CARE Office revamped to offer more to students

Located on the second floor of Holton Hall, what used to be the women's center, reopened this year as CARE, Center for Advocacy Response and Edcuation. (Hannah Hunsinger | The Collegian)

Jenna Tripodi, coordinator at the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education, said you’re probably sitting next to someone in a class who has survived sexual violence.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Tripodi said. “The 1-in-5 women that experience sexual assault in college – that’s someone’s sister, friend, classmate. Then, also 1-in-6 men will experience sexual violence in their lives. That’s someone’s brother, friend, classmate and neighbor. This is an issue that affects many members of our community.”

Formerly known as the K-State Women’s Center, the Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education works with students and organizations to aid survivors of sexual violence and prevent future incidents.

“Since survivors of sexual violence can be women or men, we thought we needed a more inclusive title for the office,” Heather Reed, assistant vice president of student life, said. “The Center for Advocacy, Response and Education is more descriptive of the help found there.”

Scott Jones, assistant dean of student life and assistant director of student life, said they have doubled the CARE office staff in order to offer more educational services to individuals and groups.

“We are here as advocates for anyone who is a survivor of sexual violence, whether that is sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, harassment and that could have taken place here at the university or prior to coming,” Tripodi said.

Tripodi and her co-coordinator, Jessica Haymaker, are confidential advocates – meaning that unlike advisory or administrative K-State employees, they are not required to report any sexual violence they are made aware is happening.

“Certainly we are happy to help anyone through the reporting process, but also we know that a lot of survivors aren’t ready to do that, so we can support them in a confidential way,” Tripodi said. “That’s a big change.”

The CARE office is also focusing on educating the K-State community on how they can prevent sexual violence.

“There are some new requirements based on federal mandates through Title IX that we must comply with and are also really excited to embark on,” Haymaker said. “That involves bystander intervention and consent education for students ongoing, and then I think also faculty and staff.”

Tripodi said the structure and format of the office has changed in order to not only comply with but exceed the expectations of Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act, and the Campus Save Act.

“I’ve known I’ve wanted to do this work since I was little, which is kind of weird,” Haymaker said. “There are very important and wonderful people in my life who’ve survived sexual violence. I think it was something I knew if I did I could go to work every day knowing, or at least hoping and feeling, like I made a small difference. That I had helped make someone’s day better.”

Tripodi said she never intended to work with survivors of sexual violence until she had an internship with Faith Life Ministries at Fort Riley.

“One of my first clients there was a survivor of sexual assault,” Tripodi said. “That was never a population I thought I wanted to work with, but she was a very unique and wonderful woman. That experience working with her and seeing just how she faced life with resiliency and empowerment really affected me on a personal level, and it motivated me to keep doing this work.”

Haymaker and Tripodi said they want the CARE office to become more involved in helping international and LGBTQ students. They intend to do this by reaching out to LGBTQ and international student organizations.

“In order to care about something, you have to admit on a human level that no one deserves to experience any spectrum of violence,” Haymaker said.

Tripodi said she believes that K-State cares a lot.

“I think K-State has always been a shining
example of community standards,” Tripodi said. “We what to make sure we
continue to hold ourselves to those high standards. We are a family, and no one
wants to see their family members hurt.”