Rape Crisis Center seeks volunteers

June 01, 2004|HERB BROCK

When Carol Anderson Ross signed up for a required course on women studies at Lexington Community College, she figured it would be interesting but not life-changing. Thanks to one lecture by a guest speaker, the course turned into a cause.

"A woman from the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center came to our class and gave a speech on the program," said the Danville woman. "What she said opened my eyes to the untold story of rape, and it opened my heart to the idea of helping victims.

"I had always liked doing community service, and the idea of helping an often underserved and misunderstood population - one still suffering from a stigma after more than 30 years of publicity about the physical, emotional and mental horror of rape - appealed to me."

The next semester Ross became a BRCC volunteer advocate in the agency's Lexington headquarters, working the phones at the hotline office. She then continued her volunteer work as an advocate at the BRCC's Danville satellite office, which serves Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties in this area and also Jessamine County. In her role here, she has been involved directly with victims, on a 24-hour, on-call basis, meeting them when they go to area hospital emergency rooms and then assisting them in their dealings with police, prosecutors and the courts.


Since that eye- and heart-opening experience occurred in that Lexington college classroom, Ross has put in more than eight years of service as a BRCC volunteer advocate in Lexington (two years) and in Danville (six years), fitting in her volunteer work with her busy life as a mother, nurse and now teacher. She has put in more than 7,200 hours as a volunteer advocate.

Urging other women to follow her footsteps and help rape victims

With a schedule as a teacher and mother giving her less spare time, Ross is giving up her job as a volunteer advocate but not her devotion to the program. In a recent interview, she urged other women to follow in her footsteps and help rape victims.

"Anyone who really wants to make a difference in someone's life, especially someone whose life has been so devastated because of rape, working as a volunteer advocate would be a wonderful community service" said Ross, who is a pre-primary teacher at the Danville Montessori School, the wife of local veterinarian Dr. Alan Ross and mother of Griffin, 7, and Phoebe, 8.

And more difference-makers definitely are needed, according to Ross's supervisor, Cari Calico, counselor/educator for the Danville office. With Ross's retirement and the departure from the Danville area of Centre College students who left for summer break, the ranks of volunteer advocates serving the Danville area have dwindled.

"Ideally, we need seven to 10 volunteer advocates, but we now are down to four. Yes, we need some new volunteers," Calico said.

Those assigned to the Danville office - called "medical-legal" volunteers because they work with victims from the time they go to the emergency rooms to their visits with police, prosecutors and court personnel - work on a 24-hour on-call basis, said Calico.

"The volunteers and I work out the schedules to make sure that all emergency room calls are covered, 24-7," she said. "Each volunteer agrees to take a certain span of time, and during that time, she wears a page and, when alerted by our hotline office in Lexington, they must drop what they're doing, whether it's at home having dinner or at the Wal-Mart getting groceries, and head straight to the hospital emergency room. Of course, the vast majority of calls come at night or early in the morning."

At the emergency room, the volunteer advocate meets with the rape victim and comforts her through the initial aftermath of the assault, answers questions she may have over the medical examination and makes arrangements for any immediate needs she may have, including food, shelter and child care.

Volunteer advocates handled 11 emergency room calls last year

Calico said that Danville volunteer advocates handled 11 emergency room calls last year and have responded to three so far this year. While most of the victims are female, she said that one last year was a male.

After examination and other medical procedures and processes are completed, the volunteer advocate then turns her attention to the criminal justice system, Calico said.

"The victims will then go though a legal maze, including interviews with police and prosecutors and preparations for the court case and then the appearance at trial," she said.

At the initial stages of the legal proceedings, victims are provided free legal services through the BRCC, Calico said.

Central Kentucky News Articles