Asheville – Our Voice has been a force for good in Asheville since its founding in 1974. Born as a series of support groups to address issues women were facing, the collective grew into a full fledged organization that serves six counties.
Much has changed in the nearly 50 years since. Survivors feel more able to speak out about their assault, but the group executive director believes there’s still a lot of progress to be made.
“The #MeToo movement really shattered a lot of the silence around sexual violence,” Angelica Wind, Executive Director of Our Voice. “Yet, there’s still much more work to be done as it relates to policies and laws that can help support not only the minimizing of sexual assaults, but also the creation of policies that can help support survivors so they can feel as though they can disclose their trauma,”
Our Voice’s mission is to aid victims of sexual violence and human trafficking. Direct services include a 24-hour crisis hotline and text line. They also offer medical accompaniment, emotional support and advocacy services. 16 sessions of free counseling services to address sexual trauma and healing are free of charge.
“We’re focused on the emotional support for the survivor, providing information and supporting them through their decision making. We feel that survivors are best poised to make the decision in terms of what they want to see happen,” says Wind. “We will support them whether it’s to move forward through engaging with the criminal justice system, or not.”
Wind has seen an uptick in victims assaulted in rideshare services, whether as drivers or passengers, since the introduction of Lyft and Uber.
Uber and Lyft are joining forces to keep riders safe. The rideshare companies announced the creation of an industry sharing safety program on March 11 which they share information about deactivated drivers who have serious safety incidents, including sexual and physical assault.
The database will include deactivations dating back to 2017 and is open to other transportation and delivery network companies for a small fee. The program hopes to keep a deactivated Lyft driver from joining Uber and vice versa.
“I think I think it’s a great step in the sense that they are sharing information. So that person doesn’t move on to another rideshare or grubhub, or somewhere else,” Wind says.
This comes more than a year after Uber released its first safety report that found over three thousand instances of sexual violence in 2018. Of the reports, 55 percent were riders citing drivers as the attackers. Female identifying-people made up 89 percent of rape reports.
“There also needs to be training in regards to what it means to have a position of power because in essence, you’re the one driving that you’re the one driving that person. That’s a particularly vulnerable situation, as mentioned before, where you’re getting in a car with someone you don’t know, and you’re trusting that the person is going to get you to your place safe,” Wind says.
If you’d like to make a donation to Our Voice you can at: https://www.ourvoicenc.org/donate/