“Everyone goes through something traumatizing in their
lives,” Mary Todd, director of the K-State Women’s Center, said.
According to Todd, it’s how you survive that trauma that is the difference, and there is no right or wrong way to do so. You have to find the right way to cope for you, she said.
The center uses education as a main form of advocacy and sponsors programs, such as the Arts of Rape event that was held Monday, Nov. 11 to speak about acts of violence and those who commit them. The event aimed to start a dialogue between members of the community about how rape is viewed today versus just a few short years ago.
The center, which focuses on providing aid to those who have suffered through domestic abuse, sexual assault and rape, also looks to take a more preventative approach to this societal issue. Much of their promotional material contains phrases like “don’t rape” instead of “don’t get raped” in order to encourage people to focus on the perpetrators rather than the victims.
Christy Forrester, survivor and activist against acts of violence of Seattle, Wash., said she believes that the stigma against survivors has changed, but not enough.
“I think most people still covertly blame or are unaware that they are blaming [the victim],” she said. “There are definitely many who overtly blame the victim.”
Being a survivor of sexual violence can cause survivors to feel ashamed, guilty and even isolated from the rest of the world. Todd, however, said that resources available at the center can help survivors of those acts of violence overcome such feelings.
One example is “Purple Cried: K-Staters’ stories of assault, support and healing,” a collection of stories about true violence that K-State students have endured. Along with the accounts of violence are stories of survival. Some survived through talking to peers, some went to the center, and others chose to hold it in and forget about it.
Though Forrester said she found it helpful to talk and get involved in activism, there are many people who do not. How one survives is entirely up to them; no one can prepare for trauma.
“A survivor is anyone who is not killed during the assault,” Todd said. “People who move on with their lives … at their own rates.”
Both Todd and Forrester said that society must stop placing the blame on the victim and start forcing the rapists to take responsibility.
“When your house gets robbed, you don’t hide it from people because no one says, ‘You didn’t have an alarm system … you wanted it,’” Forrester said.
Despite all of the resources and assistance available for sexual assault prevention, not everyone can avoid or escape the acts of violence. In October 2008, the body of Alheli Alcantara, an 18-year-old Topeka resident, was discovered just east of downtown Manhattan. According to articles from The Topeka Capital-Journal about the case, Alcantara was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a man who worked with her at a Topeka Burger King.
The event sent waves of shock through the Manhattan community as Alcantara was a 2008 graduate of Manhattan High School. Her parents work for K-State, as well as with the Women’s Center to help offer a safe haven for anyone who has been assaulted.
Surviving after the attack is different for every survivor. There is no right or wrong way to survive, but the public can offer assistance and support by taking the issue of rape seriously and persecuting rapists.
“There are times I feel like a victim and times I feel like a survivor and times that I feel both,” Forrester said.