Funding for rape crisis center in limbo amid shutdown

Tuesday, January 8, 2019
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- When a sexual assault survivor calls the Fayetteville Rape Crisis Center's Hotline, they expect to hear a person's voice, but the partial government shutdown could soon cause them to hear a voicemail box instead.

"We were notified on Friday that that funding has stopped trickling down to agencies like ours," said Deanne Gerdes.

Gerdes runs the Rape Crisis Center of Fayetteville. With funding from the federal "Violence Against Women Act" grant hung up in the shutdown, she had no choice but to furlough her staff. "The conversation with staff was very difficult. And Monday morning here we are," said Gerdes.

But to her surprise, her employees still showed up.

"I couldn't figure out why I wouldn't come to work," said Kelsey Gawinski

Gawinski is an advocate for cold case rape victims. She helps man the hotline phones, visits the ER and talks with survivors who are desperate for help. "They don't get to push pause on their trauma because of a government shutdown," said Gawkinski.

Unfortunately, the shutdown has put a pause on her paycheck.

"We bought our first house last year so of course have mortgage payments to think about, medical costs," said Gawkinski.

As ABC11 interviewed Kelsey, one of her survivors came in to see her. She had no clue that the shutdown could shut out hundreds of victims like her.

"It infuriates me. You can't just turn your back. These women need to be heard," the survivor said.

Her story began in 1993 when she was raped and nearly beaten to death. "I was kidnapped, knocked unconscious put in the trunk of my car, taken to Harnett County, sexually assaulted, beaten tied to a tree by three men," she said.

Three years ago, Fayetteville Police re-opened her case to track down the suspects but it's the help from Rape Crisis Center that helped her find her voice.

"It's a godsend. These victims need support every day 24/7. You don't walk away from them," she sobbed.

Rape Crisis employees told ABC11 they are dedicated to their survivors and will continue to come to work on their behalf. A Gofundme page has been set up for the agency to help offset operational expenses.
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