Where does one turn when faced with a personal crisis? Rape Response Services offers victims help and a friend.
On Friday evening the brothers of Beta Theta Pi spent the night locked out of their house and in the snow, to raise money and awareness about Rape Response Services.
In the event’s 11th year, the Sleep Out attracted hundreds and raised an estimated $1,400 for Rape Response services.
“It’s important to raise the awareness of sexual assault across college campuses across the country,” said Eric DeGrass, Beta philanthropy chair.
The event is important because it is sponsored by an all men’s organization and shows the community that rape is an issue, said Rape Response Services Executive Director Kathy Walker. She said the event sends the message that not all men are rapists and that there are lots of men who want rape to stop.
“[The Sleep Out] makes a statement,” DeGrass said. “We’re willing to sleep outside to show how much we want to stop sexual assault at all colleges across the country.”
Covering both Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, Rape Response Services is based in Bangor with four branches through out the demographic in an attempt to be accessible to those who need help, Walker said. She said Maine has a total of 10 hub centers throughout the state. She noted that many of the centers had chosen to not use the word rape in their title, but the Bangor-based office chose to use it, because of the impact of the word.
In its 16th year, Rape Response Services is available for people affected by any sort of rape, as well as incest, harassment, inappropriate touching or people sexually abused as children. Walker said the program serves women, children and men. She noted that they are available to help not only recent victims, but survivors and family members.
Volunteer services keep the program running. Walker said a total of 15 volunteers currently staff the 24-hour crisis hotline. She said in their around-the-clock phone coverage it is estimated they donate about $100,000 in estimated wages.
“We could not do what we do without our volunteers,” Walker said.
Volunteers are equipped with a pager, and calls go through an answering service, after which a volunteer has 15 minutes to call the person back. She said that the pager allows a volunteer to be mobile, but they have to have access to a secure phone line because they cannot talk to a caller on a cell phone. She said they average about one phone call a day.
“We try to make it easy for our volunteers,” Walker said.
To become a phone volunteer, Walker said patrons must complete an application stating why they would like to volunteer and any experience they might have. She said that 45 hours of training is the second step for the future volunteers. The training includes basic crisis intervention and a trip to the hospital, Walker said. She said the future volunteers practice phone calls and the final test is a role-played crisis line phone call. She said they hold training sessions twice a year, one in the fall and one that was just completed this month.
When callers place a phone call to the hotline, the volunteer is there to let them know that they have options, including going to the hospital, nothing, visiting the family doctor or reporting the incident to the police. Walker said it is important for the volunteer to allow the caller to make the choice because it gives them a chance to regain the power and control that was just taken from them.
“Our major goal is to give a person who has been raped choices,” Walker said. “We help a person work through the options.”
Walker said the volunteers will step out from behind the phone and offer support for victims, by going to the hospital or reporting the incident with them. She said volunteers will also help victims through the entire process, by traveling to court with them. Walker emphasized that the impact of the volunteers can be felt by the victims because they will take five hours out of their day to sit with a victim at the hospital, reassuring them that they are important and there is someone who cares about them.
“It’s invaluable, awesome, all those words,” Walker said.
Rape Response Service offers support groups for survivors and educational prevention based education. Walker said the educational programs reach from kindergarten through high school, college campuses, law enforcement and community presentations.
Walker said the subjects discussed in schools vary by grade level. Children in Kindergarten though fourth grade learn about safe touch, boundaries and good relations. Children in fifth through eighth grades learn about gender stereotypes and harassment “bullying.” At the high school level the programs address how to help, drugs that could be involved in rape and consent.
“We are amazed how much people want to learn about consent,” Walker said.
Walker said the funds raised from the Beta Sleep Out will be used throughout the organization, including for a new curriculum.
April is sexual assault awareness month. A Stay at Home Ball will be held on April 3 to raise money for the organization. Walker noted that there are a number of charitable events held to benefit Rape Response Services besides the Beta Sleep Out or the Stay at Home Ball. The UMaine Student Women’s Association Vagina Monologues and Brothers Engaged Against Rape Rock Against Rape Concerts fundraising events help the organization.
“This was started 11 years ago and it’s sort of tradition now,” DeGrass said. “However, we continue to support them because we feel that fighting sexual assualt is still a worthy cause and needs our continued support.”