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FHSU, Options partner to provide on-campus resource





Collaborative efforts between Fort Hays State University and Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services have made possible the creation of an on-campus advocate position.

Jessica Carrasco, a criminal justice major from Garden City, stepped into the role in May and has been providing services for FHSU students, faculty and staff continuously through the summer.

Although Charlotte Linsner, Options executive director, and Christie Brungardt, FHSU assistant professor of leadership studies, had discussed the need for an on-campus advocate for many years, dedicated efforts toward creating the position were sparked approximately two years ago.

With one out of every eight college freshmen girls at risk of being raped, Linsner said that sobering statistic points to the critical nature of an on-campus advocacy presence.

"We just kept thinking, we've got to be able to do something," Linsner said. "This seems like a neglected population."

During the past couple of years, President Barack Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, both identified the need for on-campus advocates throughout the nation. To step up to the challenge of meeting that need, Linsner and Brungardt enlisted the help of Tisa Mason, vice president for student affairs and Kenton Olliff, assistant vice president for student affairs, who were "the guiding forces to make sure that things happened on campus," Linsner said.

"It was a really wonderful experience and collaborative effort," she said.

Other campuses throughout the state have advocates on-site, including Kansas State University, the University of Kansas and Pittsburg State University.

On the PSU campus, which Linsner visited as she sought background information in establishing an on-campus advocate, the university also provides domestic and sexual violence education. Linsner said she hopes one day to add that element to the FHSU position.

"We would like to give (Jessica) more time on campus and more exposure," Linsner said. "That's the direction we'd like to be going."

After writing a grant proposal, funds for the position were allocated by the Office of Violence Against Women in January.

"We ended up with a very wonderful advocate, and she's doing a good job," Linsner said.

This is the first experience Carrasco has had as an advocate. However, her passion for helping people, along with her studies in criminal justice and bilingual skills combined to make her an ideal candidate for the position.

"I'm very excited," Carrasco said. "It's really, truly, a big honor to be able to do something to help provide information to the students and the campus ... and to be a part of Options."

Undergoing 88 hours of training in both Hays and Emporia, she has been struck with the need to share that information with other students.

Carrasco works 10 hours on campus and 30 hours at the Options office each week, and said she has been met with a lot of positive feedback from FHSU faculty.

Outreach efforts to high schools in Rooks, Ellis, Trego and Russell counties are planned, with the hope incoming freshmen will have an ongoing connection and recognition for Carrasco when they arrive on the FHSU campus.

"Hopefully, I can get to them," Carrasco said. "To get them to understand about domestic violence and sexual assault. There is help available, and people who care."

Carrasco's on-campus office hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 3 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office is located on the second floor of Sheridan Hall, next to the Office of Student Affairs.