Archive for Sunday, September 26, 1993


September 26, 1993


Time seems to stop as the memories of what just happened come rushing in along with the flow of tears.

Rape victims -- about 683,000 women each year and 123,000 men every 10 years -- experience feelings of devastation after being raped. Volunteers at the Rape Victim Survivor Service-Advocacy Support Awareness Prevention, RVSS-ASAP, are on call at all times to help Douglas County rape victims/survivors deal with the emotional trauma they suffer.

Sara Jane Russell, director of RVSS-ASAP, said the agency provides 24-hour crisis assistance through the KU Information Service for county residents who have been raped. Volunteers accompany victims/survivors to the hospital and to the police station to fill out legal forms.

The agency also provides a weekly support group for the victim/survivors to help them deal with their pain after the initial shock of the rape wears off, Russell said.

In addition to providing services for the victim/survivors, the agency presents rape prevention programs for county residents and students at the three universities. It also has a large assortment of books that people may use for research or information.

Russell said the agency uses the terms "victim" and "survivor" together, instead of just "victim," because she and the volunteers help rape victims throughout the healing process, and in the end they are really survivors.

RVSS-ASAP has undergone a few changes since it first opened its doors in 1972, Russell said.

When the agency was formed, the program revolved around rape committed by strangers, but time has proven that those types of rape are not as common as other types, Russell said.

"The pendulum has swung now," she said. "What we read about and know about and have the statistics to prove is that rape happens most often in a social situation. It happens by somebody you know."

The agency also changed its name from RVSS to RVSS-ASAP this year.

"We had some feedback from the community that possibly our name did not reflect adequately all that we do," Russell said. "We brainstormed, and we didn't want to give up RVSS because that's been with us since 1972."

The acronym ASAP also stands for more than just "Advocacy Support Awareness Protection." It encourages a rape victim to call RVSS as soon as possible.

The agency receives a lot of support from the community. However, rape is something people would like to pretend does not exist, Russell said.

Because of community feelings, Russell said she tends to get varying responses from people when she tells them what she does.

"It's funny because when people ask my what I do when I first meet them, they don't know what to say next: 'That's a great job' or 'I feel sorry for you,' " she said. "I think the real truth is that once you start doing work like this, it's very difficult to stop."

Diane Duffy, a RVSS-ASAP volunteer, said she thinks all the work Russell and the volunteers do is remarkable. "A phone rings at 2:30 in the morning, and a volunteer will hang in there talking to the person until it helps," she said. People invest a lot of time in the program."

Colleen Larson, another volunteer and a Baldwin City police officer, said Russell is a great leader for RVSS. "Sarah Jane is available anytime. She will go out of her way any way she can. She has a full-time job keeping RVSS going," Larson said.

A United Way agency, RVSS-ASAP will receive $15,575 from this year's campaign.

The best times at RVSS-ASAP are when a rape victim leaves the agency for the last time, said Kala Bhana, a volunteer.

"There's a tremendous uplifting feeling when a survivor comes through and says `thank you. I no longer need your service,'" she said.

Emergency calls may be made to RVSS through Headquarters at 841-2345 or the KU Information Service, 864-3506.

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