Bay Area Women Against Rape

In 1970, the 15 year old daughter of Oleta Kirk Abrams was raped in a stairwell of Berkeley High School. When the rape was reported to the police, they had little idea of how to properly react. At that time police reports of rape were not common, and even less common were reports of minors being raped. The police treated the girl as if the rape were her own fault, keeping her isolated from her family for hours before transferring her to a hospital, where again she was isolated for hours while the police and doctors cracked jokes about her situation. The girl was never checked for diseases or pregnancy and there was zero thought given to her emotional state of being.

Seeing how poorly rape survivors were treated by the system, Abrams and two other women formed the first rape crisis center in the United States. Choosing the name Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR) they set out to make changes on a number of fronts.

They wrote and distributed pamphlets informing women about sexual assault. They protested outside of police departments and hospitals, demanding better treatment for rape survivors or to simply stop society from ignoring sexual assault issues. There were huge misconceptions about sexual assault and BAWAR would go out into communities and educate people about what sexual assault really was.

They also created resources necessary for survivors to deal with the emotional issues that come with sexual assault. They offered counseling, and after a few years of existence BAWAR began staffing a 24-hour crisis phone line.

Based in Oakland, BAWAR exists to this day providing education, counseling, advocacy, and community for survivors of sexual assault. Through its history BAWAR has been an influence and leader in creating rape crisis centers around the country. By 1980 there were over four hundred such centers and today there are well over a thousand rape crisis centers in the United States.