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Our View: Education, awareness can help prevent sexual violence | COMMENTARY

County commissioners Ed Rothstein and Dennis Frazier both lamented the need for Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County while noting how fortunate the county is to have such an organization as the commissioners proclaimed April to be Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

This month is set aside annually, across the country, to raise awareness about sexual violence. Similar to the comments about RCIS, it’s a shame such a month is needed, but we’re glad it exists to bring awareness and to educate the community in how to prevent sexual violence.

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More than 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 4 men experience sexual violence involving physical contact at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual violence, referring to sexual activity occurring without consent, has long been a serious and widespread issue. But the COVID-19 pandemic made it even worse, according to Janice Kispert, CEO of RCIS of Carroll County.

“A lot of times, many of the victims are at home or other places, confined with their perpetrator. and unable to reach out for services,” Kispert told the Board of Commissioners during its March 25 meeting when the proclamation was read. ”So we anticipate a lot of demand for services when the pandemic is over.” She also noted that her organization lost some funding due to the pandemic and that she fears some don’t realize RCIS continued to offer services.

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The proclamation encourages members of the community to work together to educate others about what can be done to prevent sexual violence and to help support survivors. RCIS encourages every person to speak out when witnessing an act of violence. Through prevention education, increased awareness and holding perpetrators who commit acts of violence responsible for their actions we can be successful in reducing sexual violence in Carroll county,” the proclamation reads.

The commissioners all expressed thanks to Kispert and the work being done by RCIS.

“You and your organization are always working behind the scenes and you don’t get a lot of accolades, but the people you help really appreciate what you’re doing,” Commissioner Richard Weaver said.

Commissioner Eric Bouchat made note of the psychological and mental toll on the victims/survivors. “Your organization plays the biggest role in helping those people heal and know they’re not alone, that they don’t need to be ashamed ... that there are resources out there and people who understand.”

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Kispert called awareness of the issue “critical” and put in a plug for an upcoming Rape Crisis Intervention Service event designed to raise awareness as well as funds. Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, which has been held for the past 12 years and typically challenges participants to literally walk a mile while wearing the shoes of a survivor of sexual violence, is set for April 10-11, albeit in virtual mode for the second year in a row due to the pandemic. For more information, visit www.walkamilecc.org.

Perhaps the most important thing to be aware of, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and every month, is that RCIS has a 24-hour hotline and provides free and confidential services for victim-survivors of all types of sexual violence “whether it happened yesterday or 20 years ago.” The number is 410-857-7322.

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