During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Canton American Red Cross began to notice a need to assist individuals who had been sexually assaulted within the Stark County community. As a result, the chapter began to research at Malone College and the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. The Red Cross board of directors concluded from the research that Stark County needed to provide services to help women/men through the emotional crisis caused by the violent crime of rape.
The Canton Red Cross called a meeting with Stark County’s Human Services and other social service agencies. Community leaders from these agencies agreed that the myths surrounding rape must be dispelled. These leaders began working with the area hospitals, law enforcement and the court system to determine what type of services and protocol was needed to assist the victims of sexual assault.
These community leaders realized that the American Red Cross was a reliable humanitarian organization already established within the community and a 24/7 hotline in place so directed the agency to go forward with the services. The final result was the development of Rape Crisis Services in 1975. The first woman assisted by the program had been raped 25 years earlier.
Through their research, American Red Cross Rape Crisis determined that evidence for prosecution was being collected incorrectly. They coordinated services with law enforcement and health agencies to develop the first rape evidence kit to be used in area hospitals during the medical examination of a rape survivor. The evidence kit is used to collect physical evidence from an individual’s body before being transported to the crime lab for analysis and prosecution purposes.
In 1975, the American Red Cross Rape Crisis assisted 6 survivors of rape. Currently, we provide services for over 500 individuals each year and statistics continue to grow and reflect the need in our community to continue these services.