A Note from the Executive Director…
Last week I began serving as the new Executive Director for SACIS/CAISA and I am grateful for the opportunity to be working with such dedicated staff members, volunteers, board members and our community partners. I’m also excited about returning to my home state where I began my nonprofit career over 22 years ago with the American Red Cross. As a native Illinoisan who grew up in St. Anne (a small village of 1,200 people just outside of Kankakee), I appreciate small town life. I’ve had the great fortune to have lived in large cities like Dallas, Washington, D.C., Austin, and El Paso. There is a great misconception that sexual assault is only something that happens in the big cities; that it doesn’t happen here. Sadly, it does happen here in Charleston, in Mattoon, in Olney, Robinson, and the other communities across the nine counties that we serve.
For 44 years we have been there to help people when they need it most. Through our counseling, advocacy, and prevention work, we are making a difference for hundreds of survivors and their families in east-central Illinois. We are advancing prevention strategies, awareness, and helping school children and college students learn about consent. We stand side-by-side with survivors to help connect them to legal, medical and other community resources so they can heal. I look forward to continuing the great work of Erin Walters and thank her for her leadership at SACIS/CAISA as she begins a new position out-of-state. Most importantly, I look forward to building upon that success so that we can do even more to help the women, men (yes, men too) and children who will need our help in the days, weeks and months ahead.
Thank you for your continued support of our mission!
SACIS (Sexual Assault Counseling and Information Service), which includes the satellite agency CAISA (Counseling and Information for Sexual Assault/Abuse), wishes to extend our heartfelt sympathy to those mourning the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and we are mourning with you. Our agency was founded on the fundamental principle that all people should be treated with respect, equality and dignity and that is what guides us as we work to support survivors of sexual violence and their significant others, while working to put an end to sexual violence. We have been tasked with identifying and working to dismantle the root causes of sexual violence; and oppression and imbalance of power are at the very core of not only sexual violence, but all forms of violence.
In order to stay true to our mission and core values which emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion, we must speak up when we become aware of egregious acts of oppression, even when we are challenged to find the words. We must continue to educate ourselves on issues of racism, privilege and oppression, and look inward to identify ways we can become active allies and challenge our own personal biases. But most importantly, we must listen. We must be able to hear the testimonies of people of color as they share their lived experiences and attempt to process the significance that these events have had on their lives.
Today, we start by saying their names…George Floyd…Breonna Taylor…Ahmaud Arbery. We cannot forget their name. They mattered! THEY STILL MATTER! #georgefloyd #BreonnaTaylor #AhmaudArbery #blacklivesmatter
In recent weeks, and especially throughout the month of April, we have seen an increase in the number of public disclosures of sexual violence from survivors who were forced to endure, not only
the act(s) of sexual violence, but also the trauma associated with the response (or lack thereof) from people and/or institutions in which they placed their trust. Two of the cases that have gained
attention in our own community were pushed to the forefront in Eastern Illinois University’s student publication, The Daily Eastern News (DEN) on 4/30/20 and 5/4/20. While the survivor
stories reflected in each of the articles were different, there were some striking similarities, namely, lack of accountability and/or consequences for the offender.
As victim service providers, we hear survivors’ disclosures that often include multiple layers of trauma occurring both during and after an act/acts of sexual violence. This is not uncommon, and
reflects many of the common factors that deter survivors from reporting or seeking remedies. We are frequently reminded that survivors are relying on the administrators within these institutions to hold offenders accountable for their actions, so as to promote a safe environment for all, only to be disappointed by the very institutions in which they have placed their trust. One thing is certain: We stand with survivors!
YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We support survivors, whether they choose to disclose their abuse or pursue other avenues for healing. We believe you and are here to listen. We will continue to advocate for justice on your behalf, and on behalf of all survivors of sexual violence. It takes courage for survivors to share their stories, and we are honored to be able to hear these testimonies. However,
we cannot rely solely on survivors, as it’s on all of us to take a stand to hold offenders accountable for their actions, while also requiring institutions to do better. Sexual/Interpersonal violence is an
act of power and control and offenders rely heavily on silence, but we, as allies and advocates cannot be silent if we expect change to occur. To be silent is to be complicit.
For more information about our free and confidential services for survivors of sexual violence and/or their significant others, or to find out how you might actively support survivors in your
community, please visit www.sacis.org or call our 24-hour Crisis Hotline (888) 345-2846.
Executive Director, SACIS
Kathleen Hecksel, MD
President, SACIS Board of Directors