Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 1990


October 24, 1990


Sarah Russell wonders whether the Douglas County Rape Victim Support Service will manage to keep going.

``Every year I put the pieces of this agency back together to see if we can work another year,'' said Russell, director of the agency.

Money is just one of many problems the agency endures. Low visibility is another.

``It's easy to believe rape doesn't happen in this community,'' said Russell, ``but it does.''

RVSS provides free counseling services for victims of rape and sexual assault in Douglas County. All services are strictly confidential. Support group meetings are held bimonthly for victims, family members and close friends. RVSS advocates offer to accompany victims to the hospital, police and court.

Volunteers are referred to as advocates, because ``advocacy in its true spirit is mutual, respectful. It speaks more to what we do, more to an image of moving forward,'' Russell said.

A CLIENT is called a ``victim-survivor'' because ``victim'' has a negative connotation, while ``survivor'' is more positive and implies healing, said Russell.

Advocates encourage victims to file police reports, but they never force them. ``They want to put control back into the victim's life,'' she said.

The organization also offers educational programs to community and campus groups.

``Prevention,'' said Russell, ``is not a real thing. There are no easy answers. But we can make the subject a little less horrible, let people know that we exist to provide support.''

Sexual assault is steeped in so many myths, Russell said. People tend to equate it with ``strangers jumping out of bushes, when in fact 75 percent of all reported rape cases occur between people who know each other.''

THE RVSS board of directors comprises 15 members, including community and university people, and representatives from the Lawrence and Kansas University police departments and the Douglas County district attorney's office.

``All our officers are encouraged to carry and distribute RVSS resource material,'' said Burdel Welsh, community service officer for the KU police.

``Victims are often reluctant to talk to a male officer, and the RVSS provides a buffer between the police and the victim,'' said Sgt. Dan Affalter of the Lawrence Police Department. ``They never violate a confidence and are very protective of the victim.''

The most important thing, said Affalter, is that the victim needs to talk to someone. ``Lots of people try to handle it alone, and they find they just can't do it.''

RVSS RECEIVES financial support from the United Way, the Kansas University Student Senate, the Crime Victim's Assistance Program and private donations. The United Way allocation is $12,555 from the current fund drive.

``Visibility is our challenge for the '90s,'' said Russell. ``We get immense support from many people, but we need more. We need to make sure we're going to be here next year.''

RVSS advocates are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for crisis information. Advocates may be reached by dialing the KU information center, 864-3506, or by calling Headquarters Inc., 841-2345.

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