Rape Crisis Center Director Retiring After 32 Years - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Rape Crisis Center Director Retiring After 32 Years

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SAVANNAH, GA -

A reception in downtown Savannah tonight honors the long-time director of Savannah's Rape Crisis Center. Mary McAlister has been on the job for more than three decades. News 3 sat down with her to talk about the changes she's seen over that time.

Savannah's Rape Crisis Center had fairly humble beginnings based on a need some women recognized after a friend was victimized. "The first seven years we were all volunteer because it started with a group of women who were members of NOW - the National Organization for Women and they had a friend who was raped and they were of course upset about what happened to her as well as upset that the system was not very kind to the victims back in those days in the 70's," says McAlister. She was there when it

started and has seen it evolve over time, "I was actually the first employee and did it by myself for a little while and then was able to have a part time secretary and then through the years - we got more grant money and we grew to now we have 13 people on the staff."

The Center started with one room in the old YWCA downtown - eventually ending up in a building they own with multiple offices, conference and counseling rooms. McAlister says it's not the evolution of the Center itself, but the evolution of the way rape victims are treated that shows the most progress, "That is the accomplishment of the Rape Crisis Center that I am the most proud of - is that we really have made a difference in the way victims are treated you know, we've gone from the old days of the horror stories that I could tell, but I won't - to where you know - the whole system is so much more sensitive."

McAlister says that evolution has come about in part because of more awareness and better training for those who deal directly with the victims, "When we first started - there was no training for the police or hospitals or anybody - in terms of the rape trauma syndrome and how to respond to victims - we've come a long way with that - we have a protocol worked out with the police and the hospital and the court system - for the whole process - from the time she reports to all the way through the system." Starting with a private exam room staffed by specially trained nurses and officers more sensitive to the trauma the victim has suffered.

Even so - she says the recent congressional delay in passing an extension of the Violence Against Women Act - shows society still has a ways to go, "It's amazing you know - women's issues have gotten a lot more attention and a lot more justice in the world - but still occasionally there are snags - there are people who just don't get it - but hopefully you know - we can get past that and get to a better place."

McAlister's last official day on the job is April 15th just a couple of days after the center's Annual Unmasquerade fundraiser. She's spending the next few weeks training her successor.

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