Our History

WOAR has been advocating for victims and survivors of sexual assault since 1971.

Our creation story-
Jody Pinto, WOAR’s founder, is a woman who shared the pain of a friend who had been raped. Her friend suffered not only the agony of the rape, but also the brutality of the institutions which were supposedly there to help her: the hospital, the police, and the courts. As a result, Jody thought about starting a militant underground center, but quickly changed her mind: “As soon as I started talking to people, I realized that if I wanted to effect change, I had to come up with an idea that affected the institutions that a variety of women used. There was no way that an underground organization could replicate a police force, a hospital.”
Having an idea is one thing; building an organization with no money is another. On August 26, 1972, the 52nd anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, 300 women marched in sweltering heat to express their dissatisfaction with the progress of women’s rights. There were about 25 speakers representing different issues. Jody Pinto spoke about rape. And she continued to speak about rape and to collect the names of women who were interested in helping. From this a steering committee grew and about 20 women came together to create what we now know as Women Organized Against Rape.
Since 1972, Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) has provided counseling and advocacy services for victim/survivors of sexual assault and education about sexual assault and its prevention for the professional community and the general public. WOAR was founded for the purpose of providing support for sexual assault victims and their families and of working with the community to prevent rape.
Our goals were:
• To eliminate rape in our society, beginning with the community that WOAR serves.
• To educate the community that WOAR serves.
• To provide needed support and referrals to victims of sexual assault, their families and friends in Philadelphia.
• To empower women to gain control over their lives.
Today, WOAR-Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence continues to honor our history while cultivating inclusive spaces for all people to continue receiving services and join our mission. Over the years, our advocacy has resulted in many changes.
WOAR offices open with hotline staffed by 20 volunteers at Philadelphia General Hospital
May 1, 1973, after almost a year of planning, WOAR was incorporated. Many of the early rape crisis centers chose to work either within the medical and criminal justice systems or totally outside of them; WOAR tried to do both. WOAR established cooperative relationships with institutions, without becoming part of the system;
DA’s Office and Police Department accept proposals from WOAR for treatment of rape victims/survivors. WOAR’s Court Accompaniment Program begins and the establishment of a ‘desk’ at both City Hall and Family Court to be more accessible to survivors during court proceedings.
WOAR advocated for rape shield law.
WOAR participated in the formation of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
State legislature passes bill making survivor’s prior sexual history inadmissible in court (rape shield). With the closing of Philadelphia General Hospital, WOAR negotiated with City officials to assure continuity of care of rape survivors. When two hospitals were selected to treat survivors – Jefferson and Presbyterian Hospitals – WOAR conducted rape awareness training sessions for the hospital staffs and negotiated with the hospitals to have WOAR’s volunteer counselors present in the hospital emergency rooms. When the designated city hospitals lost funding for rape care (around 2006), through WOAR’s leadership role on the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Advisory Council, the plan for the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center (PSARC) was developed and funding was secured through the Drexel University School of Medicine. PSARC began operations in May 2011
The Pennsylvania State Legislature passed the “Rape Shield Law,” which incorporated WOAR’s recommendations, one of which made a woman’s prior sexual history, in most cases, inadmissible in court
WOAR helps found Women’s Way.
WOAR published a position paper calling for structural changes in the District Attorney’s Office and the Police Department. The position paper recommended the creation of specialized rape units in each. WOAR’s proposal was implemented in the District Attorney’s Office in February 1978 when Edward Rendell took office;
Rape Prosecution Unit is implemented in District Attorney’s Office. WOAR sponsors four-day national conference on medical, legal, psychological and cultural aspects of rape.
WOAR conducts outreach and education program for adolescents; annual supporting membership drive is instituted.
WOAR began its Child Sexual Abuse Program; it offered specialized direct services to children who are survivors of rape, incest and other forms of sexual abuse. WOAR also began providing training to professionals working with these victims and prevention education programs for children. The program also advocated on behalf of child sexual abuse victims with child welfare agencies and within the legal system.
Episcopal Hospital replaces Presbyterian for emergency room services for sexual assault victim/survivors.

WOAR developed a rape prevention training program which since then has been presented to employees of local corporations, law firms, hospitals, and other groups
WOAR developed rape prevention training program and organizes Philadelphia’s first Rape Prevention Week to promote awareness about sexual assault prevention.
Because of its special interest in the fate of women and girls who become pregnant after rape or incest, WOAR joined in a lawsuit to stop the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare from cutting off funds for Medicaid abortions; WOAR developed the concept for the creation of a Sex Crimes Unit in the Police Department which was accepted by Mayor William Green. This Unit has now evolved into the Special Victims Unit.
A bill was signed into law guaranteeing confidentiality in communications between rape crisis counselors and victims.
WOAR advocated for sexual assault services for children to be offered at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In the fall of 1982, Children’s Hospital began a sexual assault program. WOAR trained their nursing staff, pediatricians and social workers child sexual abuse services;
WOAR’s Task Force on the “Sex Offender,” comprised of members of WOAR and representatives from the criminal justice and mental health institutions, developed a proposal for treatment and programs for sex offenders, and began advocating for its adoption in the Pennsylvania prison system;
WOAR begins offering low-cost self defense classes to women in the community

WOAR pilots training program for professionals working with older people to identify and assist older sexual assault victim/survivors. WOAR produces self-defense instruction manual and videotape.
After years of negotiating and educating, WOAR was instrumental in influencing the content and passage of the Marital Rape Law of Pennsylvania which took effect on February 19, 1985. Survivors of marital rape became entitled to treatment by the medical and legal systems. Unlike non-spousal rape, however, the martial rape law required that the victim/survivor report the incident to the police within 90 days, and made spousal rape a second degree felony, as opposed to a first degree felony;
WOAR collaborates with Voyage House to provide counseling and advocacy for adolescent victim/survivors and community outreach and education.
WOAR co-presents conference for judges on child sexual abuse. WOAR develops Clinical Program and expands counseling services for children and adults.
WOAR presents conference on AIDS and sexual assault─to our knowledge, the first such conference in the nation. WOAR presents child sexual abuse prevention day at The Gallery.
WOAR responds to a series of attacks on women in center city by bringing rape prevention information to 5,000 individuals who live and work in the area. WOAR produces personal safety activity book for young children.
WOAR co-sponsors eleventh annual conference of the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault─600 participants from across the country gather in Philadelphia for several days of workshops and community-wide events.
Sexual Assault Awareness Week culminates in WOAR conference on adolescent sexual abuse, “Making the Connection: Teens Talk About Sexual Abuse and Teen Risk-Taking.”
WOAR develop training manual on sexual assault and substance abuse for use in rape crisis centers throughout the state. WOAR produces video on sexual assault and the healing process.
Jody Pinto Award established to honor individuals who have shown exemplary dedication to WOAR’s commitment to end sexual violence. WOAR produces video about women of color survivors in recovery from addictions.
WOAR actively advocates for the establishment of anti-stalking legislation in Pennsylvania. WOAR turns 20 on May 1─with our name in lights atop the PECO building!
WOAR sponsors professional/community conference titled “Juvenile Sex Offenders: From Victim to Offender to Survivor” in the fall.
WOAR hired first male staff person as Education/Training Specialist. WOAR celebrated its 25th anniversary.
WOAR created a Men’s Task Force – a diverse group of men from the Philadelphia Community. The major outcome of the Task Force was the development of our Program “Today’s Boys Are Tomorrow’s Men” training curriculum for male youth on sexual violence issues.
WOAR was interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer. That interview created a major exposé on the inappropriate treatment and downgrading of sexual assault complaints by the Philadelphia Police Department particularly in minority and low income areas of Philadelphia for more than twenty years.
WOAR presented testimony before Philadelphia City Council regarding the Philadelphia Police Department miscoding and downgrading sexual assault complaints.
WOAR joins forces with the Women’s Law Project, the Penn Women’s Center, and the National Organization of Women to address the Philadelphia Police Department’s miscoding and downgrading sexual assault complaints.
As a result of the expose in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1999, a Community Advocate Review Board was developed and meets quarterly at the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit and reviews all unfounded (downgraded) sexual assault complaints. Philadelphia was the first city in the country to implement this practice;
WOAR’s Executive Director receives the Philadelphia Coalition for Victim Advocacy Catherine Bachrach Award for outstanding advocacy on behalf of victims of crime in Philadelphia.
WOAR received recognition from AWARE, Inc. for work on behalf of victims of sexual assault.
WOAR produced a video, “Speak Out” discussing sexual assault in the Latino Community, and three Asian Outreach videos, which discussed sexual assault and related issues in the Asian Community.
WOAR holds first major fundraiser (bowl-a-thon) which is a huge success.
WOAR’s Executive Director, Carol Johnson, interviewed by Ms. Magazine. Interview published nationally. Subject: Philadelphia Police Department’s inadequate investigation of sexual assault complaints. WOAR launched a campaign focused on the increasing prevalence of “date-rape drugs”;
WOAR holds Philadelphia’s first Men Against Sexual Violence Conference, Community College, Philadelphia.
WOAR celebrates 30th Anniversary. Holds celebration; Honors District Attorney, Lynn Abraham; Senator Hardy Williams; Lieutenant, Mike Boyle, Philadelphia Police Department-Special Victims Unit; Radio Host, Tamlin Henry; Councilperson, Angel Ortiz; and Women’s Law Project’s Executive Director, Carole Tracy.
WOAR’s Executive Director receives “Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things” award.
WOAR’s Executive Director receives SISTAHS/SISTAHS Award for outstanding community leadership. WOAR’s Executive Director receives International Seroptomist Distinguished Woman of the Year Award.
WOAR holds signature fund raising event honoring Delilah Rumberg, PCAR; Dr. Edna Foa, UPENN; and Christopher Mallios, District Attorney’s Office.
WOAR’s Executive Director, Carol Johnson, receives “2005 Governor’s” award for outstanding citizen crime prevention volunteer. WOAR trains 36 Latina community sexual assault counselor volunteers and 15 Asian community sexual assault counselor volunteers. WOAR’s Executive Director, Carol Johnson, receives “Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Community Service” award
WOAR holds major event “Take It All Back” in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness month in April.
The City of Philadelphia Mayor’s office presents WOAR with a proclamation naming April 29th “Women Organized Against Rape Day”. WOAR enters partnership with the Center for The Treatment of Anxiety Disorders relative to the treatment of adolescents with Child Sexual Assault related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
WOAR provides sexual assault/sexual abuse trainings to Philadelphia Police Department line supervisors.
WOAR moves to new office at the Robert Morris Building, 100 North 17th Street, 4th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103
WOAR participated as a treatment site in a National Institute of Mental Health funded outcome research project. The research project partnered WOAR with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Treatment of Anxiety Disorders and focused on viable techniques for reducing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in female adult and adolescent rape survivors;
WOAR’s Executive Director nominated and accepted into the Federal Bureau of Investigation Community Partnership Program.
WOAR holds 2nd Annual “Take It All Back” event in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness month in April. WOAR holds King Tut exhibit fundraiser. WOAR trains 10 new Latina community sexual assault counselor volunteers. WOAR Community Outreach Manager, Cristina Perez receives the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape’s “Jody Pinto Award” for outstanding work in the Latina Community. Building Blocks, an 8-week group for child survivors of sexual abuse and up to two caregivers, was designed by WOAR and copyrighted in 2008. Building Blocks was designed for children between the ages of 3 and 6 years of age. The goals of the group are to allow the children the opportunity to learn about their body and safe touch in addition to exploring their feelings pertaining to the abuse and their relationships with their support system;
WOAR receives a $15,000 grant from Verizon for the “Building Blocks” toddler support group. University of Pennsylvania hosts two Vagina Monologue performances and donates the proceeds to WOAR in the amount of $30,565.00. Katie Rose Glickman, Vagina Monologue Producer, receives PCVA’s Outstanding Volunteer Award. WOAR holds 3rd Annual “Take It All Back” event in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness month in April. This year a community walk was added which raised over $4,000. WOAR moves to new office at One Penn Center-Suburban Station, 1617 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19103. WOAR unveils new website. A graduate level course for psychology students at Arcadia was designed by WOAR’s Director of Counseling Services and the Director of Graduate Programs in Counseling Psychology. Students take the course at WOAR to learn the dynamics of sexual violence and how to work with survivors in the community;
WOAR’s Board President obtained funding from the Connelly Foundation to implement a closed circuit television system at Family Court’s “Safe Court 4 Kids” initiative. This system permits child witnesses to testify outside the presence of their accused abuser in sexual assault/sexual abuse cases; WOAR held 4th Annual “Take It All Back” event in observance of Sexual Assault Awareness month in April. This year a community walk continued and a raffle was held. Senator Tartaglione presented Senate Resolution 63, which passed on March 31, 2009, declaring April as “Sexual Assault “month in Pennsylvania. Mayor Michael Nutter and Councilman William Greenlee also spoke at the event. WOAR’s court advocates are founding members of the Safe Courts 4 Kids coalition, a collaboration between agencies serving children in court in Philadelphia. Members include the District Attorney’s office, the First Judicial District, the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, and Keystone Mercy, represented by WOAR board member Maria Pajil Battle. In 2008-2009, the Safe Courts 4 Kids coalition wrote a grant to provide funding for the installation of closed-circuit television system in Courtrooms A and B at 1801 Vine Street, where child victims of sexual abuse testify against their perpetrators. We received the grant on May 14th, 2009 from the Connelly Foundation. WOAR partnered with Councilman William Greenlee to get a bill passed in Pennsylvania whereas victims of sexual violence would be eligible for Family leave with their employer providing their company was qualified under the “Family Leave Policy”. On September 24, 2009 WOAR held a fundraiser titled“ Bridge of Courage”. WOAR honored Kathryn M. Brown, PhD, Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania; Councilman-At-Large William K. Greenlee, City of Philadelphia 15th Ward; Ralph J. Riviello, MD, FACEP, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine; and Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, Senior Pastor, Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church for the work they do in the community supporting WOAR’s mission. ArcheDream for Humankind, a dance troupe, performed “Jessica’s Story”, about a survivor of rape. The event was attended by 112 persons and raised $22,500.
Through WOAR’s leadership role on the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Advisory Council, the plan for the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center (PSARC) was developed and funding was secured through the Drexel University School of Medicine. PSARC began operations in May 2011;
WOAR was selected as one of six organizations to be part of Women’s Way inaugural Action Partners initiative;
After years of discussion, a law was finally signed by the Governor allowing prosecutors in Pennsylvania courtrooms to call on expert witnesses for factual testimony about the behaviors of sexual assault victims. An expert can include a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, social worker, rape crisis center advocate or medical doctor who has experience working with victims of sexual assault. WOAR’s Director of Counseling was asked by State Representative Cherelle Parker to speak in support of this bill at two House and Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, in Philadelphia and in Harrisburg; WOAR’s Community Outreach Director was recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as a Community Health Leader for overcoming daunting odds to improve health and health care in disadvantaged and underserved migrant communities in Philadelphia. WOAR hosted an Open House welcoming back WOAR Alum – early participants in the movement to end sexual violence and establish WOAR. The event reunited WOAR Alum with friends, colleagues and local City and State representatives
WOAR received multiple citations recognizing their service to the Philadelphia Community and Victims of Sexual Violence. Recognitions were received by Philadelphia City Council, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and State Representative Maria Donatucci; In February 23, WOAR hosted a press conference for Pennsylvania’s Governor Corbett where the Governor proposed to increase funding in his 2013 – 2014 Budget for rape crisis services and prevention education;
Ardella’s House, a service and advocacy organization committed to helping women with criminal justice histories realize new possibilities for themselves and their families, presented Silvie Drouillard, WOAR Education Specialist, with the Effective Support Programs and Institutions Advocacy Award. WOAR celebrated 40+ years of service to victims of sexual violence. WOAR volunteer, Robin Strough, received the Philadelphia Coalition for Victim Advocacy “Volunteer Award.” WOAR hosted the Bridge of Courage Award Reception honoring Manuel N. Stamatakis, Chairman and CEO of CME Benefits Consulting, for his dedication to the goal of ending sexual violence and his commitment toward the development of the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center. TV personality Pat Ciarocchi was Mistress of Ceremonies and was featured with a survivor of rape in the “Chat with Pat” segment of the event. The audience was spell bound and enlightened as to the journey a survivor of rape endures; WOAR hosted a public awareness event at World Café Life in Philadelphia featuring a performance by Conscious entitled “Getting Unstuck – Homeless to Hollywood.” This was a one woman show of survival of HIV, recovery from domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and drug abuse. After the performance, a survivor of child sexual abuse approached a WOAR counselor and said that as a result of her attending this event, she is now finally ready to receive counseling. She called WOAR the next day to sign up for services;
WOAR is in discussions to collaborate with Sandy Capaldi, Psy. D., PTSD and Student Training Coordinator at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania to validate new tools to diagnose and measure the severity of PTSD. The new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has changed the diagnostic criteria for PTSD, resulting in a need to update our current assessment measures. These measures help us to assess the severity of post-trauma symptoms as well as track progress in counseling;
WOAR officially expanded its Community Outreach Program with the addition of two new positions working with WOAR’s Community Outreach Director; WOAR’s La Casa De Las Soles opened on September 9, 2013, at Tindley Temple Methodist Church in heart of South Philadelphia’s immigrant community;
Retirement of Carole J Johnson as Executive Director
Expansion of Community Outreach to include reaching the entire city. Thor, the therapy dog, is on the scene. Education and Direct Services have also expanded by increasing staff
First Bridge of Courage Reception and Silent Auction since 2014. Attended by 200 people. Establish Carol Johnson Humanitarian Award. Boat House Row is lit up in teal for Sexual Assault Awareness Month #MeToo Movement has resurfaced and increased calls to the hotline by 100%Moved from One Penn Center, 11th floor to the 8th floor
Increased funding opportunities. Human Trafficking Program begins, staffed by Program Coordinator and Peer Specialist. Bridge of Courage Reception & Silent Auction awardees were, Yasmine Mustafa and Anthony co-founders of Roar for Good, Shea Rhodes from Villanova. Carole J Johnson Humanitarian Award Dr. Edna Foa, University of Pennsylvania
New Name: WOAR – Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence. New Logo. WOAR has 35 full and part-time staff. Bridge of Courage Awardees – Council women, Blondell Reynolds Brown and Helen Gym, Carole J Johnson Humanitarian Award – Tracey Davidson, NBC New Journalist.
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