Advocates shed light on violence issues
By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
The 12 posters outside the conference about domestic and sexual violence were haunting.
A 25-year-old woman was beaten and suffocated to death by her boyfriend. Another victim died after her husband repeatedly stabbed her. One woman's order of protection could not save her from being shot at work.
Their stories were different, but they were all Kansas women.
Approximately 100 people attended Tuesday's educational summit and Wednesday's forensics training seminar at Hays Medical Center that focused on confronting violence in the community and the forensic science of treating victims at the hospital. Concerned individuals, advocates, physicians, nurses and law enforcement officials were among the guests.
Rus Funk, executive director of MensWork in Louisville, Ky., gave Tuesday's keynote speech. Funk's organization seeks to engage men as allies to prevent sexual and domestic violence.
"What are the risk factors here? How does perpetuating gender-based violence become an option in Hays?" Funk said.
Funk's presentation proposed that only a community effort effectively can instill in men disrespect, abuse and physical violence against women are wrong. Rather than ignore hateful comments they hear, men should address them, he said.
"The easiest thing we would ask you to do is that when you hear other men say things about women, violence or rape that troubles you ... say why you're offended," Funk said.
The domestic violence summit is in its third year, and the forensic component was added this year, said Christie Brungardt, co-founder of Jana's Campaign Inc. Brungardt's daughter, Jana, was a victim of domestic violence in 2008.
Jana was one of more than 12 million annual victims of violence, rape or stalking by a partner, according to data from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Brungardt said she was talking with Charlotte Linsner, executive director of Options: Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, and they realized training for domestic violence prevention and victim support was not available in Hays.
"For most training that takes place for these issues, you have to go to Wichita or Topeka," Brungardt said.
Ashley Campbell, an advocate with Options and a sexual assault survivor, shared her story Wednesday with attendees. Campbell urged anyone who is a victim of abuse to come forward.
"If you don't say anything, we can't help you," Campbell said. "You didn't choose for it to happen, and you shouldn't have to bear the burden by yourself."
Strategies for Change, Fort Hays State University's Women's Leadership Project, HaysMed, the Hays Police Department, SKIL Resource Center and LINK Inc. also hosted the program.
The event was sponsored by Nex-Tech Wireless, Eagle Communications and the Hays Convention & Visitors Bureau.