Crime Outburst Angers Woman

Neighbors/ Odenton, Ft. Meade, Gambrills

Murder, Two Rapes Lead Her To Organize Self-protection Program

February 20, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

It was September 1990, and Sheila Schneider was angry.

A one-weekburst of violent crime had left Schneider and her Crofton neighbors deeply shaken.

A 41-year-old mother of two was killed during a Sunday morning trip for groceries. Another woman was raped at knifepoint in her town house. Police say the suspect followed the woman home from a bar, broke into her home and bound and dragged her to the basement.

That same day, another woman was raped in her town house, also by a man who threatened her with a knife. Police say the two rapes are unrelated.

"That was a bad week here in Crofton," Schneider said. "I called police to see if they had a program to teach me what I should be doingwhen I walk (in the community.) I got frustrated because there was no program they could tell me about."

So Schneider started her own program and called it GWIN, Greater Women's Information Network. The name was chosen to remind the community of its slain neighbor, Gwyn Dixon Criswell.

Schneider has sponsored several meetings in Croftonin conjunction with the county police department and the Sexual Assault Crisis Center. About 75 women attended the sessions. Now Schneider is moving her show around the county, with two stops in Odenton -- one Tuesday and one in April.

Both will be conducted at the Arundel Senior High School starting at 7:30 p.m. The first seminar, led by county police Sgt. Bonnie Welsh, will focus on women's safety and protection. The second session, given by Karen Goldman Lyon, of the Anne Arundel Sexual Assault Crisis Center, will address date rape.

"These people are fantastic," Schneider said. "They give up their time to do this program and are going around the county with me. They are the important focus here. Women have to attend programs like this."

Lyon said that Schneider's group will permit wider dissemination of information about sexual assault. "One of the things I see readily ispeople being amazed that sexual assaults happen as much as they do,"she said. "When it happens in a community, suddenly that community says, 'Oh, my God.' The truth is that it happens in communities daily."

Lyon said she is sorry that Schneider couldn't get the information she wanted when she first called for help. "I think what happens is that until we are in a crisis, we tend not to seek out the information. Then when something happens, we don't know where to turn."

Schneider said she wants to make sure anyone who has a question about sexual assaults or violence has a place to call.

She doesn't chargefor the program she offers, although it already has cost her severa hundred dollars.

"I don't think charging would be a very smart idea," Schneider said. "There are a lot of women who could not afford to pay, and all women should go this program. Cost should not be a handicap."

Schneider said that when she started GWIN, she figured shewould act as a liaison between women's groups and speakers.

Then she found out she would have to start from scratch.

"All counties probably have people like Sergeant Welsh and Lyon," she said. "The problem is that they speak to little groups. Most people are not exposed to it. I would like to see courses at the high school level to bothmale and female students so they can study the subject of safety andmale-female relationships which so often tends to lead to assaults.

"Women need to know what is out there, and we should have annual meetings on (safety)," Schneider said.

"I have belonged to women's groups for years and have never heard of such programs."

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