CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (KKTV) - A Colorado Springs doctor played a crucial role in starting up a rape crisis center that has helped thousands of people.
"I think a reasonable and very important goal for a rape crisis center anywhere would be to create a program that helps victims become survivors," Dr. Daniel Soteres explained.
Soteres, who is a board-certified allergy/immunology physician with offices in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, was recently honored as a founding member of Chattanooga's first Rape Crisis Center for adults in 1995.
"That program takes care of about 1,200 to 1,500 people a year. As I thought about that over 25 years, that's a program that's basically taken care of as many people that can fit in the Pepsi Center," Soteres stated.
Soteres was honored on April 26. The center is part of Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
In his own words, Soteres' described how he became involved in this mission:
"I'm Dr. Danny Soteres. I grew up in Chattanooga and helped start the Rape Crisis Center. About thirty years ago, after I graduated from college, I returned home to take Pre-Med Classes and I played soccer with the Chattanooga Railroaders (now the Chattanooga Football Club). I was looking for a way to be involved in the community at a deeper level and I discovered that Chattanooga was one of the few southern cities that did not have a rape crisis center for adults. My interest in this issue started 3 years earlier when I was in college in St. Louis and 2 fraternity brothers made a really bad decision. As one of the frat leaders, I was involved in the campus meeting about the incident where the offenders ended up getting hundreds of hours of community service. I got an education.
At the meeting I was introduced to 3 Women's Studies majors and a female Dean. The meeting started cantankerous and turned to purpose. The women wanted to create a campus-wide educational program on the topic of DATE RAPE. The women wanted to go to every club, sports team and dorm floor to discuss the issue using video clips and male/female moderators. We did it. For the first two years I was the only male moderator for these programs. In year three, the group expanded and we gained some national attention as well.
During college, I had a girlfriend who was from New York and one summer I was planning a drive to visit her. My dear friend "Jane" asked if she could have a ride to visit her boyfriend in the same county. So, we began our journey- Chattanooga to Westchester County. "Jane" truly was a great friend through high school. There were four of us all together, inseparable, we would "cruise" the city, drink a few beers and laugh until curfew. We'd drop Jane off at her house and get ourselves home. This is what you did in the 80's. It was fun.
On our drive to New York (it must have been 1989), Jane confided that during those years, when she would walk into that house, her step-father had been sexually abusing her…All those years… we were oblivious. While Blake and Jim's antics gave me a spark, this was the event that lighted my fire on the issue of Date Rape. The Committee Organized for Rape Education was created in St. Louis and I continued that work until graduation.
When I returned to Chattanooga in 1991, I had an architecture degree, no job prospects and head full of ideas. I wanted to continue my work in the area while preparing for med school. I thought I could do some volunteer hours and "call it good". That's when I found out there was no service for adult victims of rape. I began to research successful programs around the south, network with experts in NPO's and with other leaders. I remember walking in "off the street" to discuss failed attempts at Crisis Centers with a police officer and another meeting with the Dean of OB/GYN at Memorial Hospital. I called Rape Crisis Centers in other southern towns to find out what works and what doesn't work. After two years of research I thought I had the "secret sauce" to solve the problem. We would need a three pronged program: 1st: Psycho-social services for the support of victims, 2nd: Appropriate medical services, 3rd: Legal/Line of Evidence services, a good relationship with the police force.
With this outline in mind, the board was created and the experts took over. I went to med school in 1994 and I think I got letter a few months later. I was knee deep in formaldehyde in anatomy lab when I found out that we had raised 700-800,000 dollars and the first three years of funding were secured.
A few years later, Jane worked at the center. I returned for a week or two in 1998 and did some data collection for my Master in Public Health thesis project. And here we are today: Blake and Jim acted like idiots; I went to a meeting and decided to Lean In just a bit... Jane's story hooked me and now, this center has taken care of about 12-1500 people per year for 25 years..That's 30,000 people.
Sad to say, but it appears my early goals of eliminating Date Rape may be a field to far. This rape crisis center was conceived to offer three services: psycho-social support, medical services and to create a line of evidence with police support. These three facets have one common goal, to help a victim of rape to become a survivor.
Now, I am happy to return to Chattanooga for their RISE 2019 event on Friday, April 26, as they honor all of the founding members of the center and raise funds to continue their important mission and I hope you will join me.
Although I'm not involved in a rape crisis center here in Colorado Springs at this time, I think it's fair to say that I have used my experiences from volunteering with this center to be a better doctor and to be a better advocate for my patients regardless of their ailments."