Founding of and tensions surrounding the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in the mid-1970s
Slifkin discusses how anti-feminism generated the urge to dissociate the founding of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center from feminism. According to Slifkin, anti-feminism was widespread by the mid-1970s when she founded the OCRCC and, as a result, its initial publicity made no mention of its association with the National Organization for Women or Slifkin, a well-known feminist activist in the community. Although she mentions that Chapel Hill and Carrboro were fairly accepting of women's liberation, the founding of the OCRCC further brought tensions between feminism and anti-feminism to the fore as women who did not self-identify as feminists rallied in support of the OCRCC.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Miriam Slifkin, March 24, 1995. Interview G-0175. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
Q: At the founding of the RCC, there was some division between NOW and
RCC supporters. Could you talk about that?
Yeah, well, this is something I just wrote about. When the RCC came into
being, I asked Poquita Jurgenson, who was with the (Chapel Hill)
newspaper, to publicize the fact that we're in business. And she asked
me to come and talk with her. So I brought a sheet describing
everything, what we hoped to offer and everything. And she said xthis
good, can I keep it." "Yeah," So then she
says, "I'll be honest with you Miriam. I'd rather not mention
NOW or your name." And I got so upset. I didn't say anything to
her, but you know how it is, when you internalize it. I was really
angry. I was thinking here I'd worked myself so hard and all the women
on the task force. We'd given money, we'd given time, we gave up a lot
of things we wanted to do, in order to do this. And she's saying don't
mention the fact that you did it!
But she convinced me that it would be best if we didn't use NOW.
As a matter of fact, I've got the clipping if you want to see it. In the
clipping, she used the handout I gave her, she mentioned me as a
spokeswoman, never mentioning me by name. And she didn't mention NOW. It
hurt. It hurt a lot (098). But we got people to call us, several people
called us for information. Fortunately, just a few people called us for
emergency situations. But the climate then was so anti-woman's movement
(106). We were bra-burners, we did need all the support we could get,
which was our favorite joke. And radical women, you know. It was just so
difficult for me to understand people's mindsets. Here we were doing
something that we felt good about. And yet people didn't want to know
that we were the one's doing it.
The work you were doing was acceptable, but you weren't?
- MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
Right, right. We went along. We got more and more rape crisis volunteers
that were not NOW members and they wanted to split off from NOW because
they were not feminists. I mean, they were against the crime (121). And
they wanted to help victims, but they were not feminists. They were the
one's who pushed for us to get the 501c (tax-exempt non-profit status).
I was against it. And I'm glad they overruled me. And the reasons I was
against it was that I was afraid that if you go to these agencies, if
they gave us money, that they would dictate what we could do. Well, I
got out-voted. And we got the status. They did not dictate. Everybody
that we dealt with was so understanding about the problem. And Chapel
Hill is really such an oasis. The county at that time, Hillsborough,
forget it. But the Chapel Hill town council and Carrboro, especially
Carrboro, were very good. And I told you about the police chief. Now
they've named a building after him!
Of course he was a good police chief!
There's that real tension there, between work being done and the history
of who's doing it.
- MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
Well that was when people would say, I'm not a feminist. And I would say
I'm a feminist!
But it was a great time, it was very stimulating. I think I need
Did this conflict have any long term effects on RCC policies or
- MIRIAM SLIFKIN:
I don't know, I think the volunteers, at least the ones I came in contact
with, didn't realize that they had a lot of feminist ideas. I mean, most
of them felt that a woman had a right to refuse to be raped. And that
women don't ask for it. There was one or two that believed the myths.
She was volunteering because somebody in her family had been raped. But
that was an exception, see. That most women who get raped "ask
for it." I think overall, their attitude toward women who had
been raped was very good. As for other things, I think a lot of them
were not feminists. I don't know how they are today. I haven't had any
dealings with them.