I recently sat down with my friend Megan Delong, the Volunteer and Outreach Advocate at the Hope and Healing Survivor Resource Center otherwise known as the Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center (RCC) of Summit and Medina Counties. I have been interning there since February. April is a big month for the RCC because it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so there are a lot of events going on. I talked to Megan about the RCC and RCC’s biggest annual event, the Walk of Heroes.
Emily Janikowski (EJ): Can you tell me what the Walk of Heroes is?
Megan Delong (MD): Walk of Heroes is an annual fundraiser for the RCC. Every year, people can come donate money, create teams and take part in a symbolic walk that represents standing up for sexual assault survivors. There is education offered about bystander intervention and many prizes are given away. There are also food and vendors, and local Akron businesses and artists have tables where they sell goods. The walk will take place inside and outside The University of Akron Field House from 6pm-8pm Friday, April 26th.
EJ: So, how does the RCC support survivors?
MD: The RCC offers free, confidential and anonymous services. There is a hotline advocacy program that is 24/7, 365 days a year. It offers emotional support to survivors and anyone who wants to talk. Hospital advocates go to the local hospitals and sit with survivors when they go through their forensic medical exams. There are also advocates in the court and legal system who offer support with navigating the system and in court because it’s hard to sit next to your abuser or [the person] who assaulted you. There is also a free and short waiting list for therapy, and support groups are offered on need-by-need basis. RCC also goes into the local middle and high schools as a part of Heroes 4 Hope to educate on sexual assault prevention and healthy relationships. RCC is also part of the Start by Believing campaign that states that before anything, we believe survivors.
EJ: Besides the Walk of Heroes what is the RCC doing for Sexual Assault Awareness month?
MD: We recently took part in Take Back the Night at The University of Akron, which is a national walk for survivors held every year. We also took over The University of Akron’s social media for a couple of days to raise awareness about our organization and our events. We have many outreach and education events in the community, in Summit and Medina Counties and on The University of Akron’s campus almost everyday. RCC has also set up library displays in five different branches about sexual assault.
EJ: Why should people get involved with Walk of Heroes?
MD: First and foremost, it helps survivors by bringing awareness to the struggles they face. Secondly, any money we fundraise keeps our services free for the next year. This is really important because it helps us advocate for survivors.
EJ: How do you make a team?
MD: You can go to our Crowdrise page to either create or join a team. You can raise money with the team, donate or just show up at the event to raise awareness. There are also sponsorships available for the teams. You can also be a vendor; it’s just a $20 donation to be able to sell all that you want. Right now the teams with the most money raised are Anni’s Army, PATH Nurses at Cleveland Clinic, and University of Akron fraternity, Theta Kappa Epsilon-Beta Rho.
EJ: What else do people need to know about Walk of Heroes?
MD: There will be free parking, and there will be people showing you where to go. Pizza will be available at 6pm for free. We encourage people to dress up as a superhero, whether that be as a community hero, yourself or your favorite superhero. This event will be held either rain or shine, and if it’s not raining we will be outside with games and vendors, and dogs will be welcome.
EJ: What are other ways to get involved if you can’t make Walk of Heroes?
MD: One way to get involved is to volunteer. You can email Megan Vermillion at email@example.com to sign up for RCC training. It’s forty hours of training to learn how to be on call for hospital and emotional support advocacy. You can also go online and donate at hopeandhealingresources.org. Another way to get involved is to follow us on social media (@rccmsc for Twitter and Instagram) and RCC of Medina and Summit County for Facebook to help spread the word.
*Edited for clarity