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Dreams becoming reality for Fort Hays, Options

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

The hope of one day having an advocate on the Fort Hays State University campus for victims of domestic and sexual violence soon will become a reality through community and university collaboration efforts.

"College women are often forgotten," said Charlotte Linsner, executive director of Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, "but there is domestic violence going on all the time in college."

One particularly disturbing element of domestic and sexual violence on campus, Linsner said, is frequently a victim will leave the campus to avoid contact with their attacker, who often remains on campus.

"Why should (the victim's) education be shortened due to the fact there is no service on campus?" Linsner asked. "Having an advocate gives them an easier way to visit with somebody and get the information."

Spark for the effort to bring an advocate to campus came in 2010 when an FHSU leadership studies class worked to implement an improved sexual assault response team and bring a sexual assault nurse examiner program to Hays.

That effort, Linsner said, led her to explore options to house an advocate on campus. With the help of another leadership studies class, that project began to move forward.

Several FHSU faculty and staff members worked with Linsner to bring the advocate program to campus. Christie Brungardt, assistant professor of leadership studies, Tisa Mason, vice president for student affairs, and Kenton Olliff, assistant vice president for student affairs and director of Kelly Center, met frequently and researched similar programs at other universities.

Having an advocate on campus, Mason said, will be beneficial to educating and serving students.

"Our hope is that we will impact student awareness, health and safety, and help students succeed in college and life," she said. "One student negatively impacted by sexual assault or dating violence is one tragedy too many."

After putting together a memorandum of understanding with FHSU, Linsner sought funding for the project, which was procured through the Violence Against Women Act/STOP grants.

The advocate, who is undergoing training, will work 10 hours per week on the FHSU campus and 10 hours with Options, and assume duties by the end of March.

The position might become full-time in the future, Linsner said, after finding out the extent of the need for services on campus.

Working with FHSU staff and students has made the process of creating the position come together smoothly, Linsner said.

"It was just a really easy, comfortable collaboration once we got together with Fort Hays State University," she said. "It's really been a nice effort."