Take back the Night

Take Back the Night

 

Annual PAR event to shed light on sexual violence through lens of resilience

By Charlie Morrison

Community Editor

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On Thursday evening, one of South Carolina’s longest-running, best known non-profit organizations, Charleston-based group People Against Rape (PAR), will be playing host for their annual “Take Back the Night” rally, which for the 39th year running will be shining a light on the continuing problem of sexual violence and rape in the greater Tri-county area. This year’s rally will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 4 at Brittlebank Park along the banks of the Ashley River. The theme guiding this year’s event is “Shatter the Silence, Stop the Violence.”

In accomplishing their mission to assist any and all victims of sexual violence in their time of need, PAR has long relied on the talents of contributors and volunteers in making ends meet, so to speak. One such volunteer, James Island resident Vickey Cornelison Grant was called upon over the past 18 months to go above and beyond. She did, and thankfully so, as this year’s 38th annual “Take Back the Night” rally almost didn’t happen.

The PAR was established in 1974 here in Charleston as the first organization to provide such services in South Carolina. Utilizing a predominantly volunteer staff, PAR provided a number of emergency services to victims or potential victims of sexual abuse including  a 24/7 crisis hotline, and touts a perfect record in delivering a volunteer support staffer to accompany each and every case of sexual assault over what is now almost four decades of service as victims’ advocates.

Grant, who now serves as the organization’s Treasurer and a member of its Board of Directors, perhaps preserved the organization’s future, when she and her colleagues discovered a number of financial irregularities involving the grants that keep the non-profit functioning.

Despite proactively addressing the issue, the grant funding was pulled and to boot, the former financial officer who’d left PAR’s financials and grant data in disarray, was long gone by the time James Island’s Grant was called in. Her first digging revealed the source of the financial irregularities, errors placing the organization a year in debt to the IRS.

In the end, her discovery led to the Board deciding to revamp the entire organization, and Grant was forced to lay off 13 PAR employees in August.

The organization now operates on an all-volunteer basis, with Grant and her colleagues on the Board providing oversight. Their mandate has been trimmed as well, as PAR now focuses its efforts on the body’s core competency of being victims’ on-site advocates and supporters.

Ultimately, Grant and her colleagues’ actions in addressing their financial fissure reversed what might have been a doomsday scenario for PAR. The fruit of their collective labor will be borne on Thursday, in the form of the 39th annual “Take Back the Night” rally.

For more information on PAR or the “Take Back the Night” rally, see the organiztion’s website at PeopleAgainstRape.org The “Take Back the Night” awareness rally will be held on Thursday, April 4, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Brittlebank Park  in downtown Charleston. The event is free to the public. 

© 2013 Wiser Time Publishing, Inc.

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