Peninsula’s only rape crisis center hosts inaugural fundraising gala to continue free services for clients

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — With a team of under 10 people, the Center for Sexual Assault Survivors tirelessly works to educate and prevent sexual violence while treating victims.

The center is hosting its first-ever fundraising gala to continue to provide free services for its clients.

Founded in 1996, the center provides a safe place to call home for their clients.

Victim Services and Program Manager Sydni Ewell says it’s vital for them to raise awareness about a topic that’s still a touchy for some to talk about.

“Being able to see those signs of what is consent, what is healthy relationships, what are boundaries,” she said. “Those things that we can help educate the community so that they are aware.”

Aside from education, their main work lies in helping victims heal through coping methods.

Executive Director Xiomara Harris says healing also takes the main shape of listening and validating their experiences.

“For them, it’s like, ‘OK, you know, life is worth it. It’s worth it for me to keep going,'” she said.

The center serves everyone no matter their age, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity – including those in the military.

Vice President of the Board of Directors Elsa Vasquez says it’s even more important to elevate and listen to diverse voices.

“It’s the minorities that are usually not seen,” she said. “They’re underserved, so it’s really important for them to have a voice.”

The team of under 10 people serves 10 different clients every day.

Challenges aside, staff say they just want to provide a safe place for healing.

“I think sexual assault affects everyone,” said Harris. “It affects the family, it affects the community. I want people to know that there’s a safe place that they can come to to get healing.”

The center is hosting their inaugural gala on Saturday, September 25 from 6 pm. to 10 p.m. at the Downing Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News.

The event will be hosted by Chelsey Khan of the Hampton Roads Show on WAVY-TV 10.

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