STAR hopes to get more rape victims to come forward

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Rape is considered one of the most violent and violating crimes, and police investigate dozens of cases every year, but it's the hundreds of cases that go unreported.

It's why a new rape crisis center, the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response (STAR) is hoping to change that trend one person at a time.

"It was a day that my life changed forever," said Jennie Waldrop.

In the wee hours of Nov. 21, 2005, Waldrop fell asleep on her couch and woke up to a noise near her window.

"I opened up the door, and I saw him coming through the window," said Waldrop. "I immediately felt like prey. That's the best way to describe it."

Waldrop said her neighbor at an apartment complex broke in wanting only one thing - her. The now 36-year-old said she repeatedly screamed the words "Help" and "Rape," all while trying to fight off the rapist.

"He pulled out a knife and that's when I knew I had to make a decision at the moment. Do I continue to fight and risk dying or do I survive? I chose to survive," said Waldrop.

Even with a knife to her throat for the hour-long duration, Waldrop kept a vigilant eye on her attacker. When it came time to describing the man to police, she gave them a very thorough description. More than that though, she preserved all the evidence.

"I knew not to change my clothes, not to shower," said Waldrop. "You want to give them as much evidence as possible. It makes it really hard for them if they don't have too much to work off."

Waldrop is just one the reported cases. Dozens of rapes are reported to the Baton Rouge Police Department every year:

2012 - 38 (Jan-June)

2011 - 58

2010 - 58

2009 - 57

2008 - 66

2007 - 81

2006 - 101

2005 - 83

2004 - 83

2003 - 114

2002 - 137

2001 - 61

But hundreds of victims go silent, which is where the STAR center comes in.

"We know nationally that one in five women and one in 71 men are sexually assaulted, and upwards of 90 percent of those cases are not even reported to police," said STAR's executive director Racheal Hebert.

The rape crisis center provides around the clock outreach and counseling to men and women at no cost. It's been in existence since 1975 but worked with the East Baton Rouge District Attorney's office. Now, it's branched out on it's own opening a new 4,500 sq. ft. facility on Goodwood on Tuesday. It's one reason Waldrop said she's healing. Her four-legged best friend Roman, is the other.

"If it wasn't for him and the rape crisis center, I would have not been able to get back to my life," said Waldrop.

A life where Waldrop went from being a victim to a survivor with hopes of others getting others to do the same.

Waldrop's accused rapist is now serving a life sentence at Angola.

Anyone in need of the STAR center can call the 24-hour hotline at 225-383-7273.

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.