In 1978, friends of a woman who had been raped were outraged by her experiences of rape and by the treatment she subsequently received. As a result, Women Against Rape: Geelong was formed. After a time and due to negative community attitudes, the name of the group was changed to the Geelong Rape Crisis Centre (GRCC).
The GRCC was one of the first two Sexual Assault Centres to be set up in Victoria - the other being located at the Queen Victoria Hospital. It is the only Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) in Victoria that was initiated by the community.
The Geelong Rape Crisis Centre was run by a feminist, democratic collective. This later changed from a collective due to funding body accountability requirements, the GRCC remained committed to the aims and objectives, and collective philosophy as the guiding principles for its operation for many years.
Until 1982, the GRCC received no funding; the Centre operated on voluntary labour and on donations from workers and other concerned individuals. Initial funding allocations came from a variety of sources. Also in 1982, as a result of lobbying, a small private space within the Casualty Section of the Geelong Hospital was allocated where medical examinations of rape survivors took place, and where survivors and their families could receive support from GRCC workers. The Crisis Care rooms are currently located within the Accident and Emergency Department of the Geelong Hospital.
Then in 1984 sufficient funds were received from Health Department Victoria to employ staff. This was part of the Government's commitment to a Statewide sexual assault program, based on a growing awareness of the extent of sexual assault and the social and economic costs of sexual assault for both the individual and the community. The State Government funds this sexual assault program, now made up of 15 centres in Victoria. The GRCC became incorporated in 1991, and in 1992 moved from rented accommodation to a house purchased through a bequest located in Latrobe Terrace Geelong.
The commencement of the after hours crisis response service began in May 1998. The after-hours service had always, in the past, been staffed on a voluntary basis, and the Centre held a commitment to the philosophy that such work is valuable and should be paid accordingly.
In September 2000, the service changed its name to Barwon Centre Against Sexual Assault. The increased demand for services far outstripped increases in funding and available resources. The primary focus of the Centre at this point was to provide, within funding limitations, counselling, advocacy, information and support services for all survivors of sexual assault and their non-offending family, friends and partners, and community education regarding all aspects of sexual assault.
A number of facilitated therapeutic groups were later offered for children, young women incest survivors, mothers of sexually abused children, adult women incest survivors, adult women rape survivors and male sexual assault survivors.
In 2006 we commenced providing the family violence counselling to women and children as part of the Integrated Family Violence Reforms. This model introduced a new statewide governance approach for the sector in working more collaboratively with the criminal justice services and associated stakeholders.
In 2008, Multi Disciplinary Centres were announced for Victoria and established in Mildura and Frankston. In 2011 the Barwon MDC was established and Barwon CASA co-located in July 2012 with Victoria Police, Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) and staff from Department of Human Services, Child Protection. In this specialised model, partner organisations support adult and child victims from first disclosure of sexual assault to criminal prosecution. MDCs seek to provide those who have experienced sexual assault and child abuse, support and access to justice within an integrated, seamless environment.
In March 2013, we commenced providing services in the Wimmera District of Western Victoria Including sexual assault support services and Sexually Abusive Behaviour Treatment Services (SABTS).
Today, Barwon CASA is an incorporated not for profit community organisation that is governed by a Board, with membership comprising prominent local corporate, government and academic representatives. Funding is received from the Victorian Departments of Human Services and Health. We employ over 38 staff with post graduate qualifications ranging in psychology, social work, family therapy and psychotherapy. We have office locations in Geelong and Horsham and provide services across the Barwon and Wimmera Districts.
Our services include free and confidential, specialist counselling to adults, young people and children who have experienced sexual assault and/or family violence either recently or in the past and to their non-offending parents, partners, family and friends. We offer a 24-hour crisis care response to those who have experienced sexual assault s of recent sexual assault, including crisis counselling, support and advocacy, medical care and justice services.
Barwon CASA also provides a family focused, prevention and early intervention therapeutic service to children and young people under the age of 15 who have engaged in problematic or abusive sexualised behaviours (SABTS). We provide specialised advocacy, secondary consultation, community education and professional training across the sector and deliver a sexual assault prevention program in secondary schools that aims to address violence supportive attitudes and prevent sexual assault before it occurs.
SAPPSS and primary prevention
We uphold a feminist philosophy and our aim is to provide an empowering, respectful and culturally sensitive service committed to best practice.
We are committed to the development of a positive and supportive work environment and strive to provide a family friendly workplace with flexible working arrangements. We provide clinical supervision, encourage continuous learning and focus on excellence in client outcomes and organisational objectives.
Barwon CASA has been built upon the experience, dedication, skills and hard work of many women from the Barwon Region over a period of more than 28 years. Each of these women had two collective goals - to provide a quality service to survivors of sexual assault and their non-offending family and friends, and to stop sexual assault.
*Herstory: "The human story as told by women about women (and, possibly, men); accounts of the human past and human activity that consider women as being at the centre of society, not at the margins; women's history."
(Anno Forfreedom 1983, personal communication, Sacramento)