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5 October 2005

Candlelight Vigil Ceremony Tonight

As one of the scheduled events for Relationship Violence Week, a candlelight vigil is being promoted as a "Take Back the Night" rally. This rally will be held on the Jacksonville Square on Wednesday evening, October 5 from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by JSU Counseling & Career Services, JSU Peer Educators, JSU Housing Department, Daybreak Crisis Recovery Center, and Second Chance, Inc. (Agency Against Family Violence). (In case of rain, this event will be moved to Theron Montgomery Building Auditorium (3rd floor).

The keynote speaker is Rhonda K. Hardegree, founder of The Daybreak Crisis Recovery Center, which serves six counties in East Alabama—Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Etowah, Randolph, and Talladega. She has succcessfully written and received over $450,000 in local, state and federal grants for programs aimed at helping abused women and children. Rhonda works as a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice, where she conducts individual counseling sessions with child, adolescent and adult victims of sexual assault and non-offending parents.

Rhonda's interest in helping the victims of sexual abuse came, in part, from a personal tragedy she suffered while in college. In her own words, Rhonda describes her ordeal:

"On May 16, 1988, two days before my 19th birthday, I was abducted at knifepoint from the parking lot of a restaurant where I worked. I was taken to a secluded area of the woods and was severely beaten, strangled unconscious, raped and stabbed eleven times. One stab wound punctured my left lung and another missed my heart by a quarter of an inch. The perpetrator put me in the back seat of the car and drove back into town. I escaped by pretending I had amnesia and did not remember what had occurred. I persuaded him to pull into a store for a drink of water. When he got out of the car, I ran into the store and sought assistance from the clerk."

Fortunately, Rhonda survived the ordeal; her physical wounds healed, but the scars internally and externally will last a lifetime. She, however, set out to heal her emotional wounds by helping others with similar experiences. Rhonda also says, "I feel that overcoming this experience has strengthened my personal relationship with God and has made me aware of the tremendous power of individuals' inner personal resources."

Rhonda's favorite poem and philosophy is:
"Hope is not pretending that troubles don't exist,
It is the trust that they will not last forever,
That hurts will be healed and difficulties overcome.
It is faith that a source of strength and renewal lies within
To lead us through the dark to the sunshine."
Upon her 1998 nomination as a Woman Committed to Excellence, Rhonda Hardegree stated:

"The greatest reward for me is to be able to witness a hurting individual gain inner strength and coping skills to recover from the trauma they have endured. I feel my greatest contribution to this community was establishing the rape crisis center. When I moved to Anniston from Montgomery, I was appalled that there were no services available to women who had been sexually assualted. This was brought to my attention when I was called in the middle of the night to meet a 12-year-old client at the hospital who had just been gang-raped by five boys. Daybreak now serves several counties, has a 24-hour Rape Response Team, a 24-hour 1-800 crisis hotline, individual crisis counseling, support groups, and a school-based prevention program. It is extremely gratifying to know that victims now have a place to go to receive help to recover from the trauma of being sexually assaulted."
See Program for Candlelight Vigil Ceremony.

Contact Counseling and Career Services at 256-782-5475 for more information.

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