Walk raises awareness of sexual assault

Students remember Karen Hawkins

Students at Northwest Missouri State University use Karen Hawkins’ death as a grim reminder that sexual assault can happen anywhere.

Thursday, more than 100 students gathered to hold a silent walk in remembrance of the former student as well as bring awareness to the issue of violence against women.

In 1995, Karen Hawkins, a former student at Northwest and member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, was brutally assaulted and murdered by a friend she had known since high school. The man, 24-year-old Dennis Lee Jones, had allegedly mistaken their friendship for something more, and when she rejected his advances, he killed her and dumped her body in the 102 River.

Jena Sosnowchik, co-chair of Karen Hawkins Memorial Week and member of Sigma Sigma Sigma, said the walk is held to remind students that such violent acts do happen, even in their small campus community and their temporary hometown.

“I feel like every day when I watch the news, there’s some sort of sexual assault or violence that’s happened somewhere in the country. So, I think everyone needs to know about it, realize it can happen to them and it can happen any day,” Ms. Sosnowchik said. “And they need to know how to protect themselves.”

In fact someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every two minutes, according to statistics provided by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

Ms. Sosnowchik said they teach their sisters about Ms. Hawkins’ death because sexual assault is committed less by the stranger in the night than it is by an acquaintance.

“Karen was killed by a friend she knew since high school, so you never really know,” she said. “We just teach them to use their best judgment.”

Also during Karen Hawkins Memorial Week, the sorority sponsored a self-defense class that was open to women in Maryville and on campus to teach basic moves that can help stop sexual violence. They also held a fundraiser for the Women and Children’s Center is Maryville and St. Joseph.

Kim Norvell can be reached at kim.norvell@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @KimNorvell.
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