Oct. 12—This October is the 37th Domestic Violence Awareness Month—and the 50th anniversary of north-central West Virginia’s Rape and Domestic Violence Information Center.
As one would expect from an organization that helps survivors of assault and abuse, RDVIC’s origin story isn’t a happy one. As Virginia Hopkins tells it, she was a young, idealistic attorney, working for the North Central West Virginia Legal Aid Society in Morgantown in 1972. A young woman came to her for help: She’d been gang-raped months before and became pregnant but decided to keep the baby. She came to Hopkins because she feared for both her and her baby’s lives. And Hopkins had to turn her away.
At the time, there were very few laws on the books to protect survivors of rape and domestic violence—and what few laws existed were rarely enforced with prosecutions. The conventional wisdom of the time was if you were burglarizing a place and you found a woman alone, the sexual assault was on the house, because that charge was always dropped.
As few laws as there were, there were even fewer support services for survivors. Hopkins and like-minded attorneys, prosecutors, police officers and hospital ER staffers began networking, putting together a group of victim advocates here in Morgantown. They wrote to an organization in Michigan that was already doing what they wanted to do—and it wrote them back. With a little bit of guidance and a lot of resolve, they formed what has become the RDVIC we know today.
RDVIC provides a variety of support and information services to victims and survivors of harassment, stalking, domestic violence and sexual abuse and assault. According to its website, RDVIC offers emergency shelter, counseling, support groups, advocacy and community education—all free of charge and confidential.
RDVIC maintains a 24-hour hotline (which doubles as the Monongalia County line) that can be reached at 304-292-5100. There are also county-specific lines: Preston County at 304-329-1687 ; and Taylor County at 304-265-6534. For more information or to access RDVIC’s online resources, go to rdvic.org.
Sexual assault, abuse and harassment and domestic violence are far too prevalent. And, as RDVIC’s origin story indicates, such things were largely unacknowledged or swept under the rug for decades—and sometimes still are. But times are changing. While there is still a stigma around sex-and gender-based crimes, there has been a tidal wave of support in recent years for survivors, as well as pushback against victim-blaming and shaming, à la the #MeToo movement.
But before there was #MeToo, there was RDVIC, creating safety nets for survivors and educating the community. For 50 years, it’s been making our area safer and more supportive—and we know it will continue to do so for years to come.
The RDVIC will be celebrating its half-century of community support and advocacy with a gala Friday evening from 6:30-10 p.m. at the Hotel Morgan Ballroom. Tickets to the event are still available: $75 for entrance to the event, or $100 for entrance plus two drink tickets. There will be a cash bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres and Bonnie Belle’s Desserts. The additional bourbon-tasting requires a separate ticket and registration. Rick K. & The Allnighters will provide the evening’s entertainment.
If you’d like to support RDVIC but can’t attend the gala, you can make a donation at rdvic.org /donate.