“We’re here. We believe you. We support you. It’s not your fault.”
That was the message Kathy Ray delivered to a gathering outside the Riley County Courthouse Thursday over the noon hour. The executive director of The Crisis Center Inc, was one of several from the Flint Hills Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) to give remarks at the event, held in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is recognized in April.
Ray says the team is working on responses and a number of efforts in the community to ensure victims and survivors feel supported throughout the process.
“That they get connected to the resources and the medical care and the different options that they have, because when they are better supported, our criminal justice system can work better and they can better hold offenders accountable,” she said.
According to 2021 data from the Kansas Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, led by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 907 suspects were identified with a trackable criminal history. Those suspects accounted for more than 7,300 sexual and other violent offenses in Kansas. Ray noted in her remarks Thursday that 1 in 5 Kansans will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.
Assistant Riley County Police Department Director Kurt Moldrup says while the focus remains on holding suspects accountable, victims are now in more control of how these crimes get investigated, noting RCPD’s Your Option, Your Control policy.
“It lets them decide to what degree the department gets involved in things so they don’t feel like they come to us and now we run with things, against what they’re wanting,” he said.
Moldrup acknowledges it can be intimidating for someone to talk to a police officer. Since 2020, RCPD has employed Melissa Mosher as its Victim Advocate Coordinator. Her work is funded through the federal Victim of Crime Act grant.
Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson noted in his remarks that it takes a community effort to slow down these types of crimes.
“It’s going to take a community response both to respond to the crimes that have already occurred and to try to help us reduce the number of crimes that will occur in the future,” he said.
Wilkerson has more than 30 years of experience prosecuting sexual assault crime and says it’s important victims have that support system in place,
“This is a lifetime recovery process. If we have a community that will also help us hold offenders accountable when they perpetrate these types of crimes, frankly when they will make sure the systems are held accountable, from law enforcement, from prosecution standpoint and the court system. It takes all of us,” he said.
In terms of services available at The Crisis Center, Ray says everything is completely confidential.
“We have a whole host of advocacy services really tailored to what they need. No one is going to know that you have come to us for that help and support,” she said.
For more information on the Crisis Center’s services, call (785) 539-2785 or visit thecrisiscenter.org.