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Lawrence’s Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center celebrates 50 years

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The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center honored Lawrence community members and celebrated its 50th anniversary Thursday at Venue 1235.

The Care Center was founded in 1972 as a response to the growing number of sexual assault allegations on at KU. It began with a powerful group of women who volunteered their time and talent to gain support from the community and create a safe space for survivors. Today, the center offers both group and individual therapy sessions for survivors, a 24/7 support hotline, comprehensive sexual education and community workshops that focus on preventing sexual violence — all free of charge for those who receive services.

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Volunteers like 19-year-old Hunter Finerty, of Baldwin City, help make those services possible.

“Sexual violence is something that everyone knows happens, but a lot of people don’t necessarily know how to get involved in the path to stopping it from happening. (Volunteering is) a very accessible way to have a very real impact,” Finerty said. 

The awards ceremony began with an opening speech from Chrissy Heikkila, executive director.

Gabi Sprague was named as the 2022 Outstanding Community Member. Sprague is Douglas County’s human services program manager, and she works to help prevent homelessness by utilizing community resources. 

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Chrissy Heikkila
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Gabi Sprague

Aletra Johnson was recognized as the Care Center’s Outstanding Volunteer. She also serves as the president on the center’s board of directors. 

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Aletra Johnson, left, and Chrissy Heikkila

Other awards were Outstanding Non-Profit, given to the Children’s Advocacy Center; Outstanding Community Business, going to Merchants Pub and Plate; and another Outstanding Community Member award to Mariel Ferreiro. 

Since its inception 50 years ago, the Care Center has served thousands of clients — around 900 individuals sought the center’s services in 2021 alone. The event celebrated the Care Center’s history and made a toast to another 50 years of service. 

The Care Center currently serves Douglas, Jefferson and Franklin counties, and has offices in Oskaloosa and Ottawa. The organization has no plans to stop growing: at the end of 2022, the main office will relocate to 330 Maine St. 

“We started as just a small grassroots organization, just a couple of people getting together through KU. It’s blossomed into what we are today,” said Megan Engleman, director of communications.

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times Megan Engleman, director of communications, helps hand out awards. 
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The walking historical timeline took up an entire wall, telling the story of the Care Center’s history through posters, old news releases and memorabilia. 

Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times
Chloe Anderson/Lawrence Times

Venue 1235 was decorated in the Care Center’s trademark orange and blue. Snacks, candy and drinks were provided. 

Just hours before the event, the governor’s office announced that the Care Center would receive a $128,597 grant from the state general fund.

The Care Center is largely grant-funded, but donations are always gladly appreciated. To donate, Venmo @STACareCenter or mail a check to 708 W. Ninth St. #105, Lawrence, KS 66044. 

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Chloe Anderson (she/her), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a senior at the University of Kansas majoring in film and media production and minoring in journalism. She’s a freelance photographer, writer for Climbing magazine and the associate multimedia editor for The University Daily Kansan.

You can view her portfolio, articles and commissioned work here. Read more of her work for the Times here.

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: Make an appointment by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link.
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.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.

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