Archive for Friday, September 19, 2008

Parents of slain KU student speak at Take Back the Night gathering

Susan Burke, of Lawrence, chants while marching down Massachusetts Street on Thursday during the Take Back the Night rally. The gathering is an annual event that raises awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.

Susan Burke, of Lawrence, chants while marching down Massachusetts Street on Thursday during the Take Back the Night rally. The gathering is an annual event that raises awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault.

September 19, 2008


Rally honors KU student's memory

Parents of a KU Law School student killed two and a half months ago speak publicly for the first time since their daughter's brutal murder. Community members gathered Thursday night in South Park for the annual 'Take Back the Night' rally and march. Enlarge video

It's been a hard, painful journey for Christie and Curt Brungardt.

When their daughter, Kansas University law student Jana Mackey, was killed by her former boyfriend in July, they were victims. After the initial shock of Jana's death, they became survivors. And Friday night, during the Take Back the Night event in South Park, they became advocates.

The Brungardts spoke to about 200 community members at the annual event aimed at bringing awareness to the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The gathering featured informational booths by community organizations that combat violence in the area, like the Clothesline Project. Attendees at the event designed T-shirts, describing personal experiences with sexual assault and violence, which were added to the more than 200 collected by Women's Transitional Care Services from victims of abuse.

And while the atmosphere at the event was festive - music, cotton candy, kids playing - the stories told by survivors of abuse were powerful and emotional.

The Brungardts talked about the important work their daughter had done as an advocate for women's rights, work they said needs to be continued.

"Jana had done her part," Christie Brungardt said. "What are we going to do?"

The Brungardts have launched a Web site,, in honor of their daughter and her work as an advocate. The site provides options for those interested in getting involved in addressing violence.

Event speaker Kathleen Wilkinson, who said she had been abused for 15 years, urged victims of violence to speak up.

"We keep this hidden," Wilkinson said, adding that agencies, including event sponsor WTCS, are there to help victims of violence when a way out doesn't seem possible.

Gretchen Auten, a WTCS employee, reminded attendees that domestic violence and sexual assault are something that can happen to anyone.

"We are all Jana Mackey," Auten said. "We are all at risk."

After the event at South Park, members of the crowd marched to Watson Park for a candlelight vigil and "speak-out" session, where survivors of abuse continued to tell their stories.

While the statistics of domestic violence and sexual assault show how frequently violence occurs, it's the personal descriptions of violence that have the most impact.

Even a member of the band performing at the event, Seed Love, was recently affected by violence. Band member Damon Bailey told the crowd during the performance that a friend had been shot Thursday outside a Kansas City nightclub.

Attendee Megan Blossom, when asked whether she knew anyone affected by violence or sexual assault, said, "Everyone does."

- Correspondent Shaun Hittle is a graduate student in journalism at Kansas University. He can be reached at <a href=""></a>.


IrishCat 9 years, 9 months ago

Men were most definitely encouraged to attend and participate. Last night was the first time I had attended and it was amazing to see the outpouring of support and the contribution that everyone made. Some of the men that were there, and there were many in attendance, all had sisters or friends or even moms that had been abused in some way. They had a story to tell just as the women did. It was a very moving experience, and I'll be back again next year.

Kontum1972 9 years, 9 months ago

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dandelion 9 years, 9 months ago

My boss tells me that the organizers in the past were still in a victim mode and hadn't healed, thus the attitude to us guys. I'm glad that the group is getting past that. I think if someone has left an abusive partner, woman or man, they should consider themselves survivors, not victims. I guess that's easy for me to say, however, since I've never been stuck in a bad relationship. I can't really relate to how they feel.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 9 months ago

Shut up, kontem. You have no idea what you're talking about. Just shut up.

ASBESTOS 9 years, 9 months ago

The jump in crimes since 2005 is in direct coorelation to the dates at which the ilelgal alien laws were introduced. In areas where illegal alien laws were introduced, they went down, in areas where the states supported ilelgal aliens it went up.This is occurring in the Texas, Iowa, Kansas states. To ignore it is to put your mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, as well as the male family members in jeopardy.Please pass tough illegal alien deportation especially for violent illegal alien criminals.

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