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April 8, 1997

Do You Have What It Takes?

by Paula Kovanic Spiro, MPH

Startled by the beeping of the pager, I roll over and try to focus on the clock through the haze of my sleepy eyes. It's 1:23 a.m. I quietly walk into the other room to call the answering service. A voice far too awake answers "Rape Crisis, how can I help you?" I mumble, "this is Paula -- I just got a page." There is a rape victim at University of South Alabama Medical Center. She's just been brought in by the police. I quickly dress and head for the hospital. When I arrive a nurse shows me to a woman who has obviously been crying. I introduce myself and she tells me a horror story about a man she met earlier that evening at a bar.

He had offered her a ride home. Instead he drove her to a deserted road and forced her to have sex with him while he held a screwdriver to her throat. He finally threw her out of his truck and left her on a deserted road. She walked until she found a house with a light on. At the house an elderly couple brought her in and called the police. The police arrived full of questions, "Have you been drinking? Did you know the man? Can you remember the car?" The woman was overwhelmed, her mind was blank and her body ached. She just wanted to go home and take a shower. Instead she was sitting at a hospital in a cold room waiting to be examined and questioned again. This is a typical encounter a volunteer at the Rape Crisis Center of Mobile may receive while on call. Research shows that there is a direct correlation to how well a victim of sexual assault copes with the crime and how she's initially treated. Volunteers at the Rape Crisis Center assure that victims of sexual assault (men, women and children) receive this support and any information they may need.

According to the Department of Justice, a woman in America is raped every 2 minutes. In Mobile County alone, in 1994, there were 189 rapes or attempted rapes reported to law enforcement agencies. This accounts for only a fraction of sexual assaults. Many victims may not report for fear of embarrassment or repercussions by the perpetrator. The Rape Crisis Center often hears from these women. Volunteers that answer the hotline may be the only source of support many of these victims receive. Twice a year, the Rape Crisis Center of Mobile looks for qualified volunteers who are interested in providing support and information to survivors of sexual assault. Volunteers are asked to take calls once a month for a twenty four hour period. During this time they provide information to callers on the phone or escort victims and their families through medical procedures at local hospitals. If you are a man or woman at least 21 years of age who is compassionate, non-judgmental, has a telephone and reliable transportation you could be a volunteer at the Rape Crisis Center of Mobile. Training for volunteers is scheduled for April 26 and 27.

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