Students to help raise rape awareness WMC-based groups, county crisis center to sponsor campaign

April 15, 1996|By Lisa T. Hill | Lisa T. Hill,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Because of the efforts of a group of Western Maryland College students who needed a community service project to fulfill their senior requirements in social work, Carroll County will have its first Rape Awareness Month campaign.

"If people know more about why and how [rape] happens, they may be better able to prevent it," said Professor Colleen Galambos of WMC's social work department.

The students have organized a candlelight vigil from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. April 23 in Westminster's Bellegrove Square. Participants will meet at the college and walk to the square.

Officials from the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County said they are eager for help, especially in a period of tight county budgets.

"We are really happy to have the help," said JoAnn Hare, executive director of the crisis center. "We have always wanted to do a [rape awareness] program as most other counties have already done, but we just couldn't stretch our volunteer base to include this activity."

The college's Social Work Club began the project and soon was joined by students from the college's honors program who also were looking for a community service activity.

They had approached Dr. Galambos because she is known for her work in community service projects.

Junior honors student Sherrie Bermel created the project's theme, "Rape Awareness: Bring It Out of the Dark."

"We wanted to get people to learn about [rape], but it's a hard topic for people to discuss," said Ms. Bermel, a biochemistry student.

In conjunction with the theme, students will hand out more than 2,000 black-and-sky-blue ribbons -- symbolizing the move from dark to light -- at the Route 140 Kmart Saturday and at WMC April 23.

The vigil, with more than 200participants expected, will feature speakers, including Ms. Hare, the Rev. Gayle Watson of Westminster United Methodist Church and Edward Calwell, a Rape Crisis Service board member.

A rape victim who received help from Rape Crisis also will speak. Ms. Hare said the woman had offers of help from other organizations, but did not find the care and understanding she needed until going to Rape Crisis.

"It is very difficult to find survivors of sexual assault who will speak out publicly," Ms. Hare said. "There is still a stigma that rape is the victim's fault.

"Few people realize the impact rape has on people's lives that lasts for years," said Ms. Hare, who has been involved with Rape Crisis since 1980.

Skits about date rape also will be performed by Foolproof, an improvisational theater youth group supported by Junction Inc., a nonprofit substance abuse treatment and prevention care center, and the public school system.

The students hope to get more people involved in the topic, especially financially, because rape prevention and awareness programs have been curtailed by county budget cuts.

Ms. Hare said Rape Crisis is "very excited" about the WMC-based activities because it is difficult to find people who will volunteer to stand up for victims.

"The government tries to balance the budget on the backs of human service volunteers because they are vulnerable and easy to cut back," she said. "The people who these services help won't stand up and protest because they don't want to be publicly identified. A rally like this serves to help victims speak out while maintaining anonymity."

Junior Donielle Long, active in fund raising for the project, said local restaurants are supporting the efforts by donating money to Rape Crisis every time customers order specific menu items between today and Saturday.

Dr. Galambos said the Social Work Club hopes to make this program an annual event.

All are welcome to attend the vigil. The Social Work Club hopes to have more vigils and involve local high schools in this and other activities.

"We can't just sweep these kinds of issues under the carpet," Ms. Long said. "We are doing this so people can see the importance and reality of rape, an issue that everyone -- men, women and children -- can help to overcome."

Pub Date: 4/15/96

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