Sexual assault survivors face extra challenges in rural communities

Janene Radke
Janene Radke

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Sexual assault is a key issue in the presidential campaign. While Donald Trump calls his accusers liars, it highlights the challenges involved in reporting an assault. Those challenges are even greater in rural communities.

“We can’t just assume that somebody is lying,” said Janene Radke with Garden City’s Family Crisis Services. It just keeps perpetuating that rape culture that has been normalized throughout our society.”

Survivors’ credibility is an issue she is passionate about, especially after sexual assault has become part of the national political conversation.

“The hardest part to me is seeing that there are so many people willing to say that these women that have stepped up are just lying and not really listening to what they’re saying, when in actuality, it takes incredible bravery to come out and tell their stories,” she said.

She says that bravery to report a sexual assault comes with even more significant challenges in rural areas.

“One of the bad things about a small community is everybody knows everybody and so if you report a sexual assault, there’s a higher chance that everybody in the community is going to know what’s happening.”

A survivor in rural parts of Kansas that wants to come forward faces additional hurdles. Family Crisis Services helps survivors in seven counties, and the center in Hays covers 19.

“It’s difficult,” said Radke, “because there’s a lot of people that don’t want to travel two hours to have an exam done, and they’ll choose not to because of that.”

But Radke encourages women to come forward, whether for exams, counseling, or emergency shelter. Programs like hers provide help anonymously.

Additionally, assault and consent are often difficult to prove in court.

“Just because somebody is not proven guilty in a court of law does not mean it didn’t happen,” said Radke.