Over the last six months, Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County has served 260 people — all of whom were having the worst, or one of the worst days, of their lives.
   All of these 260 victims reached out to Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County (RCVCC) in their time of need, clutching for a helping hand to guide them through the nightmare of sexual assault.
   And now, RCVCC is reaching out to you.
   The organization, founded in 1976 to provide support services to victims of sexual assault, needs volunteers to help out with the facility’s 24-hour hotline for sexual assault victims, as well as serving as hospital companions and/or providing courtroom accompaniment. Volunteers also assist with community education presentations and special projects throughout the year.
   Deanne Gerdes, executive director of RCVCC, says there are no real requirements to become a volunteer ... other than being 18, a good listener and showing dedication toward the client.
   And you should be emotionally ready to deal with it ... to be able to separate what happened to the victim and your own life,” said Gerdes.
   And they’re not looking only for female volunteers. Gerdes says that since the overwhelming majority of sexual assault victims are women, volunteers who serve as hospital or courtroom companions should ideally be female; however, Gerdes says one of RCVCC’s most dedicated help line volunteers is a blind male. Also, men are needed to go into the schools and counsel male students on doing their part to prevent sexual assault on women as well as appropriate dating relationships.
   Getting the word out that “no means no” would appear to be especially important here in Fayetteville — a military town where Gerdes says soldiers returning from overseas sometimes have trouble readjusting to their return.{mosimage}
   “Out of the 260 victims we’ve helped in the last six months, 156 were military-related,” said Gerdes. “These victims are more comfortable sometimes going off post to talk to us.”
   Despite the number of military-related cases, Gerdes praises the staff at Womack Army Medical Hospital for the professionalism the staff shows when treating victims of suspected sexual assault.
   “Womack does a great job,” said Gerdes. “It has nine nurses trained in treating sexual assault.”
   Katie Krob RCVCC’s victim’s advocate community liaison, says sensitivity is extremely important at the hospital, on the part of both the staff and RCVCC volunteers.
   “There’s no easy way to ask the graphic questions and the examination itself is almost like an assault itself,” said Krob.
   Krob adds that local law enforcement is extremely sensitive when dealing with sexual assault victims and is a great partner with the RCVCC. One of those folks standing behind the thin blue line helping serve and protect is Teresa Currey, a victim advocate for the Fayetteville Police Department.
   Currey says the best treatment for sexual assault is prevention. She offers these tips for preventing an attack:
   • Make sure the front of your apartment or house is well lit and free of heavy vegetation an attacker can hide behind;
   • Be cognizant of your surroundings, particularly at night;
   •Travel with friends, especially when going out to bars.
   •Make sure you know plenty about your date before going out for an evening on the town.
   •Take self-defense classes.
   •Don’t ever leave your drink unattended in a bar. Both Currey and Gerdes warned that sexual predators will often slip GHB — the date rape drug — into a victim’s drink.
   And Currey and Gerdes also emphasize that parents need to be aware of who their children are talking to on the Internet, as sexual predators have become experts at accosting the young via the Web.
   And finally, Currey offers one final piece of wisdom if you are attacked: “Just survive,” said Currey. “You can recover from anything ... even something as terrible as this.”

Contact Tim Wilkins at tim@upandcomingweekly.com





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