TCW - Jobs, Money & Opinion

YWCA Reaches Out To Survivors of Sexual Violence

Jeanette Castellanos Butt_Headshot_BW-1.jpg

Support and encouragement can be one of the most helpful things to a survivor of sexual violence, and YWCA makes it their goal to do just that. Offering many support services Jeanette Castellanos Butt and her team at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago work to give survivors the resources they need to rise above sexual violence.

 TCW: How many cases of sexual assault are reported in Chicago each year?


Ms. Castellanos Butt In 2009, 1,576 criminal sexual assaults were reported to the Chicago Police Department. Exact data for the entire state is not available, but the FBI Uniform Crime Report estimates 3,901 criminal sexual assaults in Illinois.



What is your role as director of Sexual Violence and Support Services?


I oversee all of the YWCA sexual violence programming, which serves the City of Chicago, south suburban Cook County and DuPage County. I also deal with a lot of public policy and advocacy work.



What services does YWCA provide to survivors?


We offer comprehensive sexual violence services, starting with when an assault initially happens. We have 24-hour rape crisis hotlines that someone can call at any point for resources, and our hotline will help provide them guidance. If a person is assaulted, we suggest they go to a hospital, where we provide 24-hour medical advocacy services. At the hospital we can help walk them through the exam process and explain their rights, and connect with any services they may need as follow-up, be that counseling, transportation or housing needs. We also provide them with replacement clothing after their clothes are taken for forensic testing.


If a victim decides they want to continue with the criminal justice process we will accompany them to court, either for support or on their behalf. We help them connect with crime victims compensation or protective services, such as an order of protection. We offer counseling services to victims and their non-offending significant others and we offer a children's program, which has child-specific counseling, starting with victims as young as three.


We do a lot of education advocacy work; we are in close to 150 public schools providing education to students. We start as young as first grade, where we talk about appropriate touching. In middle school, we start talking about bullying and sexual harassment, and in high school, we talk about dating violence and rape awareness. We also talk to students about Internet safety.


On top of advocacy, we provide training to first responders, such as law enforcement, other social service agencies and hospital personnel, anyone who is going to be responding to victims. It's our goal to provide them with training so they can respond in a knowledgeable and compassionate way. We also work with these people to make sure policies and practices are as beneficial as can be to sexual abuse survivors.


Tell us about your unique counseling methods.


Our counseling is very much trauma-informed; our counselors are comprehensively trained in sexual violence and we really tailor our services to meet survivors where they're at and help them guide their own counseling process. We encourage them to take ownership and leadership for their own process. In doing that, we use art therapy, group and individual services. For younger kids, we use a lot of plays and chants. We found that depending on the individual, the trauma they have experienced and their personality, different things work for different people.



Could you tell me about the counseling center in Up Town that is specific to Korean women?


That program actually began because a group of Korean women approached the YWCA. In Korea, YWCA is well-known and has a good reputation. The women felt that other Korean women would feel safe coming to us. It is a pretty small program run only by two people, but it is specific to the Korean population.


How does it differ from any other domestic violence counseling?


It is different culturally and from a language standpoint. It is bi-lingual and it is catered to the needs of the Korean population. A lot of those clients have issues such as immigration and a language barrier, and it is really about understanding the cultural dynamics of a Korean family.


What issues is your team currently working on?


We are currently a part of the state attorney's office's workgroup that is working on how to better prosecute sexual assault, particularly sexual assault with an acquaintance, which can be the most difficult. We are working with them to improve training of states attorneys as well as to advocate better policy that might make prosecuting these cases more common. 

For more information about YWCA Chicago visit

YWCA has 24-hour rape crisis hotlines, for immediate assistance call 888-293-2080 in Chicago Metropolitan Area 630-971-3927 in DuPage County or 708-748-5672 in the South Suburbs   

Some answers have been shortened for clarity. This interview is part of an interview series for Sexual Assault Awarness Month. Check back on Tuesday, April 19 for an interview with Liz Seccuro, author of "Crash into Me".


Interview By Ana Valentine



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