Event raises awareness about sexual assault

Erika Kilchenstein was attacked from behind at City Hall Tuesday night.

But the 24-year-old Kilchenstein fought her attacker by wrapping her left leg around his, causing his knee to bend while she struck him in the groin with her right heel.

Kilchenstein was demonstrating a defensive move during the "Take Back the Night Event," hosted by TurnAround, a nonprofit that serves victims of rape, child sexual assault, domestic violence and adult survivors of child sexual abuse with counseling, legal assistance and emergency shelter.

The event, held in the City Hall rotunda, was meant to recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Baltimore. Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake spoke at the event, saying that rapes in the city have decreased by 32 percent over the previous year. Despite the decrease, she said the city needs to "keep these horrible crimes from happening in Baltimore."

Rawlings-Blake said there were 492 sexual assault cases reported last year, including a Canton woman who was raped and had her throat slashed by a teen whom she paid to shovel her sidewalk.

Marie Lilly, program manager for TurnAround, said, "sometimes we forget that crime just doesn't happen in the street" but that it often starts at home.

Dewi Smith, a city resident and volunteer for TurnAround, said "a good measure of the function of a community or a city is how well women are being treated."

Smith said she participated in last year's event and regularly attends free self-defense classes offered by TurnAround at the YMCA on 33rd Street. Her favorite move is "the front kick to the groin."

Many of the volunteers are victims of sexual assault, Smith said, adding that working with them is inspiring.

At the end of the event, several women shared their experiences during an open-mic session.

"If people can survive these things, you want to find that type of strength in yourself," Smith said.

"Take Back the Night" came at the same time the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention announced that six Maryland rape crisis centers, including TurnAround, received $118,597 total in grants under the Sexual Assault Services Program. The funding TurnAround received will go toward the Survivors' Network and Trauma Prevention Program.

The funds are intended to provide intervention, advocacy and support activities for victims and their families, according to a press release from GOCCP. This is the first time federal funding has been used only for the purpose of providing direct intervention and related assistance to adult and child victims of sexual assault, according to the office.


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