The History of RSACC
It is well-known to current workers at RSACC that the charity began with just three women in a room with a telephone.
Things have come a long way since then, but it all began back in 1990…
The humble beginnings of renting a flat above a bookshop in the centre of Darlington were how RSACC began its life.
The focus was on supporting women who had experienced rape or sexual violence and providing them with a place to come, tell their story and be believed. This is the ethos that still runs through the veins of RSACC to this day.
RSACC’s charitable status and link to National Rape Crisis were established within the first year and both were very important to the organisation as it was created from scratch and run solely by volunteers for the first 10 years.
There was a phone line open 2 evenings a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) and the volunteers spent a lot of evenings calling back women who had rung during the day.
There were other social struggles faced by the team. In the 1990s topics involving rape and sexual assault were even more taboo than they are today! So getting the word out about RSACC was challenging. Many volunteers resorted to putting posters on the back of toilet doors.
However, with some much-needed funding, a paid role was created for Lynne Hinde in 1999, who would become our first CEO, and the notoriety of RSACC began to rise as did the client load and work.
But there were still social taboos to deal with when discussing the organisation with the general public.
It was a strange time where the prevalence of sexual violence in local towns was not understood or believed.
The public thought of it as a crime that “didn’t happen in our town”. Unfortunately, this type of attitude lead to a lack of belief when survivors did come forward. To counteract this RSACC spent a lot of time trying to teach the general public about sexual violence, dispel any rape myths that people believed and raising the profile of the charity.
Then in 2007 RSACC hit a low point, due to lack of funding the Centre nearly closed. This is a common worry for most charities and especially Rape Crisis centres. Nearly 50% of the original Rape Crisis centres closed.
But luckily Northern Rock stepped in with emergency funding and a second paid worker was hired, a counsellor for the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) – Debbie Barker – who would go on to be the next CEO. RSACC was now offering face to face specialist counselling for women who had experienced sexual violence or rape. By this point, we were in our current building which had 2 private counselling rooms available. The helpline still ran, but now had increased to 4 evenings a week. RSACC was starting to branch out into offering other services such as the Recovery Toolkit. There were still plenty of volunteers at RSACC, delivering counselling and offering support on the helpline.
In 2009 RSACC was starting to be recognised for its charity work, and was given the Queen’s Award. This entailed a trip to Buckingham Palace to join the Queen at a celebratory garden party.
In 2011 RSACC celebrated its 21st year of running with a Ball hosted at Rockcliffe Hall.
In 2014 Lynne Hinde, who had been involved with the Centre since 1991 and was the current CEO decided to step down from her role. Debbie Barker took the reins of leading RSACC as its new CEO.
Debbie focused on developing more services. We had the implementation of an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor service (ISVAs), the creation of more groups: Mindfulness, Peer Support Group. More outreach services were made available with the Believe Project running in Durham’s local female prison, Low Newton and the SELFIE Project supporting the education of young people about relationships.
The number of paid counsellors and members of staff increased with more funding accessed and a deputy CEO was hired to support with the writing of funding applications and the managing of staff and services, Isabel Owens began working for RSACC in 2017.
RSACC is now the only service in County Durham to offer specialist rape and sexual abuse support to survivors.
Despite all of this work and time going into raising awareness of sexual violence, rape myths still exist in society and are believed by the general public. Even though there is more awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence, high profile cases, and the #MeToo movement putting survivors into the spotlight, the myths that sexual violence can be the survivor’s fault are still firmly entrenched in society.
People still ask ‘What was she wearing?”, “Why did she walk home alone?”, “How much had she to drink that night?”.
It can be easy to blame the victim for a flaw in her behaviour, dress, or how they conducted themselves than to put the responsibility with the real cause of the attack, the perpetrator.
This is why our work is more important than ever, more sexual violence survivors are needing our support to fight against the myths and false information that still permeates society and can stop survivors from reporting to the police