Saturday, October 4, 2003

Rape victims often afraid to speak up

Guest opinion

By Ann MacDonald
Guest columnist


The public outcry about the recent rape victim jailed for being afraid to testify has raised much discussion about the issues of sexual assault. While many of us may disagree with Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Patrick Dinkelacker's method in this case, I wish to commend him for wanting to make sure the justice system can do its job to keep a rapist off the streets. I am also thankful that the judge has given the victim a second chance to testify and that she is no longer in jail.

The trauma of rape - regardless of gender - often leaves the victim afraid to come forward. Victims fear not being believed or being blamed for the incident. They fear reprisal by the perpetrator. They often dread having to tell and make public very explicit details about such personal violations. Perhaps we should not be surprised that victims have second thoughts about testifying, once they have reported such a crime. This may also help explain why approximately half of all rapes/sexual assaults are not even reported to law enforcement.

The FBI ranks rape as the number one most serious crime after murder and is the most violent crime a victim will live to talk about. Consequently, victims have many legitimate concerns. It is especially important that victims know there are resources available to help them through the difficult and often confusing steps that follow a sexual assault. Family and friends of the victim are also affected and may need assistance to begin the healing process. Women Helping Women - the 24-hour Hamilton County Rape Crisis Center - provides crisis intervention, advocacy and support services. We welcome telephone calls and are specially trained in helping ease the burden and trauma that victims might experience. These and other resources in the tri-state (many of which receive United Way funding) are available to help:

Those in Hamilton County should call the Women Helping Women & YWCA PROTECT Hotline at 513-872-9259. The TTY number is 513-977-5545.

In Northern Kentucky, call the Women's Crisis Center at 859-491-3335; their TTY is 859-655-2657.

In other nearby counties (including Indiana) rape crisis centers can be accessed by calling either the PROTECT Hotline, United Way's 211, or by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). .

Those of us at Women Helping Women and others who work with victims of sexual assault in our community are grateful for the care and concern shown about this recent case. One way to help is to spread the word about our services, so that victims, their family, and friends will know about the resources that are available to them.

Ann MacDonald is executive director of Women Helping Women.

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