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Women's Center aspires to provide a safe, equitable campus; peaceful, just world

By Keener A. Tippin II


There are two sides to Mary Todd's job. One side she likes and one side she can do without.

As the sexual assault advocate and assistant director of Kansas State University's Women's Center, Todd loves the presentations, the educational aspects, and mostly the connections and honor of helping people through a horrible, even terrifying time of their life.

What she could do without is the reality of the events, which lead to having the sad task of helping someone through a horrible, even terrifying time of their life.

Since 1973, K-State's Women's Center's mission has been to promote a safe and equitable work and learning environment for K-State women through advocacy, programming, training, information and referral. Perhaps its most critical mission is to provide advocacy for women in crisis by providing assistance 24 hours a day for women who have been victims of violence or who feel threatened by biased, hateful or criminal behavior. The staff also works with individuals who are filing complaints under the university's "Policy Prohibiting Sexual Violence" and with offices and agencies -- on and off campus -- who can help students with legal intervention, academic assistance, medical issues and police assistance.

The Women's Center also offers sexual violence and rape prevention programs in several formats adaptable to group size and composition. Educational programs to promote awareness of rape, acquaintance rape and other sex offenses are offered regularly in the residence halls, as part of Greek orientation, and as a part of freshman orientation courses available in the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business Administration, and Education. The Women's Center staff also will prepare and present sexual violence prevention programs for any class and provide educational sexual violence prevention programs to student groups, organizations, residence halls and Greek houses.

"Anyone who asks us to present -- if we have enough notice and are not booked -- we will do it," Todd said. "The format is open; we can do lectures, group discussions, films and short presentations around issues of rape, dating, crime, relationships, media/gender roles and violence. We are also available to the community around K-State -- UFM, for example, has invited us to address their teen mentoring program."In addition, self-defense courses for K-State women are offered free of charge at the Women's Center.

As a popular commercial from the '60s stated, women "have come a long way." But despite the best efforts of those who work for women's safety and equality, the discrimination, harassment and even violence against women continues -- particularly in the form of sexual assault -- more specifically, date or acquaintance rape, and incidences are high. According to FBI statistics, date and acquaintance rape comprise from 60 to 85 percent of all reported rapes. However, even these figures are not reliable. Conservative figures estimate only 3.5 to 10 percent of all forms of rape are even reported.

Date and acquaintance rape are quite prevalent on campuses. One in four college women has been raped; that is, has been forced, physically or verbally, actively or implicitly, to engage in sexual activity. A 1985 study revealed that 90 percent of college rape survivors knew their attacker before the incident. Another survey found that one in 15 college men admitted to having forced a woman into sex.

For victims of sexual assault, the Women's Center serves as a resource, exploring the various options available to the victim and letting them decide what to do.

"We offer confidential help and referral in any area to assist someone who has been assaulted," Todd said. "Medical attention, STD testing, academic assistance, counseling, legal help, issues around prosecution or talking to the police. An advocate can be with them if they decide to get a rape kit to have evidence collected or to go to the police or use the K-State Policy Prohibiting Sexual Violence. Sometimes it's useful to have a place to come and vent; to talk about the experience or the aftermath, to learn about the K-State policy should they decide to file a report."

Todd said Lafene Student Health Center is an excellent resource for being tested for sexually transmitted diseases and dealing with the other consequences of sexual assault.

Of all the services the center provides, Todd wants one message to resonate loud and clear: The center will make every effort to give women what they want when they come for assistance.

"If they want confidentiality, they have confidentiality," Todd said. "If they want us to help publicize what happened to them, we will do that. If they want just medical care we will help them do that. If they want to come and talk with someone just one time, that's OK. I invite women and men who have been victims of sexual assault, harassment -- since we're a K-State Safe Zone, any kind of harassing or hateful crime -- to come here, and we will take something that is horrible and try to use it to let the person grow and get back onto the trajectory that they once were on.

"Come up to the Women's Center. We have all kinds of information on topics such as healthy relationships, body image, GLBT issues, dating situations to avoid and resources for academic work. The Women's Center is also about becoming a whole and energized person who makes a difference in the community."


August 2003