BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The civil lawsuit involving former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza has been gaining national attention, and one local organization is finding a way to create attention for services that help survivors of sexual assault.
Bills Mafia Babes is a women-led group for female Bills fans, and after the Araiza allegations came to light, they knew they had to step in and help local survivors.
“One of the things we set out to do with Bills Mafia Babes was to provide a community for female fans and a community that feels safe for female fans, so this was obviously something that was really important to us,” said the group’s treasurer Leslie Wille.
On Friday, Bills Mafia Babes tweeted information on how people can donate to Crisis Services, along with their own donation. This set off a chain reaction of other fans sending in donations.
“To see the volume of people who were donating to us meant even more, because it meant that people were wanting to engage around this issue. People were wanting to show support locally, and wanted to be part of some solution,” said Crisis Services Vice President of Clinical Operations Robyn Wiktorski-Reynolds.
Crisis Services has an advocacy program for sexual assault survivors, which includes 24-hour services at emergency rooms, and an around-the-clock hotline for those in need.
As a non-profit, most of their funding comes from grants, but Wiktowski-Reynolds said that still leaves holes to fill.
“When we receive donations, to us, that is unrestricted dollars that we can apply to fill in those gaps,” she said.
Wille said reaction to the Bills Mafia Babes tweet was mixed, but overall, many were supportive.
“We initially saw a lot of support, particularly from women who were really thankful that we found a way to offer this support to female fans in particular, who I think have often felt that the NFL has turned a blind eye to situations like this,” she said.
As of Monday, roughly 300 people have raised more than $7,000 toward Crisis Services. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.