Talk about SAAM

By Melba Sanchez Fernandez


The month of April officially became Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States in 2011. It started out as only a week, but in response to the growing popularity of protests against violence such as Take Back the Night in the 1970s and 80s, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) extended it to the whole month. After a poll was completed by the Research Sharing Group, the color teal became the official color and the ribbon the official symbol of SAAM. Throughout the month of April, programs and events are held to inform women and men about issues surrounding and dealing with sexual assault; including some events held here at UMKC. Check out the UMKC Women’s Center Calendar for more information on our upcoming SAAM events!

Also check out some of the videos below which directly deal with Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOSCA) on the importance of SAAM

Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army

SAAM 2012


For more information about the UMKC Women’s Center and our upcoming events please visit our website: or call us at (816) 235-1638


Update: Rape Definition


By Emily Mathis

In October, I wrote about how the FBI’s rape definition was out of date and needed revising. Well as of a couple of days ago there was some voting about what to do with the definition and there was a unanimous vote to change it.  This unanimous vote comes after the Rape is Rape campaign that got 160,000 emails sent to the FBI protesting the current rape definition.

The voices of the campaign were heard and there have been some major victories towards revision of the outdated definition, which reads: “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” Now the updated but yet-to-be-approved definition says rape is:  “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This new definition takes out the word forcible and that the victim has to be a woman.

While this new definition is a step in the right direction to getting all rapes counted for there is still one more step. The final step is getting FBI Director Robert Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder to update the current definition. Go here to sign the petition on

When Will Victim-Blaming Stop?

By Kristina Gardner

You’ve heard about it. These awful cases of victim-blaming; from the case of the Toronto Police Officer telling girls to stop wearing skirts to school or they will get raped, to the New York City Police Officer warning women to stop wearing revealing clothing on the streets of Brooklyn (and in general) or they will get raped, to the newest piece that came out about the Radio Host blaming the Occupy Wall Street protestors for getting “raped and groped”. Why would you ever even think to blame the victim of a rape or any kind of sexual assault for the action of the person that did that to them! I don’t think women go around saying “I hope wearing this very cute skirt to go out with my friends doesn’t attract rapists.” No, she’s thinking about having a night on the town with her girlfriends, and looking good to have a good time. Or whatever the reason – because let’s face it, skirts are pretty comfortable—she should be able to wear that skirt or “revealing clothing” without any worries about being sexually assaulted. But I digress.

We have got to stop blaming the victims of these sexual assaults, stop asking them what they could have done to prevent it, blaming them for wearing that skirt, or low cut shirt, and start blaming the people that are doing these crimes! And doing something about it! These police officers should not be worrying about what the women were wearing, but rather worrying about getting the person that raped them, or preventing the possible rapes.

So, what if a horrible thing like sexual assault happens? What should we do as a friend to the person that has been sexually assaulted?

What to do…

if someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, domestic/relationship violence, or stalking:

  • Believe them. People rarely lie about dealing with these issues.
  • Listen and concentrate on understanding their feelings.
  • Allow them to be silent; you don’t have to talk every time they stop talking.
  • Ask how you can help.
  • Don’t ask questions that imply that the rape, abuse, or stalking is their fault, such as “Why did you go to his room?”, “Why are you staying with that person?”, or “Why didn’t you run away?”
  • Offer to accompany them to the police, to seek medical attention, or to seek counseling.
  • Help them regain a sense of control by letting them decide what to do. Help them explore the options and then support them in making their own decisions about how to proceed.
  • Remind them that rape, abuse and stalking are not their fault.
  • Offer shelter or companionship, so they don’t have to be alone.

UMKC Violenc Prevention and Response





October 18, 1978

The following is a guest post by Deb Schmidt-Rogers. It orginally appeared on her blog

33 years ago, my family was changed in a moment of sexual violence that you only read about in the papers. We all know the statistics about rape. Somewhere in America, a women is raped every two minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. One in four women are victims of rape or attempted rape, 84% of those women knew their attacker, 57% of the rapes have happened while on dates. About 42% of the victims told no one, 38 % of the women raped are between the ages of 14-17. 75% of men and 55% of the women involved in date rape had been drinking or taking drugs before the attack occurred.

My sister was 16 years old at the time. It was the last of a string of lovely fall days and instead of taking the ride offered to her, she opted to walk home from work. She was not in the 84%. Her rape took place at the hands of a stranger, in the forest preserve where he dragged her off the busy street with no one paying attention. He raped her multiple times and told her not to tell anyone because he knew where she lived. She walked home when he was done with her. Her rape was reported in the newspaper – the last reported rape of the “Jogging Rapist”.

Her rape was her first sexual experience. It was the first time that she experienced fear, and was the last time she ever prayed “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Her rape forever changed my family. She was the happy one, the only one who could ‘defy’ my father and have him laugh about it. She did not take life seriously, she was always happy and smiling. 33 years later I rarely hear her laugh, her smiles come for her children only.

I was 20 years old at the time and attending college at Loyola University. My parents called me very early the next morning, and while I have no memory of this my roommates tell me that I was destructive in the room. I only remember crying. My brother was in college at Northwestern at the time and we took the el home together not speaking.

What do you say when you walk into the house and see your little sister bruised physically and emotionally? How do you begin the conversation? How do you heal? I remember my father crying and I overheard him say to my mom, “I am afraid to hug her, to touch her. What will she think, what will she do?” As a parent, how do you feel when the child you were supposed to protect was alone when she needed you the most?

She had flashbacks for years. I witnessed several of them and learned to just be quiet and let her experience them. It took years before we talked about the details of the rape, before she was okay to tell us the memories she still has about this event. Her children do not know she was raped.

As an adult, the word rape is one that I want kept for the most heinous of crimes. Sexual assault does not sound harsh enough to me. When I hear people say that humans are “raping” the earth I want to shout NO…people get raped. When I see and hear and experience rape culture each and every day of my life I think of my sister. And it does happen each and every day. My sister used to speak about rape culture and she wrote several articles about rape culture – it was one way she tried to heal. She tells me that she will never be whole, never be healed but that you learn to live daily with the memories and the pain and the altered life.

Today I will call my sister and tell her that I love her and I am thinking of her. My husband finds this to be an odd tradition in my family but each of her siblings and my parents will call and tell her the same thing. She is a beautiful woman, a woman deserving of hope and of healing and she needs to hear that message as often as we can say it.

In my work I often think of the rapes that go unreported. Seeing my sister struggle to regain some sense of normalcy (which literally took 15 years) I wonder about the women I pass each day on campus. Who is holding them close when they relive their rape? Who is telling them they are deserving of hope and healing? Who calls them to say they are loved?

SISTER by Cris Williamson
Born of the earth, Child of God…just one among the family.
And you can count on me to share the load, and I will always help you
hold your burdens and I will be the one to help you ease your pain.
Lean on me I am your sister; believe on me, I am your friend.
Lean on me I am your sister; believe on me, I am your friend.
Lean on me I am your sister; believe on me, I am your friend.
I will fold you in my arms like a white wing dove…
Shine in your soul , your spirit is crying…spirit is crying.
Born of the earth, Child of God…just one among the family.
And you can count on me to share the load,
and I will always help you hold your burdens and I will be the one to help
you ease your pain.
Lean on me I am your sister; believe on me, I am your friend.
Lean on me I am your sister; believe on me, I am your friend.
Lean on me I am your sister; believe on me, I am your friend.