October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Women’s Leadership Project began with an event to highlight red flags that could lead to abuse in relationships.
The Silent No More Walk took approximately a dozen students — all female — around the quad where posters offered scenarios that highlighted behaviors such as stalking and victim-blaming. Small red flags lined the sidewalks near Fort Hays State University's Memorial Union, and larger flags were tied around trees in the quad.
“It’s to educate people about the warning signs and red flags that can be in relationships and get people talking,” said Kandice Wright, a student coordinator for the Women’s Leadership Project.
“It’s to let them know this can and does happen in small towns,” she said.
At each poster, Wright and fellow student coordinator Elaine Parkinson described the scenario and led discussion about each.
They then handed out small red flags for students to place in the grass in front of the Memorial Union.
Inside the union’s Stouffer Lounge, the students gathered to hear testimonies of women talk about how violence had affected their lives.
One of the women told the students about being raped in 2008 by her best friend’s boyfriend after a night out, during which she started feeling ill.
At the time, Hays Medical Center did not have a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner/Sexual Assault Response Team program to collect physical evidence, and she had to go to Salina. The trip and exam took 10 hours, she said.
Not wanting to sleep in her bed, where the rape happened, she slept on her living room floor. That continued for several months, until she was contacted by an FHSU Leadership Studies student who was part of a group trying to bring the SANE/SART program to HaysMed.
“I could continue to sleep on my living room floor. I could continue to let this situation overtake my life. Or I could stand up, be that voice for current and future victims and make a change in my community,” she said.
“I then stood up, and that was the last night I slept on my living room floor,” she said.
HaysMed started a SANE/SART program in 2010.
Amanda Legleiter told the students how physical abuse at home and sexual abuse from older boys when she was growing up affected her relationships and life as an adult — drinking a lot, finding herself attracted to men who were harmful and allowing guilt to make her feel as if she were to blame.
She reached a point where she realized she had to make a change in her life.
“I realized I needed to step out of my past. I needed to love myself. I needed to figure out who I was and focus on that,” she said, at times her voice breaking.
She also realized her young son needed to know what a truly loving relationship was.
“I decided what kind of life I wanted for myself and my son,” she said.
She encouraged anyone suffering from a sexual assault to talk about it.
“Just talk to somebody and get some perspective instead of keeping it all inside. The guilt, it just feeds on itself,” she said.