The following remarks were given by CEO Kathleen Marker at YWCA’s Week Without Violence March and Rally on Friday, October 20th.
Good morning! I am Kathleen Marker, CEO of YWCA Northeast Kansas. On behalf of all of the staff, board of directors, and volunteers at YWCA Northeast Kansas, I want to thank you all for showing up today and for holding space for survivors as we renew our collective commitment to addressing the root causes of trauma that feed into the cycle of harm, to transforming institutions, and to moving from reckoning to resolution.
Before we get started, I want to recognize our incredible staff for all the work they do day in and day out to provide a safe, nurturing and empowering environment to 15,000 survivors, children, and families in Northeast Kansas. This has been a challenging year (or two!), and I think it’s important we take a moment to recognize the tireless dedication of our YWCA team. Thank you!
I also want to take a moment to thank Emily Steimel-Handy for her hard work to make this year’s Week Without Violence a success.
Before we go any further, we need to recognize that we are gathered today on the ancestral land of the Kaw and Osage Peoples, past and present, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded this land throughout generations.
Over the past two years, we have come to hear the word “resilience” used in a hundred different ways, but for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence, resilience has always been critical.ering women by moving from reckoning to resolution, because we understand firsthand that it is unfair to expect any individual or community to continue to endure trauma without support.
We need to move the conversation about gender-based violence past the focus on an individual survivor’s endurance and instead towards centering healing and our collective responsibility to create a safe, healthy, equitable community where everyone can thrive.
But sometimes it seems, as a community, we’re not even ready to have a conversation about moving from surviving to thriving when we have seen a substantial rise in the incidence of domestic violence in Northeast Kansas and across the country. Social distancing and isolation at the beginning of the pandemic escalated the risk of violence for survivors through more time spent at home, while we continue to face increased levels of household stress, economic stress, and housing stress. WE ARE SEEING THE UPTICK IN VIOLENCE HAPPEN RIGHT HERE. TODAY.
Here are some of the local headlines just from the last six weeks:
Sharp increase in domestic violence in Topeka, resources available for help
Rape victims don’t always report the crime right away. Here are some of the reasons why.
Family, friends of Topeka woman killed in violent domestic attack help raise awareness
In Shawnee County, there were 281 cases of domestic violence reported in 2020. This is more than double the cases that were reported in 2016 according to the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office.
And we continue to mourn the tragic deaths of two Topeka women just days apart just this last month. In the last 3 years, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation has reported 14 of 55 homicides have been ruled as domestic violence related, but we have been told that the statistic could be as high as 50% of all homicides.
The adverse impacts of domestic violence-related trauma are far-reaching. In addition to physical injury and death, survivors are at a higher risk of chronic mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. We know that right here in Topeka, our suicide rate increased by 140% in January of this year. Victim services programs are suicide prevention. Affordable housing, mental health services, access to healthy foods, quality education, a living wage… these are all interconnected issues that we must continue to tackle head-on as a community if we want to end all gender-based violence.
While the statistics are stark, we must still listen with intent to the stories of those with lived experiences of racism, sexism, and violence, and we must cultivate hope by uplifting these stories of courage and strength while taking concrete actions to correct the root causes of disparity in our communities.
As Audre Lorde famously coined, “your silence will not protect you,” we must continue our work of raising our voices and demanding a safer future for survivors today and every day. Let today be the rallying cry for us all to recommit to believing survivors, to supporting survivors, and to taking action to move from reckoning to resolution so that we can end gender-based violence, together. Thank you.
In the News:
If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, our crisis hotline is available 24/7: (888) 822-2983