WASHINGTON, DC, (WUSA) --- Over 200,000people encounterrape or sexual assault each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DC Rape Crisis Centerstrives toensure thattheir clients not only recover from a traumatic event, but they truly rise above their adversity and maintain happy and healthy lives.

"I was sexually assaulted and robbed on Sept. 30, 1997," Venise Byrams recalled.

Nearly 15years ago, Byrams was taken into the woods by knife-point, robbed of four dollars and sexually assaulted by a stranger.

"I had problems with sleeping and just talking to anyone about it...close friends and family. It wasn't something I was able to talk about, " Byrams explained.

She needed emotional help and therapy. At the hospital, Byrams had learned about the DC Rape Crisis Center. Shedecided to call their 24-hour hotline.

"I would just cry. I didn't know what to say...that person was just there on the other line," Byrams reflected about her first few calls.

After a month of phone counseling, Byrams was able to feel well enough to return to work.

"For me, I know the center saved my life," Byrams said.

"Our services help restore a sense of self-confidence and the ability to feel like they can go on and take the next step. Not just to be a victim, but a survivor and actually, a thriver in life," said Denise Snyder, the Executive Director of the DC Rape Crisis Center.

Snyder also says survivors of sexual violence need to know that they're not alone and it's NOT their fault.

In addition to the 24-hour hot line, the DC Rape Crisis Center provides free in-house counseling and family therapy. The Center offers 12 weeks to a full year of free therapy as well as a multitude of support groups.

Today, Byrams has come to terms with her past, and is outspoken on the benefits of her therapy. She is now a member of the Board of Directors for the DC Rape Crisis Center.

"I'm not afraid to walk the streets...day, night, whatever. I can still do what I need to do and be a woman and not be afraid to still be a woman, and be a human and be committed," Byrams said.

To access their 24-hour, confidential hotline, call 202-333-RAPE (7273).

NOTE: The Gannett Foundation has given a donation to the DC Rape Crisis Center.

Produced/Writtenby: Elizabeth Jia

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