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Rape recovery group forms in New Richmond

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 1,219 Wisconsin residents were victims of forcible rape in 2012. Fourteen of those people were from the tricounty area. Two were from New Richmond.

For Jill MacRae, the founder of the new Rape & Recovery Support Group in town, rape and sexual assault are not faraway problems. She knows better than anyone that they have inflicted wounds upon people in this community.

“The issue is bigger than what the numbers show,” MacRae said. “I was raped when I was 17 years old, and I didn’t tell anyone. For 10 years, my number went unreported.”

Having gone through her own difficult journey of recovery, MacRae said she wanted to reach out to local people struggling with the aftermath of sexual assault. Through the St. Croix Valley Youth & Family Resource Center, she created the Rape & Recovery Support Group, which to her knowledge is the only service of its kind in the county. Held on the fourth Monday of every month, the group meets at United Methodist Church in New Richmond from 7-8:30 p.m. and welcomes anyone affected by rape — family, friends, counselors and victims themselves.

“I want to help other people learn how to cope with this sooner than I ever did,” MacRae said. “It’s comforting for people to sit among others who know what they’ve been through and want to listen to their story.”

MacRae leads the group with Heather Smith, who was also involved with rape in her youth. During the meetings, both share their stories before inviting others to speak. Participation is voluntary, so members are free to simply listen for the duration of the meeting.

“It’s whatever’s needed for people to feel safe,” MacRae said. “Confidentiality is a must, so personal content shared by others should be kept within the group.”

Meetings are also a time for participants to review the rights of rape victims and learn about strategies that family members and friends can use to offer support. According to MacRae, one of the most basic rights of victims is the right to choose whether to report the crime.

“Sometimes people will want to blurt everything out, and sometimes they’ll want to hold it all in,” MacRae said. “Because it’s such a hurtful act, victims often don’t want to bring other people through the same trauma. It makes it a very complex decision.”

Indeed, a 2012 survey by the Justice Department found that only 40 of every 100 rapes are reported, leaving it one of the most underreported crimes in the United States. Because it is such a sensitive issue, MacRae said, it is hard for people to open up.

“There’s not a lot of awareness about the group right now,” MacRae said. “I think as people become more informed, we’ll start to get more members.”

Given the recent string of young suicides in the county, MacRae felt that now was the time to offer help. Many factors can lead people to consider suicide, and physical and emotional trauma are certainly on the list.

“We want to be a bridge between suicidal tendencies and sexual abuse,” MacRae said. “We want to ask, ‘Why are we abused?’ ‘How do we get out of it?’ These are tough questions, but we can get through it together.”

For more information, contact Jill MacRae at 715-222-4657.

Jenny Hudalla
A senior at Bethel University, Jenny Hudalla is pursuing degrees in journalism, Spanish and reconciliation studies. Having graduated from New Richmond High School in 2011, she served as editor-in-chief of the Tiger Rag before taking a job as editor-in-chief of Bethel's student newspaper, The Clarion. After completing her internship with the New Richmond News, Hudalla plans to move on to a career in social justice.
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