April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, And for Good Reason.

By: Amanda Johnson

We hosted a Denim Day table on April 23 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

We hosted a Denim Day table on April 23 as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Every 2 minutes, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 22 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime; 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men experience rape in their lifetime. Think about all the people you know- think about your family and friends. Does this startle you?

Unfortunately, reality paints a darker picture than what these numbers say. We live in a world where victims are prosecuted, where by-standers capture rape on their phone for laughs rather than for evidence, and where rapes go unreported and rapists go free. Why is it that, in a culture that knows rape is wrong, it is so prevalent?

Sexual violence isn’t comprised of a series of isolated events perpetrated by individuals. It’s engrained in our culture. As scholar Thomas Macaulay Millar wrote, “It takes one rapist to commit a rape, but it takes a village to create an environment where it happens over and over and over.” This is a culture where sexual violence is a normal occurrence and rape can be used as a humorous term- where rape victims can “deserve it.”

I’d rape her,” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as synonymous with “I’d tap that.”

Those Broncos got raped at the Super Bowl, amiright?

No. No. No.

Rape isn’t tantamount to losing a game. It isn’t a term to use when you find someone attractive.

The lines are being blurred between what constitutes condoned and consensual behavior and what sexual violence really is. In a survey of high school students, 56% of girls and 76% of boys believed forced sex was acceptable under some circumstances. It turns out, when you replace the word ‘rape’ with ‘forced sex,’ a lot more individuals will admit to committing it, being victims of it, and finding it acceptable under certain conditions. We are a culture that normalizes rape, yet, we don’t even seem to understand what it means.

Throughout the last 10 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has reported that only approximately 30% of rape survivors report the incident to the police. Of those rapes reported to the police only 16% result in prison sentences. This means that only 5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison. Unfortunately, when looking at institutions like university campuses, the numbers get even worse. The Justice Department estimates that even fewer than 5% of completed and attempted rapes of college women are reported to law enforcement officials. This number is even more staggering when you consider that 1 in 4 women will be the victim of sexual violence during her academic career. In these instances, 9 out of 10 women knew their attacker.

Despite the increased prevalence and need for victim services, universities most often  lack adequate policies and fail to provide for victims of sexual assault. The Campus Accountability Project, started by Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFE), showed the sad deficiencies in adequate sexual assault policies. Over 80% of policies received a C or below, with none making a grade higher than a B+. Nearly one-third of the policies didn’t comply with federal regulations, and only 40% had a dedicated full-time staff member dedicated to sexual assault prevention and education. In a world where victims are prosecuted, less than one-third of the policies stated that a victim’s dress and past sexual history are relevant during investigation.

In recent years, many universities have gone under fire for directly mishandling or covering up cases of rape and sexual assault- many times making national headlines such as Harvard and Yale. Some, such as Dartmouth, have even seen a decline in applications because of the negative attention. It’s time for universities to take a stand against sexual assault and provide the responsiveness that victims deserve.

We ended Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, a Men's March to end rape and sexual assault.

We ended Sexual Assault Awareness Month with Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, a Men’s March to end rape and sexual assault.

Tides are starting to turn though. Fortunately, this year, President Obama has issued a task force to directly deal with sexual assault on college campuses, and Sen. Claire McCaskill has conducted national surveys on the issue and has lead a bipartisan effort through the legislature to combat sexual assault in the military and now on college campuses. This effort is aimed at implementing new regulations that force campuses to adopt and change policies. Moreover, it seeks to provide additional resources to help universities be able to provide crucial services for those affected by sexual violence.

Many campuses have already made a stride towards victim services as well as prevention. Thankfully, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is one such school. It offers many services and support on campus for victims, awareness, and prevention. The UMKC Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Project seek to strengthen the university and community response to gender-based and sexual violence. Together, and in collaboration with other campus and community offices, the Women’s Center and Violence Prevention and Response Project provide vital training and education on prevention and response, resources and services for those affected by sexual violence including a safe place, referral information. Unlike many universities, UMKC offers a full time Victim Services Adjudication Advisor, Michelle Kroner. Her office, as well as the women’s center, is available to any student.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to remain active and to raise your voice against sexual assault. Sexual assault and rape has received national attention because of people like you. What UMKC and other institutions are doing is significant progress. But, it’s not a fix. Not yet. Remember, 1 is 2 many. If my article makes you uncomfortable: good. Be a person who seeks to change the system instead of ignoring it. Don’t be complicit. We can end the culture that perpetuates rape.


Author’s Note: Violence against women is a larger narrative than what simple statistics have to offer. It’s a culture that extends worldwide. It’s a world where one in three women will be raped in their lifetime- where sexual violence is more guaranteed than an education.



Remembering 2011 and Looking Forward to 2012

By Maritza Gordillo

It was not too long ago when I said I was ready to come back and work at the Women’s Center for the 2011 Fall semester. Time went by so quickly due to the fact that we had approximately 14 events this semester, including some of our big events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, Women’s Equity Quilt Dedication, and Starr Symposium in which I had the privilege of meeting Dolores Huerta whom I’ve always wanted to meet. The events were really fun because I got to learn a lot more and meet new people. This semester the Women’s Center was filled with new staff members whom I enjoyed working with and hope to see when we come back from winter break. I am truly excited and look forward to coming back in the spring to plan events such as the Vagina Monologues, Stalking Awareness Month, and our 40th Anniversary Gala. I hope to see everyone soon at our spring semester events!  Happy Holidays everyone and congrats to the 2011 Fall Graduates!

A Year of Amazing Events!

By Patsy Campos

The UMKC Women’s Center has hosted a variety of events where we have reached many new and returning audiences throughout the Fall 2010-Spring 2011 term. Our events make an important contribution to the campus and public community by bringing awareness to the importance and advancement of women’s equity. This year our programs included networking events, textile art workshops, special performances and rallies and marches.

Some of our biggest annual events are:

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

The Vagina Monologues

“Rock Who You Are” Fashion Show

Take Back the Night

Her Art Project

The month of May marks the end of one year for the Women’s Center’s dedicated student staff, but it certainly is not the end of the Women’s Center! Please stop by throughout the summer and next fall to learn more about our upcoming programming. We want to thank all of you for supporting the Women’s Center and giving us the opportunity to create and host successful events and programs. Thank you to our blog readers and for communicating with us through Twitter and Facebook. The Women’s Center wishes all of you a fantastic summer!

My Two Years at the Women’s Center

By Bethany Reyna

My 1st year at the Women's Center!

Last year was my first year at the UMKC Women’s Center. I had never had a job like this where we worked for a cause through tabling and events. What I have learned from working at the Women’s Center has made a significant difference to me as a student and as a feminist.

When I first started attending UMKC I wasn’t involved and I had never lived in a city setting before. When I got on campus I was attending community events and seeing an environment that was outside of my campus and dorm life. I started to attend Women’s Center events and realized that the issues they represented not only affect students but also the surrounding community. It was slightly overwhelming to me; I had just graduated high school and then I found myself participating in events like Walk A Mile in Her Shoes and the Vagina Monologues. I had never got the opportunity to experience events like these before because those types of perspectives can be frowned upon where I’m from. During my first year at the Women’s Center I felt like I was impartial to everything that I was involved in  because I couldn’t decide how to define my own feminism.

In my second year at the Women’s Center I feel like I have a bit more perspective and I am less overwhelmed than my first year.

My 2nd year at the Women’s Center!

Now I know that I am a feminist and I can fully understand the importance of each event that we put on for the Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Project. I feel good knowing that these events might change a person’s perspective or save a person’s life. Having a job like this makes me want to continue to help people in need and I think that once I’m no longer with the Women’s Center, I will miss that aspect of the job the most. After I  graduate, or when I no longer work here, I will continue to try to get involved with my community. Working for an organization like the Women’s Center has been a great experience so far and I hope that it continues to be for the rest of my college career!

I Walked a Mile in Her Shoes

Even though I’ve been the faithful male shopping companion to many a female friend’s shoe-shopping sprees, I’ve never been on the receiving end of those high-heel buying excursions. This past weekend, with a female friend in tow, I headed out to shop for a pair of women’s heels for UMKC’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes violence prevention event. Upon first entering the shoe store I was approached by a helpful saleswoman who asked me what type of shoe I was looking for. It wouldn’t be right not to tell you that I temporarily stumbled and retreated toward the back of the store. Did I fail my first challenge already? I camped out in the youth shoe section and, surrounded by superheroes and cartoon characters beaming at me from the shoes on the shelves, I tried on my stash of high heels my friend selected for me. The first thing I noticed when I slipped into the heels was the sheer distance I was from the ground suddenly.  I tried to take a step and nearly fell over.  Then I started to notice the painful pinch of my toes, which didn’t go away no matter what shoe style or size I tried. I looked longingly at my friend’s sensible shoes and asked: Why do women wear these slinky nightmares? Is this what women have to go through every day?! The experience definitely made me more aware of what women go through to fit society’s beauty standards. 

 Arriving at the University Playhouse Tuesday, I felt pride at the sea of turquoise shirts worn by the walkers. Some men proudly wore their heels and others were timid in putting them on.  During the walk we held up anti-violence protesting signs and chanted “Silence Is Not Consent” to the rhythm of heavily clicking heels. Spectators and volunteers along the march route offered support and encouragement. There wasn’t one complaint heard from any of the marching men, just friendly warnings to watch for holes and cracks on the sidewalk that could cause someone to fall.  I’ve never had to worry about that in my Converse. 

 I was worn out by the time I got to the finish line.  But in addition to my sore feet, I felt a sense of brotherhood– a merging of men from all walks of life gathering together to raise awareness of sexual violence one mile at a time. To top off the evening, I won the “Shoe-In” award this year. I will most definitely be back next year to defend my title.  Every high-heeled woman should be greeted by a crowd of cheering fans whenever she walks a mile in those shoes.
Fast Tube by Casper

Father and Son Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Together

The following is a guest post submitted by Jim Doyle, Executive Director of Self-Protection. org.

Walking with my 9-year-old son around the University of Missouri – Kansas City campus with over 100 other men gave me a chance to teach my son that not all men/boys respect women, even though they should.  At the half way point, my son complained that his feet hurt.  The teaching moment descended upon us as I explained to him, in a nine year old appropriate way, about violence against women.  He spent the remainder of the walk in silent thought.  Why were we there?  

Walk a Mile in Her shoes is an international men’s march to end rape, sexual assault and gender violence.  The awkward march of men clanking around the sidewalks of the campus in high heeled shoes revealed our attitudes about sexual violence.  But, the march must become more than a symbolic gesture.  We must use the event as a commitment to respect women, to start a long-term conversation about gender violence and finally as a catalyst to take action.     

Let’s use this event as a commitment to walk in her shoes every day.  These are our mothers and sisters, wives and girlfriends, our daughters.  Let’s make a commitment to treat every woman in our lives with respect all the time.  And we should demand that our friends and brothers and sons and fathers do the same.

Let’s start a conversation among men.  Let’s have a conversation about our responsibilities in preventing rape, sexual assault and gender violence.  What can each of us do?  What would we want our society to look like for our mothers, sisters, wives or girlfriends?  What kind of society do we want our daughters to grow up in? And finally, how can we participate in this change?

“Getting engaged in changing things is quite straightforward.  If we have an idea, or want to resolve an injustice, or stop a tragedy, we step forward to serve.  Instead of being overwhelmed and withdrawing, we act.”  (From Perseverance by Margaret Wheatley, 2010).

So Men, let’s reflect on the blistered toes and stiff calf muscles and act to end violence in all of its forms.

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes

Fast Tube by Casper
According to RAINN.org, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. College women are 4 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.

On September 14th the UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project along with the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project will put on Walk a Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March to Stop Rape, Sexual Assault, and Gender Violence.

One of the most asked questions that we get here at the Women’s Center is: ‘Is the Women’s Center just for women or can men get involved?’ Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is the best answer to that question. The mission for the event is simply: “Co-creating a United Gender Movement, men will be a part of the solution to ending sexualized violence.” Not only do we encourage men to get involved in all of our events and to come into our center, but we need men for this event to be a success!

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. on the Tuesday, September 14 with check-in. After check-in, there will be some speakers and then a little music to get everyone hyped. At 5:50 p.m., the men will start their mile with the rest of us cheering them on!

After the men complete their walk, it will be time to chow down and hand out awards. Yep, that’s right we are giving away awards and prizes, like a Planet Sub gift card, to those that our judges thought did the best! The whole night will be fun and memorable! It’s a great way to get involved in preventing violence.

If you are interested in participating, men if you want to walk or even if you just want to volunteer to help out, go to www.firstgiving.com/umkcwomenc and register. Also, check out the Women’s Center’s Facebook page and calendar for a listing of all our events gearing up for Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

 Even if you aren’t walking but want to come out and support the event, go to the website and register to attend and you can either donate money or pay $5 to enjoy the food. All proceeds go to benefit UMKC Violence Prevention and Response Project and Kansas City Anti-Violence Project.

So What If You Are A Man, You Are Still Important to the Women’s Center

“So why is there only a women’s center and not a men’s center?”

“How can a man benefit from a women’s center?”

These are just a couple questions the Women’s Center staff at UMKC receives from men who walk into our office.  We are constantly asked these questions because there seems to be a perception that men are not welcome in the Women’s Center or that the programs and services that we offer don’t have anything to do with them.   Could it be the name “Women’s Center” that deters men, or is it, perhaps, a certain chauvinism that makes men feel that they don’t need to be concerned about woman’s issues?

Here at the UMKC Women’s Center, our mission is to advocate, educate and provide support services for the advancement of women’s equity on campus and within the community at large. Although our primary concern focuses on women’s issues and the ongoing struggle for women’s equality, the center is also a place for advocacy, education, and support for both men and women who want to better understand gender issues.

Whether men know it or not, they can be a great asset to raising awareness for ongoing issues such as sexism, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other inequalities women endure on a daily basis.  Men too can have the power to help put an end to these issues. Besides being educated about issues like sexual assault, men can also take part in our events such as “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes”, or “Take Back the Night”, which are two of our events aimed at ending sexual and domestic violence.

So men, we do need your presence in the Women’s Center.  Women’s issues do impact you.  Think about it this way when you are questioning the importance of such a place to you: any of these issues like dating violence, could affect your spouse, girlfriend, mother, sister, niece, aunt, or cousin whom you love.  Each and every day these women you care about are struggling to make their presence more prevalent in society, to gain equality, and to feel safe.  With your help and your knowledge, there is another voice that has to be heard, and not just any voice, but the voice of a man who agrees with women’s issues and women’s equality.  If men continue to ignore such problems, then women will continue to face tribulations and endure not being heard by society.  Men, we need you to continue to raise more awareness about women’s issues. After all, women will always be a part of your life.

Walk A Mile…2009 Pics, Highlights, & Thanks!

Is there anything harder than walking in heels up and down hills or stairs or while pushing a stroller on a college campus? Last night on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, nearly a hundred men found out first hand and gained a new appreciation for what women are put through to look “fashionable” or “sexy” in our culture. About 200 people came out to support these men as they took a stand to march against sexual violence.
Walk A Mile In Her Shoes has been around since 2001 but has received some criticism of late for making a mockery of women’s experience, and also limiting the victimization of sexual violence — as if it only happens to women. Both are valid points. I believe this march creates space to begin conversations about how men and women can partner together to end sexual violence. High heels are only a representation of ALL the devices that are meant to keep women, collectively, “in their place.” As you see in this photo, many men took on other devices in this walk as well, such as pushing a stroller, wearing hose, painting their nails, and wearing skirts.

Even by walking in these shoes for a mile, participants recognized that they will not fully comprehend what it means to be stereotyped and oppressed by these things daily. That said, many men complained
of blisters, turned ankles, and felt gawked at during the march. Many reported they did not know how women could wear heels at all. By walking in heels, men were able to catch a glimpse of women’s daily experience, have an opportunity to broaden their awareness about how sexual violence impacts their loved ones, and learn that they can be part of the solution by becoming active allies in their communities. This is the goal of the “Walk A Mile” events and I believe that was accomplished at UMKC’s 3rd annual event.

Thanks to all that participated and supported the event. It was great to see so many campus and community men and women join together to walk in support of ending sexual violence. A special thanks to the UMKC’s Women Center for making this event possible.