Freefall, justice create awareness

Brittany Inskeep has always wanted to skydive. In fact, it's on her bucket list.

On April 30, Inskeep will check off the skydiving adventure from her list as she takes the plunge to raise money for the Rape Crisis Center.

"It's an awesome way to raise awareness about sexual violence," said Inskeep, a victim's advocate at the Rape Crisis Center.

Inskeep, along with nine others, will participate in Operation Freefall on April 30 at Carolina Skydiving in Jonesville. The event is held annually in April at various host locations to create awareness about sexual violence while raising money for an agency. This year, with the help of a new volunteer, the Rape Crisis Center of Catawba County decided to get involved in the event.

Christina Elliott, a volunteer at the Center and a graduate student at Lenoir-Rhyne University, heard about Operation Freefall after several friends participated in a past event. Elliott said when there is no host organization for an area Operation Freefall event, the money goes to Speaking Out About Rape. SOAR is a national organization founded by Kellie Greene.

"With a local host, a portion of the money will go back into the community," Elliott said.

The host organization needed at least 10 participants for a successful event. Each skydiver must raise $1,000. Of that, $325 will be donated to the Rape Crisis Center. Any amount over $1,000, 50 percent of that total will also go to the Center.

The remaining money raised will go to SOAR and the drop zone location for equipment use, such as the airplane ride and jumpsuit.

Raising the required $1,000 to participate wasn't an easy task in the tough economy, Elliott said. With the use of Facebook and a website, Elliott said she was able to get most of her donations. However, she said talking face-to-face with individuals to gather donations was a harder task.

"I was surprised by how much people gave," she said.

Registered participants for Operation Freefall will train to take the plunge the day of the event. Each person will receive a DVD of the skydive and a T-shirt.

Operation Freefall started in 2001 when founder Greene made her first skydive on the anniversary of her rape. The event turned the day from remembering a personal tragedy to a day of celebration. Each following year, the dive became a national event.

The Rape Crisis Center is the only North Carolina host for this year.
"We are very fortunate in our community to have a group of people that go above and beyond the call of duty," Elliott said.

If you are interested in sponsoring a jumper or for more information in participating, call the Rape Crisis Center at (828) 322-6011.

Jeans for Justice
For the fourth year, the Center will host its annual fundraiser Jeans for Justice. This year, more sponsors joined the effort than past years, said Sarah Baker, of the Rape Crisis Center.

"Every year it's growing and more and more people are becoming aware about what we do," Baker said.

Jeans for Justice opens at the Hickory Museum of Art on Saturday. The jeans are decorated by community residents and focus on survival and ending sexual violence.

Jeans for Justice was initiated after a judge of the Italian High Court overturned a 1998 rape conviction of a 45-year-old driving instructor who was convicted of raping his 18-year-old student. A lower court sentenced the defendant to two years and eight months in prison, but the appeals court send the case back to a higher court for a retrial.

Because the victim was wearing tight jeans at the time of the rape, the ruling was overturned. The judge said the jeans would have to be taken off with the help of the victim and could not have been removed with a person struggling.

After that ruling, female Italian lawmakers wore jeans to the parliament to protest the ruling. This incident started Jeans for Justice, which continues Saturday through May 22 in Catawba County.

The Rape Crisis Center will host an event from 6-8 p.m. May 14 at the Hickory Museum of Art in the SALT Block. There will be decorated jeans on display with a description telling the meaning behind each pair of jeans. A fashion show with models of all sizes wearing submitted jeans will also take place that evening.

Inskeep said 42 jeans were submitted at the April 1 deadline. All jeans will be auctioned during the May 14 event.

Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased at the Rape Crisis Center, A-Jewels in Conover and Deborah's Gracious Gifts in Viewmont.

Tickets will also be available at the door.

For more information, call the Center or email

To view the exhibit at the Hickory Museum of Art, visit Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or Sunday from 1-4 p.m. It is located at 243 Third Ave. Northeast in the SALT Block.