Letter to the Times: Women survivors who are incarcerated need support, too

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

Would you like to send a letter to the Times? Great! Here’s how to do it.

I am writing to express my support for the Topeka West High School, Wichita State University, and University of Kansas students who staged protests last week, accusing their local officials of not doing enough to hold male students accountable for sexually assaulting their female classmates.

I also support the U.S. Olympic gymnasts who recently shined a bright light on how authorities covered up the sexual abuse they’d suffered at the hands of their team doctor.

At some point, I hope the protesters will broaden their cause to include the women at Topeka Correctional Facility who killed the men who were raping them. Their stories, too, have been covered up.

My daughter, Sarah Gonzales-McLinn, killed her controlling abuser in Lawrence in 2014. At the time, she was 19, he was 52. A jury found her guilty of first-degree murder; the Kansas Supreme Court upheld her Hard 50 sentence. The sentence was later reduced to a Hard 25-to-life in exchange for her giving up her right to further appeals.

Should my daughter spend another 18 years in prison for killing the man she says had been raping her two to three times a week for almost a year? I think not.

Did the judicial processes get to the bottom of what was going on behind closed doors between my daughter and her abuser? No, it did not.

Did the Kansas Supreme Court’s 66-page decision include the word “rape”? No, it did not.

At the women’s prison, my daughter’s story is not unique. The systems that are slow in addressing sexual assaults and find ways to cover up a team doctor’s pedophilia are the same as those that dismiss the inmates’ stories with a centuries-old disclaimer: “If he was so bad, she could have left him.”

Is that acceptable? No, it’s not.

Michelle Gonzales, Topeka

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Resources for survivors

If you have experienced sexual violence or trauma, please seek the help that’s right for you. There are many options available, and you don’t have to file a police report if you don’t want to.

Get 24/7 help in Lawrence: The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center
  • Call 785-843-8985 to reach an advocate, 24/7. (Consider saving that number in your phone in case you or someone you know ever needs it.)
  • After an assault: What are my options? Check this page for detailed information about
    • talking to an advocate,
    • going to the hospital,
    • making a police report,
    • and/or talking to a counselor or therapist.
  • On campus? Check this page for specific resources for the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Baker University, Ottawa University and more.
Resources on KU’s campus:
  • Contact the CARE (Campus Assistance, Resource, and Education) Coordinator: Students can make an appointment by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255. It’s free, confidential and voluntary to talk with the CARE Coordinator. All genders welcome. Read more here.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link. Specific information about sexual assault exams can be found here.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance. (Note: CARE Sisters provide peer support and education, but this is not a 24/7 service like others listed here.)
Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
More resources
  • StrongHearts Native Helpline: Call 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) for 24/7 safe, confidential and anonymous domestic and sexual violence support for Native Americans and Alaska Natives that is culturally appropriate.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.
Click here to find out how to send a letter to the Times
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