RENEE ORDWAY

Hampden woman serves community by recording history of rape response organization

Posted July 11, 2014, at 1:36 p.m.
Renee Ordway
Courtesy of Renee Ordway
Renee Ordway

It’s no secret that great work gets done every day behind the doors of nonprofit agencies throughout our area, but over time and with the passing of those who did the work, how will it be remembered?

The importance of keeping and preserving a record led Kathy Walker of Hampden to spend every afternoon from January 2013 to July 2013 organizing and writing a nearly 400-page book, “Writing on the Pages of History.”

Walker retired in 2006 after serving 10 years as the executive director of Rape Response Services, which was then located on Park Street in Bangor. It is now located on Harlow Street.

“Bringing these services to Bangor was a real grass-roots effort by some very dedicated people who wanted to help women and children during a time when rape wasn’t even talked about. Women did a great service to other women by daring to talk about rape with each other and by getting other people in our community to talk about rape,” Walker explained. “There was so much good work done. I don’t want that to be forgotten.”

It had almost always been on her mind to someday write a book chronicling that work and she had much of what she needed at her fingertips.

Walker saves stuff. She clips newspapers, keeps copies of meeting minutes, organizes scrapbooks and writes in her own personal journal every day.

“I had most of what I needed. It was just a matter of sitting down and doing the work … the writing of it,” she said over coffee at Bagel Central earlier this week.

So one day in January 2013, seven years after her retirement, Walker took to her task.

“Basically I didn’t do anything else. I just wrote this book,” she said.

By July she had “an acceptable” first draft and by January she was in contact with Maine Author’s Publishing in Rockland. In April the publisher’s proof arrived on her doorstep.

She published 100 copies, none of which are for sale.

She has given copies to school, college and municipal libraries, to friends and family members and to the book’s “characters,” the ones who did the work that helped start to change the way society viewed the act of rape and its victims and how law enforcement, legislators and judges dealt with it, prosecuted it and adjudicated it.

On the back cover is written, “RAPE. Why would anyone want to volunteer or work at an agency where this word is heard daily? Why write a book about rape? Why wear teal ribbons to promote awareness of rape? The answers to these questions are as varied as the experiences described in this book. Whether volunteering at the first Bangor rape crisis center in 1976, or working to keep the center going for the next 30 years, many people contributed time, money and skills. An account for their dedication is preserved in these pages. Despite all the efforts, the reality of rape has not gone away.”

Women are so busy living their lives that they seldom record their stories, Walker said this week. “Preserving our history is not something that women typically do because we are too busy living our lives,” she added.

“I want to be sure that the names and contributions of these people are preserved and remembered,” she said.

Few records were available about the earliest beginnings of a rape crisis center in Bangor in 1976, but Walker found the few that existed and conducted enough interviews and pieced together newspaper articles to provide an informative look back.

The book is organized by year, documenting struggles and victories and fundraising tactics and through those details emerge a picture of the changes that were occurring in society regarding the subject of rape.

There are references to individual cases, but no victims are identified.

It may not be a book that everyone will sit down and read cover to cover, but what Walker has done, on her own time and at her own expense, is a great gift to this community. Its importance may not be noted for years to come, but it most certainly will be noted.

There is a lesson in Walker’s work, not just about rape, but about the importance of remembering the work done by those in our community who gather around meeting tables large and small and who are dedicated to being good stewards to the nonprofits that serve us in so many ways.

The lessons to be learned by those who will lead our community 100 years from now may best be found in the details of today’s journey and for that reason, preserving the record is vital.

Renee Ordway can be reached at reneeordway@gmail.com.

 

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