Women Helping Women is a non-shelter, social service agency providing crisis intervention, advocacy, support and education/prevention services to victims/survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking.
The Agency opened its doors in 1973, as Women Helping Women and since its inception has been providing crisis intervention and support services free of charge to tens of thousands of women, men and children. It is the only organization in Southwestern Ohio offering a wide range of services to victims of both sexual assault and domestic violence. Trained staff from a variety of educational backgrounds and experiences provide these services. The Agency also depends on the assistance of a diverse group of volunteers to ensure that crisis services are available to clients 24 hours a day.
Women Helping Women was founded on the feminist belief that individuals within a community can and do provide effective support and counseling for each other. Several University of Cincinnati graduate students pooled their resources to form a membership organization in October 1973. The Agency initially occupied the second floor of a house owned by the United Christian Ministries near the University of Cincinnati campus, and began to offer counseling services to women. The Agency was incorporated in 1974, and was granted tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization. At the time, a Board of Trustees was elected and Women Helping Women began to actively seek program funding to help underwrite the cost of space and a telephone service.
Soon after the crisis phone service was established, hotline calls indicated a need for specialized services to survivors of sexual assault. The rape crisis program was initiated, and funding was secured through the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in June of 1975.
Three (3) staff members were hired to implement and administer the rape crisis program and general counseling services. Additional staff and volunteers enabled the Agency to increase the number of services over the next few years. The rape crisis program established a Speaker’s Bureau and volunteers were trained to speak to community groups on issues of violence against women. Women Helping Women staff also acted as consultants for implementation of rape crisis centers in Omaha, Nebraska and Northern Kentucky.
To accommodate program expansion, Women Helping Women moved to the YWCA Building at Ninth and Walnut Streets in 1976. During August of that year, the YWCA and Women Helping Women co-sponsored a public speak-out for battered women, resulting in the identification of their many needs. Therefore, Women Helping Women and the YWCA decided to expand services to victims of partner violence. Women Helping Women incorporated working with battered women into its mission. The YWCA opened the Alice Paul House, the local shelter for battered women and their children, now known as the YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter.
In 1981, Women Helping Women moved its offices to the Barrister Building at 216 East Ninth Street. At that time, many additional services were added to existing programs including a support group for adult survivors of childhood incest and child sexual abuse awareness programs in the schools. The need for courtroom advocates for children who had been sexually abused was brought to the attention of the agency in 1984. Members of the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office felt that advocates from Women Helping Women could assist the children and their families and, hopefully, lessen some of the trauma of the court process by accompanying the children and their families to all the necessary court proceedings. Although the program was started in 1984 and implemented by existing staff, in 1985 the City of Cincinnati granted the agency funding to hire a full-time Child Advocate. With the subsequent development of a child advocacy program by the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office, Women Helping Women later discontinued this program to strengthen the agency’s focus on services to adults.
In 1994, Women Helping Women undertook a Capital Campaign to raise $250,000 to provide much-needed facility renovation and to update and finance computer systems and other equipment. The agency rented an additional floor in the building and renovated its total space. In addition, the Agency established an endowment fund that, as it grows, provides a more stable funding base for the future.
In the fall of 1995, the Agency received new monies from the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to provide crisis intervention and support services to stalking victims. This was a collaborative effort with the Talbert House’s Victim Service Center. Working together enhanced the Agency’s ability to respond to victims individually and helped the community respond more comprehensively to stalking victims. Women Helping Women furthered collaborative efforts with other organizations creating:
- An outreach program was implemented in 1998, to serve people with disabilities who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence and/or stalking.
- the sexual assault law enforcement advocacy project with the City of Cincinnati Personal Crimes Unit in 1999,
- the domestic violence law enforcement advocacy project with the City of Cincinnati Police Division in January 2000,
- the Prosecutor’s Office Advocacy project with the City of Cincinnati Solicitor’s office near the end of 2000, and
- the Legal Aid project was implemented in 2002 to assist domestic violence victims seeking assistance from Legal Aid.
The Agency’s Evolving Identity
In December 2003, the Agency’s name changed to Rape Crisis & Abuse Center of Hamilton County. While the Agency’s purpose had not wavered in our 30 years of existence, the community we served had changed. Although survivors of rape and domestic violence are predominantly women, men also needed our support and services, but we felt our name prevented them from reaching out for our services. Men were also taking an increasingly active role as staff and volunteers.
In addition, we found that many in the community did not understand the services our Agency provided. We believed the time had come to find a name that supported our ability to help all survivors, their families, and friends during their time of need. We chose the name Rape Crisis & Abuse Center of Hamilton County because it clearly identified what we do and conveyed a message of support and welcome to all.
On the same day as the new name took effect, the agency moved to the seventh floor of the Community Law Center Building, 215 East Ninth Street, owned by the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. This move was necessary to more effectively meet the needs of the community.
While the agency changed our name in 2003 to better reflect our mission, the community was slow to embrace the change and for the most part continued to refer to us as Women Helping Women.
On March 3, 2008, the agency returned to its previous name, Women Helping Women.
Expanding our Reach
In 2012, for the first time in its 39-year history, Women Helping Women began offering rape crisis services outside of Hamilton County. In November of 2012, Women Helping Women acquired the Butler County Rape Crisis Program, when that program was at risk for elimination. Women Helping Women’s acquisition of the program ensured rape crisis services would continue without interruption in Butler County.
”Women Helping Women understands fully the importance of providing services and support for survivors of sexual assault,” said Kendall Fisher, Women Helping Women executive director. ”We are delighted to take this action so that local services will continue to be available and we are excited to serve the Butler County community.”
Women Helping Women received support from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, Miami University’s Parent Fund, United Way of Greater Cincinnati and individuals and organizations throughout Butler and Hamilton counties which made continuation of rape crisis services in Butler County possible.