Logging onto the Zoom call, UMKC sophomore Skyler Boschen switched on her camera to reveal a soft smile, a bright window and, most unexpectedly, a bird perched on her left shoulder.
As she stopped the blue parrot, Sky, from nibbling on her earring, Boschen recounted the story of how she rescued and adopted her from her previous owners that had abused her. This story, a seemingly unrelated but sweet aspect of Boschen’s life, would actually set the theme for her identity as an individual with a deep empathy for those around her, especially those who are hurting and in need of support.
Born in Boston, MA, Boschen and her family moved to the Kansas City area when she was 11 years old. Boschen was an avid gymnast until a knee injury ended her career, and now she coaches children’s gymnastics at a local center. She attended middle and high school in KC, which is when she was first sexually assaulted.
“The guy only went to jail for seven days,” Boschen recalled. “I didn’t get nearly as much justice as I should’ve gotten in that case.”
Resilient and determined, Boschen moved past the experience and enrolled in UMKC in August 2019 to pursue a degree in sociology and become a social worker. A freshman seeking to relish her time as a college student, she moved into the Oak Street Residence Hall and was enjoying her first semester.
When January 2020 rolled around, the last thing she expected was to have her whole semester begin in the darkness, pain, and rejection that fractured out from the night of her rape. Just 17 years old at the time, Boschen was incapacitated and sexually assaulted by a fellow student during a small party in her own dorm room.
After this happened, Boschen sought out UMKC’s Violence and Prevention Center, which helped her set up an appointment with the Title IX Office. She had to wait nearly two weeks before they were able to get her in and open an investigation.
Boschen is part of 19 percent of women who are sexually assaulted during their time in college, and part of just 12 percent of survivors who report their assault to the police, according to “Know Your IX,” a project conducted by Advocates for Youth.
Boschen said the biggest challenge to recovering from that night was “having to come to the realization that there were multiple people who could’ve stopped it or could’ve helped me and they just didn’t.”
Boschen went on to describe a wave of rejection she experienced as a result of victim-blaming. Many of her friends placed full responsibility on her for being raped, and others would offer empathy riddled with skepticism.
“So many people were saying things like ‘I believe you, but how drunk were you?’ Or, ‘I believe you, but what were you wearing?’” Boschen said. “Just things that are inherently victim-blaming and completely defeat the purpose of saying ‘I believe you.’”
In the wake of this assault and subsequent social turmoil, Boschen has resolved to become an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, especially on campus. She was recently elected president of Roos Against Violence Everywhere (RAVE) and conducted a demonstration outside Oak Street Hall on Monday, January 25th — exactly one year after her assault.
“One of the main things that I want to work towards is making sure that survivors have an advocate on campus,” Boschen said. “That doesn’t really exist, and I really wish I had had one.”
A linchpin in the process of supporting survivors is a proper system of advocacy. Boschen wants to ensure that students have advocates they can turn to for guidance in reporting an assault, feeling protected on campus, and being supported in however they choose to move forward.
For those seeking to get involved, Boschen encourages students to join RAVE, which is still short on the number of students necessary to qualify as a student organization. She also recommends contacting the Violence Prevention Center and Women’s Center, even just to volunteer hanging up posters around campus with information about support resources.
“It’s important to know that someone has your back and knows you’ve just been through a trauma and just need support,” she explained. This is something that she was not offered in the wake of her assault and something she is now striving to provide for others.
Whether it’s with a youth gymnastics group, a rescue parrot, or assault survivors, Boschen sets a standard for advocacy in her pursuit of supporting and teaching others about how to prevent and recover from sexual assault.
If you are a victim of sexual assault and wish to make a report, contact UMKC’s Title IX office (https://info.umkc.edu/title9/makingareport/)or check out KCPD’s resources (https://www.kcpd.org/crime/victim-resources/sex-crimes/). If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please dial 911.