BALOG COLUMN: Victims advocacy group PAR on the mend
Things are looking up for People Against Rape.
A fundraiser Monday night at the recently renovated Applebee's in North Charleston benefited the organization.
They're close to getting their audit completed.
And, perhaps most significantly, they've been allowed to apply for a grant from the state Department of Public Safety, with the caveat that they must first have a successful audit before they can accept any grant funds.
That's a long way from last year, when it was discovered a former employee had submitted $60,000 to $80,000 in rent and tax bills for reimbursement to state agencies, but had not put the reimbursements back into PAR's account, board members and authorities said at the time.
They went from having a paid staff of 13 to none.
They lost their modest rental space in North Charleston and are grateful for office space donated by Charleston County on Meeting Street that could eventually house three staffers.
But there's one thing board president Dean G. Kilpatrick wants to make abundantly clear: PAR never stopped serving victims.
“Our goal for the future is to let people know we're still here,” said Kilpatrick, who took over the lead role on the board from Michael Roach.
“As far as I know, there has not been a single victim who has gone to the emergency room who has not been offered a PAR volunteer,” Kilpatrick said.
PAR continues to advocate for victims of sexual assault. With its group of about 60 volunteers, they provide 24/7 counseling and assistance through their hotline at 745-0144 or the toll free line at 800-241-7273.
“It's clear that our community has great needs in this area,” Kilpatrick said. In addition to his role as board president and a founding member of PAR, he is a distinguished professor of clinical psychology at MUSC and the director of the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, among other responsibilities and titles.
So he knows how important PAR's work is to the community.
There are still hurdles. The audit must be completed.
They went ahead and applied for the grant from the Department of Public Safety because the opportunity arises only once a year, he said. The grants that were suspended helped PAR with its outreach efforts in Berkeley and Dorchester counties, as well as helping with coordination of the hotline and emergency room volunteers.
If they get the grant, they'll be able to hire two staffers, send volunteers with victims to court hearings and expand outreach, he said.
“PAR has absolutely no interest in duplicating anything any other agencies are doing,” Kilpatrick said.
“We want it to be more strategic, use the paid staff to coordinate the work of the volunteers instead of doing everything themselves.”
And they want to continue to put a focus on education.
“It would have been easy for us to just fold our tents and cease doing what PAR had been doing, but PAR and its mission are just too important,” Kilpatrick said.
Surely the victims would agree.
Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.