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Archive for Monday, June 16, 1997

SURVIVOR TURNS TO HEALER

June 16, 1997

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A volunteer has made a long-term commitment to helping victims of sexual assault.

Diane Duffy is proud to call herself a survivor.

As a victim of sexual assault in May 1982, she tried pushing the experience out of her mind and moving on with her life. While attending law school at Kansas University three months later, Duffy found herself having problems dealing with the pressures of school and memories of her assault, in addition to pursuing legal action against her assailant.

Her life improved when she sought assistance from Douglas County Rape Victim Support Services (RVSS) and hooked up with a volunteer named Edith Guffey.

"I know how much it meant to me," Duffy said. "It kept me in school. It kept me going. I don't think I'd probably be where I am today if it hadn't been for RVSS.

"I called on the phone and somebody was on the other end and was very supportive. I continued to talk to that person for six months or so. They really supported me through the whole thing."

Duffy had such a good experience with RVSS that she began volunteering with the agency. She has been a dedicated volunteer for the past 14 years, caring for and nurturing people of all backgrounds.

RVSS is a confidential 24-hour crisis intervention service, which provides educational training programs, peer-support groups and resource and referral services.

Duffy, 37, was recently honored for her volunteer service with the Roger Hill Volunteer Center Award of Excellence.

"I see that as a reward for our whole agency and organization," Duffy said. "I'm proud of what the agency has provided to the community."

She started as an advocate, taking crisis calls, attending weekly meetings and working with educational programs. She then served as co-director in 1984 and 1985. For the last eight years, she has served as secretary on the board of directors.

In addition, Duffy serves as a mentor to new volunteers and also takes an occasional crisis call.

"I've been through it," Duffy said. "I've been there. I enjoy working with all the other volunteers. I love being with people who are helping other people -- that's a wonderful way to spend time."

Duffy has spent a lot of time on the phones over the years talking to victims and survivors and meeting them in the emergency room. She said that a third of the calls RVSS receives are made immediately after a rape. While the victim receives a complete physical examination in the emergency room, Duffy is there to offer nonjudgmental support during the stressful crisis period.

"We're there to kind of talk to the person," she said, "visit with them, try to explain the process -- what's going to happen to them, and make sure they understand that they have some choices about things. You know how important it is. That little moment in time might make the difference between them reporting to the police."

Duffy said that the majority of calls that RVSS receives come from "contacts" -- victims who were raped in the past and are now experiencing problems. A loved one or friend of a rape victim may also call the agency to ask for help.

Duffy stressed how important it is to educate the public about rape, sexual assault and harassment. She said that RVSS executive director Sarah Jane Russell is a role model for all advocates with her visits to public schools to talk about prevention and awareness issues.

Duffy hopes her work helps to eliminate rape and sexual assault from society.

"My goal is not to have RVSS anymore," she said. "I don't want to give up. I think that's what we all have to keep working toward."

Russell couldn't be happier to have Duffy involved with the agency.

"For the past 14 years, Diane has been an integral part of RVSS," Russell said. "She cares about every person walking through our doors with this certain kind of strength and quiet compassion, asking questions and finding the right action to take."

Duffy is also making a difference in people's lives and helping the needy as deputy commissioner of administrative services with Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. She graduated from the KU School of Law in 1985 and served as a research analyst for the Kansas Legislature for eight years.

As the longest active volunteer with RVSS, Duffy feels a sense of gratification knowing that she has helped each rape victim who had the courage to call RVSS.

"I think RVSS makes a difference in every case. I really do," Duffy said. "It takes tremendous courage for somebody to call and say, 'I was raped. My boyfriend raped me.'

"I think that they make the difference with their own life when they're willing and have that courage to talk about it and to ask somebody for help."

-- The Volunteer Profile is a service of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center.

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