The Orange County Sexual Assault Network, which has operated from supporters' homes for the last four years, Thursday formally opened an office at 1107 Chapman Ave. as the first step in plans which envision a shelter for rape victims.
The group operates a 24-hour hot line, (714) 831-9110, staffed by 35 trained volunteers who offer counseling and referrals to support groups and therapists. A speakers bureau is also available and volunteers will accompany victims to hospital and court appearances.
Project director Anne Fitzgerald said the medical examinations are particularly traumatic because the person is often still in shock and the process can force them to relive the assault. "When we talk to victims, a lot of times they compare the examination to the rape itself," she said.
The new office is a long-awaited breakthrough. "We were located in somebody's basement one month, in somebody's living room another month," she said. "It was basically a kind of traveling road show."
About 750 people were served by the network last year and another 826 utilized referrals. Fitzgerald said the network hopes to open a shelter eventually, noting that there is no such facility in Orange County. A fund-raiser featuring barbecue, square dancing and raffles will be held in Bommer Canyon in Irvine on Sept. 29.
While most of the group's funds come from private donations, Fitzgerald said the biggest lift came in the form of a $40,000 grant from the state Office of Criminal Justice Planning.