CARE commemorates Sexual Assault Awareness Month, co-hosts discussion panel with Counseling Services

CARE — the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education — is located on the second floor of Holton Hall. (Archive Photo by Hannah Hunsinger | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State’s Center for Advocacy, Response and Education recognizes the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April by providing virtual opportunities for students to learn about the topic.

Jessica Henault is the center’s first sexual and relationship violence prevention specialist. While Henault began her position in the fall of 2019, she said CARE has always been active with SAAM. Before COVID-19, the center would have in-person affairs like the “What Were You Wearing?” survivor art gallery held in the K-State Student Union.

“Since I have begun my role, obviously, we have been able to do a lot more,” Henault said. “However, we’re still a little more limited because of COVID.”

While the National Sexual Violence Resource Center started SAAM two decades ago, Henault says efforts have been raised towards sexual assault awareness for over 70 years.

“It is important to know that even before the official national proclamation, this work was extending far back within the civil rights area primarily led by black and trans women of color,” Henault said. “So this work stems farther than 20 years.”

NSVR provides a theme for each year’s commemoration. This year’s theme is “Together We Can Build Safe Online Spaces.”

The theme highlights technology, technology-assisted sexual abuse and shedding light on the realities of these circumstances.

“This year, we are focusing on online abuse and trauma, online community prevention, digital consent and boundaries, how we can keep minors and kids safe and begin fostering safe online behavior at a young age,” Henault said. “And then always — as we do — really calling upon the Wildcat community to become active pro-social bystanders, ways that we can support victims and survivors of violence.”

For this year’s commemoration, CARE and Counseling Services will introduce a sexual assault awareness discussion panel facilitated by Henault and Nicole Knapp, intern in health service psychology for Counseling Services.

Knapp said the panel was created as her internship outreach project.

“In working with CARE, I wanted to collaborate on a discussion panel for sexual assault as an area that is typically not openly talked about — as a way to help raise awareness on campus,” Knapp said.

The panel will include 10 members of the K-State and Manhattan community, including Riley County Police Department’s victim advocate and Student Governing Association’s sexual assault and prevention awareness director.

“We plan for our panelists to help in sharing their knowledge in hopes of increasing awareness for all at K-State and begin to break down stigma surrounding sexual assault and barriers to seeking resources like those who will be represented on the panel,” Knapp said.

Henault said the discussion will focus on topics of sexual violence relating to bystander intervention, including defining consent and sexual violence and discovering how these definitions perpetuate different myths and misconceptions.

Students and staff that would like to join the discussion can register and submit their questions online.

Among the SAAM events CARE is providing, they will also be tabling in the Union next week from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

“We’re going to be talking about consent,” Henault said. “We have a ton of T-shirts and a bunch of other really cool swag that we have been collecting that we will just be freely giving out to folks who come up and interact with us. I’m really excited for that as well.”

CARE’s Twitter page has more information about all of the upcoming events.

Nicole Knapp said attending the various SAAM events CARE is conducting — along with the SAAM Discussion Panel — is a great way for students, faculty and staff to learn more about sexual assault and increase awareness.

“In addition to attending these events, open communication about what we learn or take away from the events is a great way to increase awareness with those who are not able to attend and can help in creating safer environments for survivors,” Knapp said.

CARE provides free year-round voluntary and confidential advocacy and other support services to K-State students, staff, faculty and administrators who have experienced sexual violence, dating or domestic violence or stalking and sexual harassment. This includes situations before attending or working at K-State, Henault said.

“Survivors of sexual assault are welcomed to speak with Counseling Services and CARE for resources and support in processing and moving forward after an assault,” Knapp said. “Both centers have caring and supportive individuals who are ready to support survivors when they are ready.”