personal resources and aids survivors through their recovery and legal avenues.

“We are for the victim,” Barker said.

The DARCC program began in March as a way to provide quality sexual assault survivor’s service in the north east sector of Dallas, said Barker. The program is funded by a Sexual Assault Services Grant through the Governor’s office. DARCC also receives funding from the Dallas Women’s Foundation and another private foundations.

“If things proceed successfully, as they appear to be doing, the program will be opened up to the entire county,” Barker said.

This year so far, 377 sexual assault offenses have been reported in Dallas, up from 316 last year. The 25 percent increase comes after a six-year overall decline of sexual assault reports and other crimes in Dallas, said Patrick Welsh, sergeant of the Dallas Police Department’s crimes against persons division.

“By the numbers, one center in the entire county can’t possibly provide assistance to all those that need such services,” Barker said. “Additional services have been needed in Dallas for a long time.”

Dallas police say they are also taking no chances in helping prevent rape.

They are stepping up patrols, focusing on entertainment districts and spreading preventative tips and information through community meetings and social networks, according to Welsh.

Welsh speculated that the increase in sexual assaults could be due to victims being more comfortable with coming forward and seeking treatment through rape victim centers and better prepared officers.

“The more advocacies, the more survivors,” said Welsh, of centers like DARCC. “When survivors use the rape victim services it benefits them in the future for a more successful prosecution of the perpetrator, which is not always an easy task.”

Statistics show that with the proper treatment, victims are more likely to have normal lives.

“Without treatment they are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, suffer depression and commit suicide,” Barker said. “DARCC is about making a difference to sexual assault survivors and helping the victim get back to their life.”

“Get help,” Barker advises sexual assault survivors. DARCC’s services are free of charge.

“If you are suffering from a past or a recent sexual assault, you owe it to yourself to get counseling,” Barker said.