Care center offers support for sexual assault victims


Story by Brenna Thompson, News Editor

The national government has granted the state of Kansas extra funding reserved for victims of violent crime, in turn giving the Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center in Lawrence a chance to expand its office.

This funding allows the center to incorporate the position of a campus advocate for colleges across Jefferson, Franklin and Douglas counties. The center serves as a resource for survivors of sexual assault and sexual violence.

Beginning in February, campus advocate Kristin Redding is on BU college grounds as a source of comfort and emotional support for any victims and survivors of sexual misconduct.

“A lot of times after a sexual assault has happened people don’t know what to do or what comes next. So my role is to help them navigate that process and help allow them to heal after it,” Redding said.

She will be available in her office, room 201 in the Long Student Center, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursdays, or by appointment. The care center also has 24 hour crisis line (785) 843-8985.

“All our services are free and confidential,” Chrissy Heikkila, the care center’s executive director, said. “It all stays with us. We have free therapy and support groups.”

Most students believe Baker’s smaller size helps with student safety.

“The [University of Kansas] is so big so I feel likes there’s a greater chance for rape or anything like that to occur,” Emily Easum, a transfer student, said. “It feels more secure at this campus because it’s a smaller community.”

However, Dean of Students Cassy Bailey said, “It does happen here, and I think one of the complicating issues here is that everybody knows everybody.”

Bailey said students are scared to get someone in trouble or be talked about, so they keep quiet. Now they have a safe place to go that isn’t affiliated with campus policies of reporting.

Redding said the easiest way to break down barriers is to be on campus. Her goal is for “more people to be aware of the service and have someone know they have people to call if they need support.”

Since the services are client-centered, Heikkila said it is all based on what the client wants and needs.

“It can be a 5-minute call or years of support,” Heikkila said.

Bailey wants Baker to be a place where victims are supported and given resources.

“I don’t want us to be quiet about it. I want us to prevent it and educate against it,” Bailey said. “We take sexual misconduct incredibly serious.”

The center plans to reach out to fraternities, sororities and other groups on campus to spread the word about the available new services.

“I think care centers are definitely needed for women and men’s safety,” Easum said.

Both Redding and Heikkila said they are willing to do everything they can to make survivors comfortable.

“You can come to my office in Baldwin or Lawrence,” Redding said. “I can meet you at night. I just want to be available for anyone who needs it.”