LINDSBORG — On average, there are 321,500 victims of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. That statistic is even more stunning because it only includes victims age 12 or older. Those between the ages of 12 and 34 are in the highest risk category for rape and sexual assaults.

In honor of April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, several Bethany College groups — Alpha Theta Chi, Omegas and the Criminal Justice Club — hosted a Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Event on Tuesday evening.

“Two of our professors here on campus actually reached out to us, asking if we wanted to host the event,” noted Alpha Theta Chi President Katelynn Adam.

The evening began with Det. Crystal Marks of the Salina Police Department along with Kansas Bureau of Investigation Agent Crystal Hornseth speaking to the audience of Bethany College students, faculty and staff. They presented information about the importance of consent in sexual relationships, how and when law enforcement is involved after a sexual assault is reported, and how cases of sexual assault are prosecuted.

Bethany College President Will Jones stood up to comment that incidents of sexual assault have academic consequences, whether or not the perpetrator is able to be criminally charged. Students can be dismissed from the college and have an academic withdrawal permanently noted on their record.

Karen Groot, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P for Salina Regional Health Center’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner/Sexual Assault Response Team, spoke about what a sexual assault victim — which could be an adult, adolescent or child — could expect during an examination. Evidence of a sexual assault can be gathered up to five days after it occurred, Groot noted.

Laura Patzner, program director of Safehope, urged students to think about, decide on and communicate their boundaries in sexual relationships with their partners. Safehope serves survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Marion, McPherson and Harvey counties. All of their services are confidential, voluntary and free of charge.

Bethany College Campus Pastor Rev. Amy Truhe led the audience in prayer, singing and a candlelight vigil to honor sexual assault victims to close out the program. 

The Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Event was a good opportunity to learning about the issue and what resources are available to victims and others affected by it.

“I learned a lot,” said Alpha Theta Chi Vice-President Mia Reed. “I didn’t know anything about the detectives and their side of things.”

Adam noted Alpha Theta Chi will also organize Denim Day on campus. The Denim Day campaign takes place on a Wednesday in April in honor of Sexual Violence Awareness Month in remembrance of an overturned rape conviction by the Italian Supreme Court. The justices said that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove them, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim. Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day became a symbol of protest against inaccurate information and apathetic attitudes surrounding sexual assault. This year’s Denim Day is April 25.

For more information about sexual assault and domestic violence resources, call Safehope at 316-283-0350.

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at pmiddleton@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.