Survivors, volunteers honor rape crisis center

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – J. White credits the Rape Crisis Center of Jackson with saving her life. White, a survivor of sexual assault, said she didn’t know where to turn after her attack. Even when she did get a referral to a Catholic Charities’ counselor she hesitated. “The day of my appointment I sat over there on a bench and cried for an hour,” said White, now a volunteer for the Rape Crisis Center. She spoke at the 30th anniversary event for the organization held in Smith Park on Thursday, May 1, in downtown Jackson across from the Catholic Charities office.

“In the first 30 days after my rape, I experienced a despair that I thought I could never recover from. The compassion, patience and care I received from Catholic Charities Rape Crisis Center, restored my faith in humanity and in turn gave me the tools to rediscover my dignity and esteem. It was there that I realized that I was bruised and not broken and through the combination of faith and works, restoration was possible,” White said later.

The center started with a crisis line and 10-15 volunteers. After the celebration Gwen Bouie-Haynes, the director of adult services for Catholic Charities detailed the operation now. “Today, the Center has 35 volunteers a volunteer coordinator, clinical coordinator, court liaison, and director.  The program has formed mall watch programs, self defense classes, speak out, counseling, advocacy court liaison and empowerment groups,” said Bouie-Haynes.

“Some of our services include hospital intervention, crisis, individual and family counseling, support groups and advocacy,” said Nadia Gaynor, clinical coordinator at the center. “We also provide community education and prevention awareness to the community.  We serve the counties of Hinds, Rankin, Madison, Warren, Simpson, Sharkey, Issaquena and Yazoo,” she added.

She went on to explain that the mission of the center is unique. “This anniversary is significant because we have been the only crisis center in the capital city for the last 30 years providing services to those in need. We help individuals who have been victimized to realize they are not a victim, but survivor. Our goal is to help them regain their sense of power and control over their life and future,” said Gaynor.

At the event Bishop Ronnie Crudup, Sr., pastor at New Horizon Church International detailed the next initiative the agency is launching, called Engaging Men for the Future, which seeks to educate men and boys about respect for women, the roots of violence and what it takes to stop sexual assault.
Court liaison Deborah Alford challenged the crowd to take an active stand against violence. State Senator Hillman Frazier read a proclamation from the legislature congratulating the rape crisis center. Bouie-Haynes, director, thanked the staff and volunteers for their many years of service while volunteers distributed teal balloons to the crowd and the program closed with a balloon release.

According to Bouie-Haynes, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Girls, aged 14-34 are the most common targets, but men make up about 10 percent of all the cases. The Rape Crisis Center still operates a confidential 24-hour crisis hotline, 601-982-7273.