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Rape Crisis CEO talks drugs, violence and sexual assault

Rape Crisis CEO talks drugs, violence and sexual assault
Janice Kispert (HANDOUT)

Janice Kispert has been at the forefront of efforts to eliminate sexual violence in Carroll County through education and advocacy for almost a decade, having served as the CEO of the Rape Crisis Intervention Service for nine years.

The nonprofit has provided free and confidential help to victims of sexual violence — male or female — for more than three decades, and Kispert handles the fundraising, marketing and community outreach for the organizations.

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Kispert will be one of the many speakers at the Drug and Violence Awareness Expo at the Carroll County Agricultural Center's Shipley Arena on Friday, May 1.

An event assembled by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, the expo is an ambitious collaboration between law enforcement, prevention professionals, people in recovery and concerned parents. The collective goal is bringing the community together in a moment of clarity to grasp the reality and the scale of the problems of drug abuse and domestic violence in Carroll, as well as to formulate solutions.

The expo will take place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and will also feature speakers from the State's Attorney's Office, the Carroll County Health Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Women's Law Center. Kispert will present from 2 to 2:30 p.m.

The Times spoke with Kispert about her work at Rape Crisis, the prevalence and character of sexual assault, and how sexual violence and drug and alcohol abuse are intertwined.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the work you do with the Rape Crisis Intervention Service?

A: RCIS is a small, Carroll County-based 501(c)3 nonprofit. We serve anyone aged 12 and older, male or female, who has been affected by sexual violence. We also provide services to secondary victims – family members, friends, witnesses, etc.

We operate a 24-hour hotline and offer walk-in crisis intervention Monday through Friday. We will accompany victims to court, provide hospital, school, detention center and police accompaniments. Our services also include individual and group therapy and information and referrals.

In FY14, we served 203 new clients, processed over 300 hotline calls, responded to 123 face-to-face crisis interventions, provided close to 200 individual therapy sessions and accompanied 18 victims to Carroll Hospital Center.

Q: What are you planning to speak about at the upcoming Drug and Violence Expo?

A: My topic is: "Rape — a Silent Epidemic." I plan to educate attendees about how rape is prevalent in today's society but is not recognized nor discussed.

Rape is a crime motivated by the need to control, humiliate and harm. It is not motivated by sexual desire. Rapists use sex as a way to dominate and hurt others.

Sexual violence violates a person's trust, ability to care for themselves and feeling of safety. It occurs any time a person is forced, coerced and/or manipulated into any unwanted sexual activity. The range of sexual violence includes rape, incest, child sexual abuse, date and acquaintance rape, statutory rape, marital or partner rape, sexual exploitation, sexual contract and sexual harassment.

The highest at-risk group for sexual violence is females 19 to 24 years old; females 16 to 18 years old have the second-highest risk. Boys are more likely than girls to be abused by a stranger or an authority figure in organizations such as church, sports, school, etc.

Nearly 5 percent of female college students are raped each year and more than 70 percent are too intoxicated to give consent. It is estimated that 1 in 4 teens will experience dating violence.

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The perpetrators of sexual assaults are not strangers to the victims 73 percent of the time; 41 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance, and 51 percent are an intimate [partner], while 7 percent are a relative.

One out of every 6 American women and 1 out every 33 men has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime and 80 percent of sexual assault victims are under age 30. A sexual assault victim is three times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs and four times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Q: How is this relevant to what's happening in Carroll County right now?

A: Carroll County is no different than any other county. Rape exists in our county; you just don't hear about it.

Many times, rape victims turn to alcohol and/or drugs to help them deal with their assault. As mentioned above, victims of sexual violence are 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol and 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

Many times, victims are unable to seek help and turn to alcohol and/or drugs to help ease their pain. Sexual violence can be an underlying cause for the substance abuse. We see many clients who are also abusing substances. We refer them to other agencies to get help for their substance abuse before we can help them deal with their sexual assault.

Q: Does drug or alcohol abuse affect the likelihood that a woman who has been raped will be victimized again? Why or why not?

A: Yes, being under the influence — of alcohol and/or drugs — and leave victims vulnerable for repeat sexual assaults.

The risk of re-victimization is based on vulnerability factors — one of these is the pre-existence of PTSD from a previous assault. Being the victim of child sexual abuse doubles the likelihood of adult sexual victimization. PTSD levels are higher in those who have been previously victimized than in survivors of only one assault. PTSD could also give the victim the appearance of vulnerability in dangerous situations and affect the ability of the victim to defend themselves.

Q: What are you hoping listeners will learn from or get out of your presentation?

A: Just because you don't read about rape in the newspapers, doesn't mean it doesn't exist in our county — our county is no different than most other counties in Maryland. Our victim demographics are consistent with the national demographics. Most of the rapes we deal with involve alcohol and/or drugs where the victims have been given alcohol and/or drugs to the point of passing out. We also see a lot of cases where the unknowing victims have had their drinks altered with drugs.

Q: What's something you think people believe they understand about these issues, but they often do not?

A: People usually turn away and don't want to even hear the word "rape" because it's an unpleasant topic no one wants to acknowledge or discuss. Also, many times, people blame the victim for the assault.

Many sexual assaults — 68 percent — are not reported to police. Some of the reasons for not reporting, delayed reporting and/or withdrawal of complaints include not being able to label coercive sex as sexual assault, failure to identify acquaintance rape as rape, fear that no one will believe him/her, fear of being blamed for assault, concern that he/she will not be treated fairly, being unable to tell the whole story to police or fear he/she will be blamed due to use of alcohol or drugs. There's also often fear of family or anyone knowing, fear of the victim's name being made public by social or news media, and/or fear of retaliation.

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Q: There are some actionable things people can take away from presentations on the dangers of addictive drugs, both in terms of how to educate children not to use and how to help those that are struggling with an active addiction or in recovery. What are the actionable messages when it comes to rape and sexual assault?

A: Always travel in groups of friends. Never leave your drink unattended. Let someone know when you are going out on a first-time date. If you are a victim of sexual violence, or know someone who is, call our 24-hour hotline: 410-857-7322. Our services are free and confidential.

410-857-3317

twitter.com/jonkelvey

If you go

What: Drug and Violence Awareness Expo

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, May 1

Where: Carroll County Agricultural Center Shipley Arena, 706 Agricultural Center Drive, Westminster

Cost: Free

Join the conversation on social media using #BeAwareCarroll.

Visit http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/heroin/ for more coverage.

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