1974: As part of a National Initiative a group of women in Charleston came together to talk about issues of violence against women. Included in the group were an attorney, an OB/GYN, a woman whose daughter was assaulted in Hampton Park, and other concerned individuals. In March of that same year, the group decided to form a non profit agency to assist victims of sexual assault. It was important to the group to involve both women and men in the project, therefore it was decided the name People Against Rape was more inclusive than Women Against Rape.
The first training was held in August 1974 at the Veteran’s Hospital. Trainers were Alma Dell Smith, Jean Sippell and Dr. Dean Kilpatrick of MUSC’s Crime Victims Center. (Dr. Kilpatrick still sits on our Board of Directors). The goal was to train volunteers to provide advocacy services to rape victims and also to educate the public about rape prevention. At the same time, PAR began to do research to learn more about sexual assault and to assure that we were providing the best services to clients.
In May 1975, PAR received its first grant from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration and the Office of Criminal Justice Programs (OCJP). In September 1975, we officially opened our doors as the first rape crisis center in South Carolina. Today we are the oldest center in S.C.. Many of the centers who followed in our footsteps are now multi agency facilities that house rape crisis centers as well as domestic violence programs and/or child advocacy centers. We are 1 of only 4 free standing centers in our state. This allows us to stay out of the system and work strictly for our clients without the oversight and red tape of larger agencies. 80% of our funding goes to victim services.
At the time PAR was opened, there was no standard protocol for rape victims to be seen for the forensic exam. Police all around the Lowcountry were on their own as far as getting the kit completed for evidentiary purposes. Finally, after months of working with PAR, the Charleston County Police Department adopted a new policy for the investigation of rape cases and the treatment of victims.
Through the years, PAR has grown and we now offer services to women, men and children in Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties. We have also expanded our education department to teach sexual assault prevention not only to women and girls, but also to men and boys.
PAR has made a difference in this community for a very long time. We hope to continue to work for the rights of sexual assault victims for a very long time to come.