Students unite to create survivor-centered campus

Emma Barnett (right), senior in political science, is the president of Wildcats Against Sexual Assault and Allison Thomas (left), senior in public relations, is the vice president. This newly-founded club looks to bring awareness to sexual violence that occurs on and off campus. (Nick Horvath | The Collegian)

This article has been updated to reflect a correction concerning the K-State Center for Advocacy, Response and Education.

Kansas State was faced with a sense of unrest last semester after two rape accusations surfaced and alleged that the university denied responsibility to investigate.

After the incident, two K-State students saw the need to ignite change. Emma Barnett, senior in political science, and Allison Thomas, senior in public relations, founded a student-led organization called Wildcats Against Sexual Violence. The goal of this organization is to create an environment on campus that is survivor-centered through policy change, outreach and education.

Barnett is the president of Wildcats Against Sexual Violence.

“In one of my women’s studies classes, we were tasked with finding a problem on campus and trying to work in tandem with other groups to fix this problem,” she said.

Barnett said she saw a problem with the university policy regarding Title IX and decided that change needed to happen.

As of right now, the specifics of Title IX have not been clarified by the federal government and the U.S. Department of Education.

“It will be interesting to see what happens with the current lawsuits that pertain to K-State not investigating off-campus assaults,” Barnett said. “Until these lawsuits are finalized, it is up in the air whether the Title IX policy will change or not.”

In April, two K-State students filed separate Title IX lawsuits against the university, alleging K-State did not investigate their rapes at off-campus fraternity houses. Since then, K-State has filed to have the cases dismissed, and the Department of Education has four ongoing investigations regarding how K-State handles sexual assault reports.

Although the organization is still pushing to change the current policy, Barnett said its focus this year has slightly shifted. She said the end goal is to create a safe environment on campus for sexual assault survivors.

The K-State Center for Advocacy, Response and Education provides services and advocacy for survivors of sexual violence. The current policy surrounding this service requires that every case of sexual assault be reported. However, the advocates for the CARE office are not required to report cases that are shared in confidentiality.

Maddie Musil, senior in political science, is a member of Wildcats Against Sexual Violence. Musil said she and many other members believe that in order to create a survivor-centered campus, the policy regarding confidentiality needs to change as well.

“Currently advocates want to be confidential, but there is a lot of gray area on this policy,” Musil said. “We are trying to fix that so advocates do not feel like they are breaking their confidentiality.”

Barnett said another key element in creating a survivor-centered campus is ongoing education. Currently, the only required education that exists on campus is the annual Alcohol and Sexual Assault Prevention program.

“We know that primary prevention tactics have to be done repeatedly, so it doesn’t just work that everyone’s takes the ASAP program and then they never do anything else again with sexual violence prevention,” Barnett said.

The organization is meeting with administration to evaluate current programs and voice their opinions on changes that need to be made.

Although Barnett and Thomas are both seniors, they both said they hope their efforts continue until every survivor feels safe on campus.

“I just want to see that K-State is doing everything they can be doing to support survivors of sexual assault and right now that is not being done,” Thomas said.

Wildcats Against Sexual Violence currently meets in the K-State Student Union every other Tuesday at 7 p.m. You can also follow Wildcats Against Sexual Violence on Facebook to keep up with meetings and events.