Courtesy of the Rape Crisis Center
For the first time since opening its doors nearly 40 years ago, San Antonio's Rape Crisis Center has a wait list of almost 40 rape and sexual assault victims seeking counseling. And it's not getting any shorter.
Miriam Elizondo, one of the executive directors of the center, said her 19 counselors are seeing up to 30 individuals each per week, which hasn't happened in the organization's history. At last count, she said, 37 people were on the weeks-long wait list.
"We've never had a wait list we couldn't eliminate in two to three days," Elizondo said. "It’s a huge deal for us because we try to eliminate that at all cost."
Elizondo said the organization has had a wait list off and on since April, but since September, they haven't been able to chip away at it.
The center provides counseling for adult and child rape and sexual assault survivors. Of the individuals currently waiting for services, 40 percent are children, Elizondo said.
"The courage that it takes to just make that call to finally get help is a huge step in the healing process, only to be told 'I'm sorry, we can't see you,'" Elizondo said. "It’s gut-wrenching for us."
To help cut down on wait times, Elizondo has doubled her own caseload in addition to her administrative and leadership duties. Thanks for generous donors, the organization was able to raise $18,000 to hire a part-time counselor. Graduate student interns working toward their License in Professional Counseling are also helping out, and Elizondo plans to reach out to counselors in private practices for assistance.
Elizondo attributes the increase in hotline callers and clients to revelations of rape and sexual assault on university campuses, among National Football League players and allegations against actor and comedian Bill Cosby. Crisis centers like Elizondo's typically experience a spike in calls when incidents surface in the media.
The Rape Crisis Center's caseload increases every year by about 3 to 4 percent, Elizondo said, and since 2012, the organization has provided 33 percent more in counseling hours. The organization's hotline, which takes calls from individuals in crisis or needing to talk about a past experience, refers callers to counseling services. Elizondo said the organization outgrew its building off Highway 90 last year.
"It’s a good thing when people stay with their counselors, it means they feel like they’re getting help," she said. "We just want to meet the demands of the community, and if it continues to grow, we need to prepare and we need to make some adjustments."
A 2011 study
by the University of Texas's Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault found that rape crisis centers across the state need additional funding and resources to provider services to more than 80,000 Texans who experience rape and sexual assault every year. According to the study, Texas spends more than $40 million annually on services for adult survivors.