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Friday, January 27, 2023

UF alumna tackles assault stigmas with campaign

After being sexually assaulted as a UF student, Gretchen Casey turned a nightmare into a chance to help others.

Casey, the director of Victim Services at the State Attorney’s Office, has dedicated her life to helping rape-survivors cope with their assaults and encouraging others to be more empathetic toward the issue of rape.

Through her Unshame campaign, which she began in 2014, Casey launched an online resource for assault survivors, which features victim services contacts and blog posts from survivors.

Casey said the shame put on survivors can often cause them to keep assaults a secret, because they feel like they are going to be blamed.

“As a field — the field of victim services — we’ve got to do a better job of addressing this,” Casey said. “We might see more people be willing to come forward and accept services.”

After creating the site, Casey met with activists from Alachua County to discuss what they can do as a community to eliminate rape in the county over the next 15 years.

Through a GoFundMe page, the campaign raised over $2,000 within the first year, but Casey said she wanted to raise awareness, not money, so she stopped. She used the money received to make motivational T-shirts, pins and posters.

Laura Kalt, the director of Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center for Alachua County, said the stigma surrounding sexual assault often leads others to question survivors’ actions and how they could have prevented the assault.

“That has had a chilling effect on survivors for decades,” Kalt said.

She said she believes Casey’s campaign will bring this issue to the attention of the larger community.

“Hopefully, with a campaign like Unshame, more survivors will find their voice and see that they have allies,” she said.

Victim Services

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  • Alachua County Victim Services/Sexual Assault Helpline: 352-264-6760
  • Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate Unit: 352-367-4152
  • University Police Office of Victim Services: 352-392-5648 or after hours at 352-392-1111
  • UF Counseling and Wellness Center: 352-392-1575
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