CARE prevention specialist educates K-State community about relationship, sexual violence

Jessica Henault is the sexual and relationship violence prevention specialist for the CARE Office located in Holton Hall. At the University of Kansas, several people do the job she does alone. (Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

Located in Holton Hall, the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education is a resource for any member of the Kansas State community affected by dating, domestic and sexual violence as well as stalking or harassment since 1973. One leader on the team of CARE workers is Jessica Henault, K-State’s first-ever sexual and relationship violence prevention specialist.

Henault began to create a safer K-State community in August 2019.

“Prior to my position, there had never been a prevention specialist at K-State, so it’s kind of cool to be breaking that glass ceiling,” Henault said.

Her duties include providing all prevention education to students, staff, faculty and administrators across all K-State campuses. She is often found presenting and hosting workshops on topics like consent, healthy and unhealthy relationships, sexual harassment, trauma and recovery and more.

“Our most popular training is Wildcats Make a Pact,” Henault, who oversees the program, said. “It is our bystander intervention training that teaches participants how to safely intervene if they see behavior that could put others at risk for violence, victimization or perpetration.”

Henault said the CARE office has a partnership with the Interfraternity Council, requiring all incoming fraternity men to complete the training. Since its installation in the fall of 2019, the program has trained over 700 students. This past week, CARE finished the spring 2021 presentations and trained approximately 100 men in four days.

Henault helps spread awareness of services provided by CARE and increases prevention education training on campus.

“Prevention education is extremely vital for every community because the only way that we can change the culture of consent in our communities is by engaging in these difficult conversations, facilitating this open dialogue and meeting each other where we are at so that way we can begin to shift this narrative,” Henault said.

Alayna Colburn, a survivor advocate in the CARE office, said Henault’s role is vital to fulfilling CARE’s mission to advocate for positive social change, calling her “a fierce advocate for the education and prevention of sexual violence.”

“[Henault] works tirelessly to create new and exciting presentations where she has the uncanny ability to draw participants in so that they want to learn more from her,” Colburn said. “She is both very welcoming and patient with those who are new to this topic, while also staunch in her support for accountability.”

Colburn said Henault is “an irreplaceable component to the CARE office,” and said it would benefit the university and community to make her position at K-State permanent.

In addition to Henault’s work, the CARE office offers a variety of free, voluntary and confidential advocacy services to the K-State community.

“Our office is small, but we are mighty, let me tell you,” Henault said.

CARE provides medical advocacy, crisis intervention, legal advocacy and safety planning services. The office works closely with the Office of Student Life, helping student survivors with academic remedies like extensions for assignments and excused absences. Also, the CARE healing fund, made possible through partnerships with Counseling Services and private practices in Manhattan, covers the cost of 20 therapy sessions for survivors.

Henault said the work of the CARE office is important because violence prevention “takes every single person.”

“Violence impacts every person — our interpersonal relationships, our communities, our state and federal policies and procedures and our societal norms and behaviors,” Henault said.

Henault said even if someone has not directly experienced violence, they likely know someone who has. Even if they don’t, Henault said everyone feels the effects of violence as it is perpetuated through rape culture and rape myth narratives, creating harmful norms that contribute to an unsafe campus environment.

“In order to make our campus safer, more equitable and accessible, we all need to come together and engage in violence prevention,” Henault said. “This isn’t just something that I need to be leading. All of us need to be in this fight against violence.”

To make an appointment with the CARE office or learn more about its services, students can visit Holton Hall 206, the CARE website and social media, email or call 785-532-6444.