Spotlight on Partnerships

GaDuGi SafeCenter, KU Partners for Supportive Services
December 8, 2014

This article is one in a series of stories highlighting collaborations between KU and Douglas County United Way community partners. Through December 12, 2014, KU encourages donations to the KU United Way Fund Drive in support of human service agency efforts like the one below. Donations can be made through United Way by payroll deduction, paper pledge form, or credit card gift.

LAWRENCE - Rachel Gadd-Nelson, Director of Community Engagement for GaDuGi Safe Center, believes that feeling empowered is the first step to healing after experiencing sexual violence.

"To this day, the silence and shame around sexual violence means that it’s difficult for survivors to articulate what they have been through. Our role as a rape crisis center is to try to continue the conversation so that folks can get validation and assurance that they are not alone."

GaDuGi SafeCenter began on the KU campus in 1972 as the Rape Victim Support Service (RVSS). Concerned KU students recognized the need for supportive services for victims/survivors of sexual violence. Run solely by KU volunteers, RVSS was the first stand-alone rape crisis center in Kansas.

As RVSS expanded and awareness about sexual assault evolved, the group moved off campus and added paid staff members. In 2004, RVSS adopted the name GaDuGi SafeCenter to reflect the inclusion of all individuals who have suffered from sexual violence, regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. “GaDuGi” is derived from Cherokee language that translates as “working together as a community toward a common goal.”

Today GaDuGi continues that work alongside members of the KU community. Gadd-Nelson, in collaboration with faculty members, gave over thirty presentations across the KU campus during the Fall 2014 semester alone.

GaDuGi staff also work with campus entities—the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity, and SURGE (Students United for Reproductive and Gender Equity)—to provide a space for students to discuss and process current events and social justice issues.

“Connecting universities to local rape crisis centers is something that is recommended as a best practice from the White House’s Campus Sexual Assault Task Force,” Gadd-Nelson said.

In addition to the efforts specific to campus, GaDuGi has twelve volunteer advocates trained to provide frontline support to any victim/survivor. According to Gadd-Nelson, the majority of those volunteers are from KU. "Our volunteer advocates go through an extensive 40-hour training that covers in-depth education on the complexity of sexual violence as well as skills necessary for advocacy and counseling with survivors,” said Gadd-Nelson.

Gadd-Nelson herself started as a volunteer before being on staff at GaDuGi and can attest to the impact of connecting with its supportive community. “It was a really powerful experience. The community of people who care so much about sexual violence issues is life changing."

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