'A real sign of hope' for rape victims

January 14, 1995|By Brad Snyder and Tanya Jones | Brad Snyder and Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writers

Baltimore has a new rape counseling center, which will replace an organization that closed about six weeks ago because of financial problems.

Gail Kaplan, a rape victim who is on the center's board of directors, praised the programs offered by the Sexual Assault Center, which held its grand opening at 9 W. Mulberry St. yesterday. The Northwest Baltimore woman, who was raped in her home in 1987, said the center is "a place where people share the same experiences, the same feelings, the same emotions."

The center is an offshoot of the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center of Baltimore County. It fills a void left by a 22-year-old organization that lost its state funding in October and closed Dec. 1.

"We had a very difficult problem in addressing the problems of victims of sexual assault," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said at the grand opening. "This is a real sign of hope for Baltimore City."

Last year, 645 rapes were reported in Baltimore, said Bonnie Ariano, executive director of the county and city offices. Only one of eight rapes is reported, she added.

"I think, potentially, we'll have a lot of business," said Mrs. Ariano, whose offices in Towson and Rosedale saw 1,100 people last year.

The Sexual Assault Recovery Center lost its state funding because of administrative problems.

When that organization announced in October that it would be closing, city residents began using the county's 24-hour rape crisis hot line. The hot line will continue to serve both localities, Mrs. Ariano said.

On Nov. 30, the county organization received a $150,000 grant from the state Department of Human Resources to start a center in the city. The grant increases to $250,000 July 1.

The new center has hired two therapists to assist child victims and two therapists to counsel adults. Its services include individual and group counseling, art/play therapy for children, emergency room companions and community education.

The Sexual Assault Center is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Appointments can be made by calling 837-7000, but walk-ins also are accepted. The county and city hot line number is 828-6390.

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