Families First to expand rape prevention education in Bladen County

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

WHITEVILLE — Families First, a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and treatment service, announced this week the agency has received CDC funding to launch a rape prevention education program in Bladen and Columbus counties.

“You may have heard the story about the fisherman who was fishing from a river bank one afternoon and saw multiple people being swept downstream, struggling to keep from drowning,” recounted Diana Walker, director of the Rape Prevention Education program for the two counties. “He dropped his pole, jumped in a saved each one. This went on until the fisherman was exhausted and finally said to himself, ‘I can’t go on like this. I’d better go upstream and find out what is happening.’ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ‘moved upstream’ to prevent sexual violence from occurring by creating and funding the Rape Prevention Education program.”

Administered by CDC and conducted in all 50 states and U.S. territories, RPE fits with the goals of the Families First program, which has, since 1995, been providing prevention education presentations when requested by community groups and schools. The organization teaches the Hands are not for Hitting program in elementary schools and Safe Dates in high schools. According to Walker, Families First staff recognized the RPE program “would greatly enhance” Families First’s ongoing efforts.

“This grant took a couple of years to get — we’re very excited about it,” Walker remarked.

Walker will be overseeing implementation of RPE and plans to begin a new program for seventh graders. Letters of invitation to participate have gone out to the health teachers in the middle and high schools introducing the curriculum “Shifting Boundaries,” a program intended to meet the seventh grade sex education requirement. Each student will maintain a workbook, which will include not only readings and exercises, but also phone numbers and contact information to be utilized if students find themselves in need of help. Families First staff believe equipping students with information about healthy boundaries early is key to preventing sexual assault.

The work is scopious, however, and Walker is hoping for help.

“Changing attitudes that perpetuate sexual misconduct and violence is not an easy task and can only be done with the cooperation of everyone in the community,” she explained.

She is looking for a committee of volunteers of various ages, backgrounds, and races, including people who have been affected by sexual assault. Anyone interested in volunteering may call Families First at 910-642-5996.

A resident of Lake Waccamaw, Walker was a psychology instructor at Bladen Community College for 17 years, a position she says gave her “an appreciation of the importance of education and healthy living.”

Nearly one in two women have experienced some type of sexual violence, and one in five have been raped, according to Families First. Victims are more likely to suffer academically and from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, and thoughts or acts of suicide.

“Since young people suffer from sexual violence at the highest rates, educating school students is a good place to start to put an end to the cultural misconceptions that encourage this problem to continue,” Walker stated.

For more information on the subject of sexual violence, call Families First at 910-642-5996.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 9110-862-4163 or emailing ccarroll@bladenjournal.com.

Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal