Viva La Brecha! Houston's Linda Cryer
Some call Betty Friedan the "Mother of the U.S. feminist movement" because her book The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963,
certainly did catch us all by surprise. And we know what happened
But how many of us had ever, to this day, heard of La Brecha,
a book published in Chile in 1961.
Mercedes Valdivieso, La Brecha s author, was a young married
woman who could have gone on living a respectable life in the upper
class of Santiago society.
But she chose, instead, to write about her intense feelings of being
a woman and her conflicts in a "married" relationship.
It was her first book. Thousands were sold in less than a week. It
was reprinted several more times and remained the number one
best seller in Chile for over a year.
Women stopped her on the street and described their lives "before
and after La Brecha."
Chile's leading literary critic called it a "revolutionary thunder-
It was too successful for some.
An editorial, "Times of Morbidity", appeared in El Diario llu-
strado (April 27, 1961). Never referring directly to her book by
name (that would have further increased sales), it talked of writers
who "to achieve sales . . . speak of violent intimacies, shameless in
the worst sense.
"And, significantly, women write them, women who previously
had made no appearance in the literary world, who used to maintain a discreet and prescribed silence. But who now emerge to relate
conjugal dramas, to speak of 'breakthroughs' and liberation . . ."
Since the publication and impact of La Brecha, Valdivieso has
lived in China and England, has written four more books, and now
teaches Spanish Literature at Rice University.
The English translation of La Brecha is Breakthrough. In homage
to this important book and its impact on millions of women and in
honor of its author, Mercedes Valdivieso, we named our feminist
A newspaper is born!
Woman of the
Mercedes Valdivieso, author
of La Brecha, in front of a
portrait by Spanish-born,
Houston artist Pilar Cortella
Janice Blue, Writer-Editor
Rhonda Boone, Writer-Editor
Gay Cosgriff, Writer-Editor
Cilia F. Estrada, Writer-Editor
Rita Highsmith, Advertising
Kathryn Hooker, Writer-Editor
Charley Kubricht Fore, Art
Juneau Shepherd, Writer-Editor
Sue Witte, Writer-Editor, Circulation
Breakthrough is published the first Tuesday of each month by
Breakthrough Publishing Company, P.O. Box 8346 Houston, Texas
77004. Telephone 526-6686. Subscriptions $5.00 a year. Newsstand 50
cents per copy.
All rights reserved.
By KATHRYN HOOKER
If you were raped in Houston
tomorrow and reported the
crime to the Houston Police
Department, the Department
would pay for physicians' services and emergency-room
treatment to be used as legal
evidence. You could receive free
counseling from city and county
health department nurses.
These advances are due in part
to the work of Linda Cryer.
Cryer, a feminist, became
interested in helping rape victims through her work with the
Houston Area Chapter of NOW.
In 1974 she became head of that
chapter's Reproduction and
Control Task Force. When rape
became a major concern of the
task force, Cryer and others
decided to form a separate
group to concentrate solely on
problems of rape. With other
groups, they formed the Houston
Rape Crisis Coalition, which
provides advocates and
telephone reassurance to assist
victims in dealing with police,
hospital personnel and the
Cryer's desire to implement
change led her outside strictly
feminist organizations. In July
1974 she was appointed by Mayor
Hofheinz to expand or create
programs for rape victims
within existing medical, legal
and public health agencies. She
became Administrator of
Hofheinz' Rape Treatment
Detection and Prevention
Program. Since her appointment, she has been involved in these projects:
•H.B. 284, signed by Governor
Briscoe- in May 1975, which
extends the statute of limitations
on prosecuting for rape to three
years; redefines "consent" to
exclude submission induced by
nonverbal threats; encourages
the reDOrtincr or»H nrncpriiHnn of
rapes; and permits an incamera
private hearing on the victim's
previous sexual activity to
determine if this is admissible as
•A City ordinance passed in
March 1975 which implements a
State law (H.B. 857), stating
that any law-enforcement
agency requesting a medical
examination of a rape victim for
use in investigation or
prosecution shall pay all costs of
the examination. We repeat:
Report the crime to the Houston
Police Department and they will
pay for physicians' services
and emergency room treatment
to be used as evidence.
Previously it cost the victim
about $65 to be raped. Treatment
for injuries resulting from the
rape is not covered by the law.
•Counseling services for
female and male rape victims
and their families which were
made available last June. City
and county nurses are
cooperating to provide a
minimum of three months
counseling by telephone conversations and home visits to
help the victim readjust. City
Health Department nurses have
already seen almost 200 victims.
Victims are referred for
counseling, at their request,
from the hospital emergency
•The University of Texas
School of Nursing, through its
Continuing Education Department, now offers a 45-hour
educational course to train
public health nurses in helping
•A "rape kit" now standardizes the collection, routing,
and analysis of medical
evidence to be used in
prosecution. It will soon be
available in most major medical
facilities in Houston. In other
areas of the country, a standard
kit has been developed in one
hospital, and victims must go
only to this hospital. In Houston,
the Police Department has
assumed responsibility for the
compilation and analysis of the
contents. The kit may be picked
up and delivered to any medical
facility or private physician's
office. The victim witnesses the
opening and resealing of the kit.
She then initials each evidence
container and the outer kit envelope to lessen the need of
having a physician attend
courtroom proceedings. The
Houston OB-Gyn Society has
endorsed the kit.
Cryer has held a seminar for
school superintendents in seven
counties on Houston's rape
problem. She's planning another
seminar in April for public
school nurses to help them deal
with rape on the school grounds.
She hopes programs for rape
prevention will be developed for
schools and health department.
She has begun to gather public
support for the passage of
legislation similar to that passed
in Illinois. The law would
establish additional hospital
emergency services for rape
victims. It would also prohibit
accident and health-insurance
polices from excluding coverage
for treatment of rape injuries.
Cryer has been offered
technical help by the U.S. Law
Enforcement Assistance Administration in developing a
City-County project to provide
information and other
assistance to victims of ALL
violent crimes. The program
would involve local law-
enforcement agencies, health
departments, and the district
attorney's office. .
Cryer said her greatest
challenge has been "to get law-
enforcement agencies to
recognize the emotional agonies
of rape victims," One of her
goals is to create awareness
within all agencies dealing with
rape victims of the victims'
"I'd like to see more hospital
facilities for victims, improved
crisis intervention services, and
improved information services
to victims while they are in
court," she said.
Our Woman of the Month has a
B.A. in psychology from the
University of Houston and an
M.S.W. from Our Lady of the
Lake University. She's a doctoral candidate at the University
of Texas School of Public Health.
Cryer suggests that victims
call these numbers for help: City
Nursing Division, 222-4271;
County Nursing Division, 526-
1841; Crisis Hotline, 228-1505;
Police Department, 222-3131;
Linda Cryer, 222-4261; Houston
Rape Crisis Coaliton, 524-5743.
Linda Cryer, far left, at the
signing of HB 284 by Governor
Dolph Briscoe in May, 1975.
Present are other state officials
and statewide feminist leaders
who strongly lobbied for the bill's