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All county girls get grad gift: Rape protection

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER Managing editor
In the United States there are 78 women raped every hour, while 83 percent of rape victims are under the age of 24.
Those are some pretty alarming statistics, especially here in Escambia County, Ala., where more than 100 teenage girls will be graduating from surrounding high schools this May.
Information from the Statistical Analysis Center of the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center (ECJIC) reported that from 1999 until the last statistical report in 2003, Escambia (Ala.) County saw a 78 percent increase in the number of reported rapes. The number jumped from nine reported rapes in 1999 to 16 reported rapes in 2003.
In a 2001-2002 statistical report, the largest deviation in rape locations in Alabama was railroad tracks, which showed a five percent increase.
While there are various definitions of rape, including statutory rape or forcible rape, they all have the simple definition - both parties must consent to having sex. No means no.
In an effort to deter rape and protect young women in this county, Sheriff Grover Smith announced Monday morning to County Commissioners he would be passing out whistles equipped with instructions to every graduating senior girl in the county.
Lee Hall and Monte McGougin, both with the Domestic Violence Unit stationed in Brewton, visited the high schools on Tuesday and passed out 170 whistles.
The whistles are meant to be placed on a keychain for easy access, and can be picked up at the sheriff's office in Brewton. The whistles are not limited to women under 24.
Inside the plastic bag are a silver whistle and a bright yellow instruction pamphlet detailing "How to use your American Defender."
The instructions provide much-needed information for women placed in an unsafe predicament, including:
A can of mace placed on a keychain is another alternative, Smith said. While the sheriff's department was not at liberty to pass out cans of mace to every senior girl, they can be purchased independently.