Gainesville victim advocate Gretchen Casey is launching a campaign to support rape victims all over the world.
Casey, Director of Victim Services with the state attorney’s office and a recovered victim, created the Unshame Campaign to help rape victims work through any shame they may experience after sexual assault. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, rape is the most under-reported crime with only 63 percent of rapes reported to the police. Violence Against Women reported only about 25 percent of victims who report their attacks seek mental health services after an assault.
In addition, recent research by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) has linked multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death back to untreated abuse. Common increased risks among victims were alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, suicide attempt, smoking, poor self-rated health, high numbers of sexual intercourse partners, sexually transmitted disease, and increase in physical inactivity and severe obesity.
Casey believes victims don’t seek counseling because of the shame they feel linked to their attack – whether it is self-induced or placed by others. She believes that people also aren’t aware of the resources available to them.
“We want people to address it and move beyond it. Live beyond it. Live well beyond it,” she said.
The goal for Unshame is to reach the unreachable. Casey hopes to not only help local victims alleviate their shame, but also to reach cultures and communities around the globe who may not have local support. In today’s digital world, she believes the best way to accomplish this is through an online platform. Casey said Unshame is not meant to replace crisis centers or victims’ services but rather to catch the attention of victims who may have never set foot in a physical center otherwise.
The Unshame platform will allow victims who conquered their shame to submit their success stories in a blog feed, anonymously or not. Victims will be able to read the blog feed for inspiration to work through their own hardships. Additionally, supporters will be able to post words of comfort, encouragement and compassion that victims can access to help them through their healing journey.
Casey is raising money to help fund the build of the online application scheduled to launch April 1, 2015, as well as marketing efforts to promote it. Gretchen and a handful of volunteers are propelling this campaign on their own time. However, Casey is enthusiasitically devoted to this movement.
“If there is a generous benefactor out there, obviously that would be amazing,” she said, “but if I have to take up a second job and wait tables, I’ll take up a second job and wait tables!”