By Betsy Cribb
Sexual assault survivor Rosemary Trible is determined to help ease other victims’ pain.
Trible, who is from Newport News, Va., founded Fear 2 Freedom, a global nonprofit organization, in 2011. Fear 2 Freedom creates care packages for sexual assault victims who are undergoing physical evidence recovery exams after being attacked.
Fear 2 Freedom’s chapter at Washington and Lee University had its first meeting Jan. 24.
W&L’s Fear 2 Freedom group will make care packages for victims, though most of the kits will not be given to victims in the Rockbridge County area.
The Fear 2 Freedom boxes will be sent to Augusta Health Hospital in Fishersville, Va., where Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital refers its sexual assault victims.
Stonewall Jackson cannot perform the physical evidence recovery kit, or P.E.R.K. exam.
The P.E.R.K. exam must be performed by a trained forensic nurse and completed within 72 hours of the assault. Stonewall Jackson does not have a forensic nursing staff to handle these cases.
During these exams, nurses collect extensive evidence that could be used if the victim decides to press charges against his or her attacker.
Judy Casteele, director of Project Horizon, a local nonprofit organization that works to reduce domestic, dating, and sexual violence, says there are not enough reported cases in Rockbridge County to warrant a local forensic nursing staff.
“We don’t want more rape cases so we can get forensic nurse examiners,” said Casteele. “But I am afraid that there are people who don’t come forward because there aren’t any resources being advertised locally for forensic nurse care.”
Casteele says the lack of local forensic nurses is not the biggest problem. She is more concerned that many of the sexual assault incidents in Rockbridge County are not reported.
“We get 300 cases [of domestic and sexual violence] a year, but there are probably 3,000 out there that we need to be getting. And those numbers are overwhelming,” Casteele said.
Leonard Stewart Jr. was a police officer in Lexington for 20 years before becoming Project Horizon’s director of community services.
He says he isn’t surprised that victims don’t want to report their cases.
“Only 10 percent of victims choose to report,” Stewart said. “Of that number that actually choose to report, there’s an even smaller number [of] charges filed. Of that number, there’s an even smaller number [of cases where] the perpetrator will be convicted. And of the perpetrators who are convicted, there’s a high probability that the perpetrator will not spend a day in jail.”
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, nearly one in five women in the United States has been raped at some point in her life.
Virginia Military Institute reported two cases of sexual assault between 2009 and 2011, according to the institute’s 2012 security report. At W&L, 4.2 percent of female students reported “sexual penetration against their will” in 2010, according to a national survey.
W&L senior Kelsey Bullard says she wants to change those statistics.
Bullard worked with Trible and fellow W&L senior Tilden Bowditch to bring Fear 2 Freedom to Lexington.
Bullard says she wants students to play an active part in bringing comfort to sexual assault victims.
“Many programs trying to raise awareness about sexual assault can create frustration because it leaves people feelings like there is nothing they can personally do to reduce the occurrence of this crime or to help survivors if they do not know any,” said Bullard.
W&L’s first Fear 2 Freedom event will take place March 19. Attendees will put together care packages. Every Fear 2 Freedom box includes a teddy bear, a T-shirt, sweatpants, underwear, and toiletries.
Bullard says Fear 2 Freedom events allow participants to be more involved in victims’ healing.
“This event raises awareness and gives people the chance to feel positive about helping survivors,” Bullard said.