Safe Zone hosts sexual assault myths, facts dialogue

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The “He Said, She Said, They Said: A Dialogue on Sexual Assault Myths and Misconceptions” workshop, held Wednesday, April 28, focused on myths about sexual assault, followed by the facts. The Safe Zone program, through the Department of Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs, hosted the event.

Jessica Henault, sexual and relationship violence prevention specialist, and Alayna Colburn, survivor advocate, presented the workshop. Both work in the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education at Kansas State.

The pair went through a slideshow and interactive questions regarding statistics and myths about sexual assault.

During the workshop, both presenters spoke about K-State and ways in which people need to improve their proactiveness in terms of sexual assault awareness.

One instance in which the presenters said K-State failed to address topics of sexual assault happened in 2019 when the university had two claims filed against it: Farmer v. Kansas State University and Weckhorst v. Kansas State University.

Farmer and Weckhorst filed complaints with the university claiming they were sexually assaulted at fraternity houses. Henault said K-State was indifferent to these claims and contended that the women were not sexually assaulted by other students at K-State as the assault did not occur on university property or a university-sponsored event, so they could not make a Title IX claim. Both women withdrew their cases.

There is also a disparity in the number of nurses able to distribute Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners exams in Manhattan, Colburn said. Nurses have to be SANE certified to conduct sexual assault evidentiary exams.

“Manhattan has not, for a long time, had a full-time trained SANE nurse who is able to provide this service,” Colburn said. “To give a completed SANE exam, oftentimes we do have to refer victims to Topeka or Salina or to somewhere else to get their SANE kit complete.”

“The first step in preventing and eradicating violence on our campus is acknowledging that we are not immune,” Henault said. “It’s taking accountability and it’s vocalizing the concerns of others. There’s power in our voices and we deserve to be heard, we deserve to be validated, and most importantly we deserve to be taken seriously. … Are we going to remain passive and just brush it over, or are we going to be proactive and take a stance against it?”

Henault and Colburn also identified different myths about sexual assault and the effects it can have on society.

They said only two to eight percent of reports are false. Lack of understanding about false reports creates myths about assault and rarely places blame on the perpetrator.

Another myth mentioned is that using sanitary kits easily confirms stories of assault; however, this can be a very traumatic and exploitative experience for the victim, and many times police do not receive enough training to interact properly with sexual assault victims.

Victims of sexual assault often have a neurobiological response where they cannot fully recall what happened to them, Colburn and Henault said. Oftentimes, this leads to myths that the victim is not being honest about their assault when instead the victim can’t recall everything because their experience was so traumatic.

The Safe Zone program at K-State will have three more workshops during the summer. Information on these can be found on its website.

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