Each year, April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness month and officials predict that this will be a particularly vulnerable time for some during the weeks while Marylanders remain under a stay-at-home order.  Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County (RCIS) is rallying to let people know the nonprofit is still providing services, and is need of community support.

RCIS is preparing for their annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® fundraiser, where teams and individuals usually register to walk down Main Street in Westminster.  Men and women wear heels or flats, in any color, to raise awareness and funding for survivor services.

“It’s a serious topic, but the event itself is fun and heartwarming at the same time,” said Janice Kispert, CEO of RCIS.  It’s a very public display of people in the community who care.  “It says something for a man to put on women’s flats or heels and walk down Main Street on a Saturday morning with cars honking and people waving.”

This year, like many events, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® has been moved online to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The virtual walk will take place on April 18, and participants have until the morning of April 18 to register.  RCIS hopes to see people send in photos and/or videos whether they are walking on a treadmill, in their driveway or around the block. More information and creative suggestions or how to join in are available at at www.walkamilecc.org.

“We hope you will view this as a great opportunity for the community to continue supporting the mission of RCIS, as we continue providing services to victims of sexual violence who, during these unprecedented times, still require our help,” RCIS wrote in a news release about the event.

Kispert said they have so far seen few registrations.

RCIS is a private nonprofit that provides free counseling and support resources to victims of sexual violence and their families.

Though RCIS is not able to do in-person accompaniments to the hospital at this time, Kispert stressed that their services are still available, including the 24-hour hotline at 410-857-7322.

She encouraged sexual assault survivors to call if they need help, especially if isolation is causing a person to feel overwhelmed

They are still mailing information resources, journals and other items. They have also started offering therapy sessions over phone or via video.

Whenever a patient comes to the hospital after an alleged rape, RCIS is contacted to give the patient the option to talk to someone and learn about resources. Kispert confirmed this week that Carroll Hospital is still performing sexual assault forensic examinations, which document and preserve evidence of an assault.

The RCIS website was recently given an overhaul in response to feedback, and all information is fresh and hopefully easy to navigate, Kispert said.  To provide services, we are in great need for volunteers, she said. The requirements are being 18 or older, living within one hour of Carroll Hospital and having “compassion and willingness to help others.”  RCIS will train volunteers and they can work from their home to take hotline calls.  Interested volunteers can call the RCIS hotline or their normal office line at 410-857-0900, or find an application on their website under ”Get Involved.”

“We need folks to step up to the plate, more so now than ever,” Kispert said.

The Board of County Commissioners issued a proclamation Thursday, naming April 2020 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

“We encourage our community to work together to educate about what can be done to prevent sexual violence and how to support our survivors,” the proclamation reads. “Through prevention, education, increased awareness, and holding per who commit acts of violence responsible for their actions, we can be successful in reducing sexual violence in Carroll County.”

Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, commented, “As we continue to be under stay-at-home, it’s important to realize … these type of things will probably see an uptick.” He hoped people would be aware of the resources in the county and thanked those working on the front lines.

Kispert said they have not yet seen an uptick in calls, but “I think he’s 100% correct.”

She worries that people may not be calling, either because they think RCIS is closed, or because they are stuck in a living situation with an abuser and not able to get the space to safely call.

She wants sexual violence survivors to know that RCIS is still operating and available to serve.  “We’re small and we are volunteer-based. Our board is volunteer-based, our hotline relies on volunteers,” she said. “One person can make a difference.”

RCIS can be reached at their daytime office number 410-857-0900, their website www.rapecrisiscc.org or the 24-hour hotline 410-857-7322.