CLEVELAND — The door is always open at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, and at no time in its history has that been as true since May 6, 2013, the day Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued and their story was told.
“Whether Amanda, Gina or Michelle know it, people look to them as role models and heroes,” said Sondra Miller.
Miller is the CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, dedicated to helping survivors of sexual violence. Hours after the rescue of the Seymour survivors, the phones didn’t stop ringing at the center’s office downtown.
“We saw an immediate spike in the number of hotline calls we were receiving and the number of people walking through our doors,” said Miller.
People were inspired by the rescue of Amanda, Gina and Michelle, and although it sounds somewhat morbid, it’s those kind of events that end up helping others.
“Because rape, sexual violence, sexual abuse, it happens in our community, whether we are willing to admit it and talk about it or not. We see it as a very good thing when cases do come into the headlines, not because we want people to be suffering, but because it’s a sign that our community is willing to acknowledge what is happening under the surface and willing to take action to do something about it,” explained Miller.
Donations also started rolling in to the center because of the story of Amanda, Gina and Michelle. It seemed to be a way to help do something special for the women.
“People say, I can’t do anything to make them feel better,” said Miller, “so what can I do to make others feel better. People who are interested in this cause and want to take action. We’ve seen an increase in the number of people that want to volunteer for the center. We’ve seen an increase in philanthropic donations.”
That type of support shows the strength, compassion and hope that Amanda, Gina and Michelle provided for so many.
“The support from the community can only help, it’s not going to hurt,” explained Miller. “They need a lot of love and a lot of support. I think Cleveland has stepped up and done everything it can to make sure they have bright futures.”