Her campaign to snuff out sexual assault

By Katherine Wartell

Though K-State senior Kaitlyn Dechant may find humor in many things, jokes about rape won’t make her crack a smile. That all too-worn joke amongst students that a particularly hard test “raped” them only exasperates her.

As an employee of the K-State Women’s Center, Dechant has worked for the past two years to dispel rape myths and discourage harmful attitudes about rape and assault across the K-State campus.

During this time, she has also served as the president of the student group Wildcats Against Rape.

As a student employee of the women’s center, Dechant said she’s become the right-hand woman of Mary Todd, the center’s director, and acts as an advocate for students when Todd is unavailable.

One of the more well-known purposes of the center is to advocate for students who have been victimized, but Dechant said they actively work to promote a safe, non-violent environment across campus in the hopes rape and assault can be prevented.

According to the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, 20 percent of women and 6 percent of men will be the victims of attempted or actual sexual assault in college.

During her tenure with the center and WAR, Dechant’s also become something of an event planner.

Last year, she organized Darcy’s Run, named after a survivor of sexual assault. Monetary donations from the run benefitted the Panzi Hospital, which treats women who have been raped, in the Congo. During the run, Dechant said, sweats were also collected for Mercy Regional Health Center to be given to assault victims whose clothes are taken for evidence.

In March, Dechant planned Wildcats Against Rape Speak Out for Those Who Spoke Out. At that event accounts of sexual assault and rape were publicly read in Bosco Plaza from the Women’s Center publication, Purple Cried, a collection of student accounts of assault and healing. Purple Cried is available through the Women’s Center for a donation of $10.

And only a few weeks ago, Dechant planned the event Can I Kiss You?, where Mike Domitrz, the founder of The Date Safe Project, spoke on ways to promote respectful dating among college students.

Dechant, of Garden City, is currently working on an undergraduate degree in psychology, with a minor in conflict analysis and trauma studies.

She plans to attend graduate school for clinical psychology with the hope of working as a therapist for adolescents who have experienced trauma. “Some people call me crazy because I want to work with adolescents… but I think it will be rewarding,” Dechant said.

Her path to victim advocacy started her freshman year of college when she volunteered for a semester at the Manhattan Crisis Center. At that facility she primarily answered the center’s hotline.

She began working at the Women’s Center a couple of semesters later after she contacted Todd looking for a summer activity. “I have loved it, every second of it,” she said.

As a Women’s Center employee, Dechant leads presentations on rape and assault and in doing so attempts to dispel various myths surrounding rape.

Those myths include the belief that a person is more likely to be attacked by an unknown assailant than someone they might consider their friend, when the reality is that most rapes, according to statistics, are committed by someone known to the victim.

Another myth, Dechant said, is the belief that if a woman dresses provocatively, she is asking for any negative attention she receives. “No one asks to be violated,” Dechant said.

As a part of the center’s presentations, Dechant said they like to educate students on people they call “tricky wolves.”

“There are people out there who are just trying to take something from you,” Dechant said of the people she calls wolves in sheep’s clothing. “You can’t trust everybody.”

Dechant said she doesn’t like teaching women how to prevent rape, but she believes they should have the tools to stay as safe as they can. To really prevent rape, she said there should be an emphasis on educating men.

To that end, Dechant and employees of the Women’s Center often speak at fraternities and dormitories to educate on valid consent and what’s okay and not okay.

Women are not the only victims of rape or assault and Dechant said it’s important that men know the center, despite its name, is also a resource for them.

She works at the center for about 14 hours per week and meets with WAR approximately once a month.

Outside of her work with both, she also conducts research for Marriage and Family Therapy and has worked with Don Saucier, professor of psychology, on a study of the perception of rape on campus.

After graduating from K-State in May, she hopes to attend graduate school in Chicago in the fall.

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