Mackenzie and I connected on Twitter after sharing personal stories of trauma, both occurring while in college. I recommended a few Boston organizations that address these forms of trauma, but she hadn’t heard of them. Given the recent rise of publicly talking about sexual assault and domestic violence, it was time to share what people, particularly women, trans men, trans women, non-binary, and gender-queer folks, have for resources in Boston. Many cities have organizations like this if you explore Google too!
Boston, home to 35 colleges and a male to female ratio that has dubbed us “the best American City for single, straight men”, can be exhausting. From high rates of sexual assaults on college campuses to the pay gap, countless individuals in Boston face oppression daily. Fortunately, Boston is also home to exceptional nonprofits and government organizations that provide emotional, financial, and policy support for citizens.
Millions of sexual assault survivors have come forward to share their stories, even if they are not reporting. With many of these organizations using a gender and race inclusive lens, sexual assault/domestic violence programs act as a first step for people who have experienced assault. They offer a range of benefits from financial support to long-term policy solutions for survivors. There are nearly a dozen domestic violence/sexual assault programs in the Greater Boston area, should you need their services. I will be highlight three I have worked with directly.
Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Services
Jane Doe Inc. collaborates with healthcare providers, state legislatures, and educational institutions to address the foundational issues that lead to sexual assault and domestic violence. They also just launched a Young Philanthropist’s Giving ImPACT, which I am a member of. This group of millennials come together to deepen their understanding of these issues and build a community of activist philanthropists.
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) does similar work with the goal “to empower [sexual assault] survivors to heal and seek justice in a ways that are meaningful to them.” This includes phone lines that allow you to speak with someone about the judicial and medical services available after an assault. Additionally, they too influence policy and educational tools to eliminate sexual assault. The Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery at the Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center grants medical support for trauma survivors, and publish cutting edge research on assault, which is used to craft survivor-centric programs and policies.
Audre Lorde to Stacyann Chin have said “All Oppression is Connected,” so it is unfortunately not surprising that people are forced into homelessness when escaping from sexual assault, rejection of their sexual/gender identity, or loss of wages due to illness. In those cases, Boston has dozens of resources such as Pine Street Inn and The Women’s Lunch Place aimed at both the immediate and long-term needs. Spaces like Rosie’s Place accommodate not only short-term meals (which is run by volunteers), but also resources for housing, jobs, and education security. Rosie’s Place was founded 43 years ago as the first self-identifying women’s shelter in the nation, and now has grown to have a public policy wing, outreach programs within Boston Public School and at courthouses, and a school that runs GED and ESL courses.
When looking at the design of these programs and outreach locations, it’s important to note that the average homeless individual in Boston is an 8 year old girl. We’re also seeing trends of young people in college utilizing food pantry services, which Rosie’s Place observes at higher than usual rates. Given the Boston demographic, it’s crucial these services are met quickly and sustainable.
Along the lines of being safe as ourselves, bodily autonomy is crucial no matter the circumstances. With a federal level push to cut access to abortion, eliminate contraception coverage, cut funding from Planned Parenthood, and reduce pre/post natal care programs. Boston Abortion Support Collective (BASC) and the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) encompass emotional, physical, and financial support and guidance around abortion access. Given the structure of our health insurance system, many people can’t get insurance to cover the procedure, will be outed through the claim, or need to travel out-of-state for their insurance to cover it. With the average abortion costing about $500, and time being of the essence, NNAF offer some financial compensation. BASC train people as abortion doulas and provide emotional/physical support during the procedure as well as with pregnancy loss.
None of these issues is siloed. In order to create institutional change, while uplifting individuals currently impacted, we need people working within the legal, political, and corporate system. Boston is home to powerful, effective entities fighting for that change.
The City of Boston hosts AAUW Work Smart Workshops, which provide working women with the tools necessary to fight wage inequality by knowing your worth, gaining negotiation skills, and building confidence in talking about money. Boston acted as a pilot city for this workshop with incredible success. I participated in the workshop twice, once through work and the other through Ellevate Boston, and was a participant in the study. I highly recommend this workshop for all individuals looking to gain confidence around money!
Also, there are numerous political organizations that promote the expansion of women in politics. Though the Massachusetts Senate hit its highest percentage of elected women in the legislature, it is still not representative of the population as a whole. The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC), a non-partisan, pro-choice organization, and Emerge Massachusetts, an organization training progressive, Democratic women, work statewide on training women to have the skills needed to run for office. After speaking with the MWPC, they noted an uptick in municipal-level women running for office, and young women looking to get involved. It’s important to note Boston City Council only elected their first woman of color President, Michelle Wu, in January 2016, though Boston as a city is incredibly diverse and majority female.
Boston, and the country, have a long way to go to be truly inclusive for all. Organizations, like the ones listed above, embody significant progress, and they must have our continued financial and political support. If you ever feel it necessary, please utilize the services listed by reaching out to these organizations. They are here to support, uplift, and empower you in any capacity that fits their services.
*header photo originally seen on Vice France*