Wildcat Walk raises awareness for sexual assault victims

On April 23, 2021, K-State students and community members walked from City Park to the K-State Student Union for the annual Walk Against Sexual Violence. (Archive photo by Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

“The three simplest words you can say to a survivor is, ‘I believe you,'” Stephanie Foran, assistant director of the CARE office and survivor advocate, said.

It’s an advocate’s job to get the correct resources and support for the survivor as they process. Foran said letting survivors know you believe them is the most important part of a conversation.

“When a survivor comes in and meets with an advocate, each meeting looks very different,” Foran said.

The Wildcat Walk, hosted from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, allows students, survivors and supporters to gather and address issues that are still happening — both on campus and in their lives.

“Everyone knows someone who’s been sexually assaulted, and it could be yourself,” Foran said. “A phrase I often hear is, ‘She’s someone’s mother, she’s someone’s sister.’ How about she’s just someone? It shouldn’t have to happen to you for it to matter to you.”

Alayna Colburn, a survivor advocate in the CARE office, spoke at this past year’s Wildcat Walk and plans on speaking to the crowd again this year.

“I believe Wildcat Walk is a very empowering and powerful event,” Colburn said. “Speakers like myself convey messages of advocacy and support, but this also provides survivors with an opportunity to express themselves at this event, with supportive messages to other survivors and also messages of frustration regarding rape culture and lack of institutional support.”

The Wildcat Walk event is a safe place for survivors and supporters, sexual assault is a difficult discussion and a lot of fear and shame comes with survivors coming out to tell their stories.

“I think it’s incredibly brave all of these survivors that are coming together to show, ‘Hey, this incident that happened at K-State, this is something that still continues to occur at K-State,’ because I think a lot of people are really willing to turn a blind eye to sexual assault or say it doesn’t happen here, and it absolutely does,” Foran said.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), only 20 percent of female student victims report to law enforcement and 13 percent of all students experience some form of sexual violence on campus.

“Sexual assault is the only crime in America where we put more emphasis on the victim rather than the perpetrator, and that is very discouraging, and it is part of the reason why people don’t come forward,” Foran said.

The Wildcat Walk is not the only event the CARE office hosts during April — Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The office does tabling for Denim Day, which originated in Italy from a case where a woman was forced to take off her jeans. Because of this, the courts ruled she gave consent to the crime.

“Denim Day has become this large international event where we show solidarity by wearing denim because our clothes do not reflect our actions or what we believe should happen to us when wearing a certain outfit,” Foran said.

Events like Wildcat Walk and Denim Day allow more students and faculty to receive information about the prevention services on campus.

“What we need to do is treat the CARE office and other prevention sources like Lafene,” Foran said. “We need to try and stop the bleeding instead of putting a bandaid on it. How can we stop it from happening in the beginning? That’s the major question that we have to deal with all the time.”

More information and resources are available on the CARE website.