Rape victim tells of VIP support
Tracy had just lost both of her parents within months of each other when she was raped and sodomized by her former boyfriend.
Today, she credits God and the Violence Intervention Project with saving her.
“You don’t think it will happen to you as you get older,” said Tracy, a Kewaunee County resident and the the mother of two grown children.
The man who raped her is now serving a two-year prison sentence. When police investigated his record, they found that he had served a previous jail term for sexual abuse of a minor and failed to register as a sex offender when he moved to Kewaunee County.
“VIP has been my lifeline,” she said. “They listened and allowed me to cry, helped me with statements to the court, and served as my counselor when I needed one.”
Although she says that as a Christian she has forgiven the man who raped her, she worries what will happen when he is released from jail.
“Even after a year, VIP is still there for me,” she said.
The second annual Smokehouse Jamboree at the Barnyard Retreat and Event Center, 109 Duvall St. in Kewaunee, on July 4 will raise funds for VIP. .
More than 180 victims of domestic violence and sexual assault were assisted by the Violence Intervention Project last year. The staff and its services are critical to helping them heal, breaking what is often a cycle of violence and abuse, according to Laura Giddley, agency advocate for VIP.
They also help victims file police reports and navigate their way through the criminal justice system, according Giddley.
“We help them get their life back,” she said.
On Giddley’s door is a National Coalition Against Domestic Violence poster that reads. “He beat her 150 times, she only got flowers once,” showing a coffin with flowers on it.
“There is a death in Wisconsin on average every three or four days from domestic violence,” said Giddley.
To increase awareness of the number of women who continue to die, the agency lights a lantern outside its headquarters as every death is reported, Giddley said.
VIP was formed in Kewaunee County in 1989 and its first headquarters were located in Kewaunee when it was was known as Kewaunee County Domestic Abuse Services.. In 1995, the agency changed to its current name and in 1999 opened the Langebach home in Algoma after a major fundraising campaign to purchase the house at 1405 Division St.
The agency received $26,000 in county support last year to work in conjunction with the county’s Human Services Department, and depends on grants and donations from businesses and individuals to fund most of its work, according to Giddley who has been with VIP for 16 years.
The bottom floor of the Langebach home serves as offices for its seven staff, while the top floor houses a transitional living program, providing three apartments and several communal rooms for up to 9 women and children who are escaping their domestic or sexual assault situation.
“We are not a shelter,” said Giddley. “We offer a goal-oriented program for families to gain self-sufficiency.”
VIP can have up to three or four calls on a weekend and, it tends to see spikes in domestic violence in September and January, Giddley said.
The transitional living space was full all last winter, she said. In the last decade, it has served 34 women and 54 children.
“When we think about domestic violence, it is about power and control over another person,” Giddley said. “Isolation is part of it and removing a person’s access to family and friends.”
Domestic violence does not have economic boundaries and occurs among all age groups, she said.
The agency began a bilingual program in 2014 to remove barriers that may prevent the Latino community from receiving services, said Giddley.
They also have assisted in 2,337 safe visits and exchanges by allowing children in a divorce or referred by the family court commissioner or a judge to have supervised visits with a parent or to be picked up for visits with one parent under supervision of VIP staff member.
Giddley said that many members of VIP’s staff and board would be volunteering at the Smokehouse Jamboree on July 4.
“Working with victims over the years, it has been rewarding to see their growth and empowerment, ” Giddley said.
Tracy puts it another way.
“They saved my life,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Rape victim tells of VIP support