Victim advocate Kathy Ray is convinced societal impulses driving the oppression and domination of others foment gender-based violence that casts a long shadow over Kansans.
It is as if roots of repression are part of a tree in which the branches represented all forms of violence, including sexual assault, rape and human trafficking, she said.
"We have to ask ourselves: Are we just pruning the branches or are we pulling up the roots?" said Ray, advocacy director with the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.
She joined Highland Park High School's marching band, Gov. Laura Kelly, Topeka schools superintendent Tiffany Anderson, Kathleen Marker, of the YWCA of Northeast Kansas, and others Friday at the capitol for the YWCA Week Without Violence Rally and March.
Anderson said national statistics indicated 10% percent of teens experienced violence and more than 20% of high school and college students suffered physical harm associated with dating. The superintendent said teen suicide in Kansas has surged 30% as the state's youths struggle to deal with bullying, violence and other challenges. Help drawn from family, peers and the community does matter, she said.
"In order to be powerful, equal and unstoppable, you need support from the roots," she said.
Marker, chief executive officer of the YWCA of Northeast Kansas, said the organization documented a nearly 40% surge in services provided to victims of human trafficking.
She said the YWCA plans to open in November a day center in Topeka for those affected by human trafficking.
"Sexual exploitation is happening right here in Topeka," Marker said.
Kelly said 77,000 Kansans last year received advocacy services offered by YWCA of Northeast Kansas and 25 other programs responding to the state's plague of domestic and sexual violence. In a single day, the governor said, more than 700 victims of domestic violence stepped forward.
"Tragically," Kelly said, "one in four homicides in Kansas in 2018 were domestic violence related. The sheer number of people affected by this issue in our state is both shocking and heartbreaking."
Kelly, wearing a shirt reading "Gender justice is social justice," praised the Republican-led 2019 Legislature for passing a bill providing protection to Kansans compelled to unexpectedly break a rental agreement, including individuals who were victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and stalking.
Under the law, landlords can't deny housing or evict someone for being a victim. The statute was designed so people who must leave a property immediately won't be liable for future rent if certain conditions are met.
"Kansans dealing with abusive domestic situations don’t always have time to plan their next move," the governor said. "When they need to leave a dangerous situation quickly, this legislation ensures landlords can’t discriminate, can’t evict and can’t charge unreasonable fees for breaking a lease."