The Orange County Rape Crisis Center in Chapel Hill marks its 40th anniversary this year with a couple of upcoming community events.

Valarie Schwartz has served on the board of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center for six years. Shamecca Bryant is the center’s executive director.

They both spoke to WCHL recently about the center’s work, and how they’re marking its 40th anniversary as a valued Chapel Hill institution that also serves Carrboro, Hillsborough and all surrounding communities.

Schwartz acknowledges that it may seem strange to celebrate 40 years of a rape crisis center. She says that progress and empowerment are the true reasons for celebration.

“The awareness of sexual assault is so important,” said Schwartz. “And when people realize small things that they can do to make a difference, it empowers.”

Bryant says the Rape Crisis Center served 617 survivors of sexual assault last year. A lot of them, she says, are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Many are recent victims of sexual assault.

“Primarily, we work with survivors of sexual violence, their loved ones, and any other community member that they may be interacting with,” she said, adding that partners in the healing process include police and health care professionals.

Bryant describes the Rape Crisis Center’s work as providing “help, hope and healing” to victims of sexual violence.

“We have a 24-hour crisis line,” said Bryant. “We have support-group programs, and advocacy services to make sure that they get the help they need.”

Once a year, representatives of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center visit classrooms, to teach children from pre-K up through fourth grade about protecting themselves against predators. They also teach kids from grades five-through-eight about the consequences of sexual bullying.

Bryant says that the center sees around 12,000 children and adults every year, just in educational and prevention programs alone.

The center operates with a 10-member staff and a 13-member board. They get help from between 75 and 100 volunteers.

The Orange County Rape Crisis Center was recently named “Non-Profit Business of the Year” by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.

Next month, the OCRCC marks Sexual Assault Awareness Month with several events including “Cupcakes and Cocktails,” an amateur cupcake competition on April 29.

“We are looking for bakers,” says Bryant. “Currently we have four. We are looking for about six more. So if you are interested in baking up a special treat, give us a call.”

Contact information can be found at the center’s Web site at

The cupcake event is from 6-to-8 p.m. at Extraordinary Ventures on South Elliott Road. In addition to cupcakes and drinks, there will be food available from Mediterranean Deli.

In September, the center will host a Gratitude Gala at Chapel Hill Lodge.