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Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault (Northwest CASA) has provided free services to sexual assault survivors and their loved ones within the Northwest Suburbs of Cook County for more than 30 years. Based in Arlington Heights, the agency opened a second office in Evanston three years ago for easier access to survivors in the Evanston/Skokie area. Located on the ground floor of the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, Northwest CASA works closely with the City to provide access to anyone in the area in need of its services and to create community awareness of sexual assault.
It is estimated that one in seven women in Illinois has been the victim of sexual assault, according to the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“The reality is, there is a need for our services everywhere, and we are always looking for ways to enhance access,” said Northwest CASA Executive Director Jim Huenink. He said the size of Evanston and its distance from Arlington Heights made it an ideal place to establish a satellite office.
The organization, originally known as the Northwest Action Against Rape, was founded in 1975 by a group of women who saw a need for a victim-centered response to rape and sexual assault. The women, all volunteers, promoted a crisis hotline and developed educational programming. Today, Northwest CASA serves approximately 750 to 800 individuals each year and has a staff of 13 and more than 50 volunteers.
Free and confidential services include providing crisis intervention and counseling to survivors and significant others, advocating for survivors in the medical and criminal justice systems, promoting social change through education and prevention programs, and reaching out to survivors in underserved groups in the community.
For the past three years, Northwest CASA has hosted a community awareness event in Evanston called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. The fundraiser, which has been held at Evanston’s lakefront in the fall, is designed for men to literally “walk a mile in her shoes.”
“This is a great event that not only raises funds and awareness, but is an opportunity for men to show their support for women’s issues,” said Mr. Huenink.
Last fall, Northwest CASA also brought a prevention education program to Evanston Township High School called The Clothesline Project. The program educates students on an array of topics including personal body safety, sexual harassment, sexual assault, date rape drugs, consent, and how to find help. Survivors of sexual assault are invited to design a T-shirt expressing their emotions about their personal experiences. The T-shirts are then put on display to create awareness around the issue.
“We have thousands of these T-shirts made by high school students from throughout the suburbs,” said Mr. Huenink. “Last year, with the assistance of some Northwestern University sorority members, we were able to put many of these T-shirts on display at the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.”
Jackie Carson, an ETHS alum and bi-lingual lead therapist at the Evanston office, said she wishes school programs like The Clothesline Project had been in place at the high school when she was a student.
“My friends and I certainly would’ve benefited from the knowledge,” she said. “Learning about sexual assault and knowing how and where to get help is so important.”
The 24-hour confidential hotline is 888-802-8890.