SAAM Neighbor

By Bethany Reyna

Image c/o Flickr.com

For my Public Speaking class this semester we had to write a speech commemorating someone or something. During my speech I talked about all of the big events that the Women’s Center puts on, with an emphasis on Sexual Assault Awareness Month and specifically Take Back the Night. When I was finished presenting, a classmate asked me why I cared so much. She wanted to know if there was a specific reason why I did this and why I chose to work at the Women’s Center. At first I had to think about it. I knew this cause was something I had always cared about, but I couldn’t think of a specific reason. By the end of the class though, I had remembered an experience with my next-door neighbor growing up.

*Walter and his wife Ruth had four kids. Two were close to my age and there were also two older girls. They were all homeschooled, so I thought of them as my “home friends” as opposed to my “school friends”.  According to my mother, I wasn’t allowed inside their house for more than a few hours because she and my stepdad thought that Walter and Ruth were a little strange.

The year I turned ten, Walter was arrested for raping two 12 year old girls. When my mother told me who one of the girls was, I vaguely matched a face to a girl who rode the same school bus as me. I remembered her being mean and unpleasant, but at that moment I felt terrible. I thought about how she must have felt when it happened and then how she felt now that Walter had been arrested. I had never really thought of her as being strong, but I remember thinking that it must have taken a lot of strength to tell someone and to talk about what had happened, especially at just 12 years old. As I write this I can still picture what her house looked like in my head and how I would drive by on the bus or ride by on my bike and wonder what she was thinking or how she was feeling at that very moment.

Girls like this are the reason why I want to work for organizations like the Women’s Center and the Violence Prevention and Response Project. I like knowing that the events that we put on may help girls either come forward with their stories, or be more likely to report sexual assault incidents in the future. We help raise awareness to help girls that are in these situations and don’t know what to do about it. I feel better knowing that an article I post, retweet or review may positively influence someone to tell their story or seek help for themselves or for someone that is important in their life. If you are interested in volunteering at the UMKC Women’s Center, please stop by 105 Haag Hall or email us at umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu.

*The names have been changed in this story to protect their actual identities.