The recent high-profile murders of two female college students in Iowa is translating to the busiest year ever for a center in Omaha-Council Bluffs where the mission is helping women stay safe and grow strong.
Elizabeth Power, spokeswoman for the Women’s Center for Advancement, says many more women are seeking help and they’re discussing ways to keep themselves safe from attack. “People are feeling more comfortable talking about it, it’s less taboo, and then we do start to see these very violent crimes become national news and people are going to stop and think, ‘Wait a second, that could be me next. How do I keep myself safe?'” Power says. “So, it’s going to be a record-breaking year in the number of people we’ve served.”
Authorities believe the two students were killed by men while recreating outside alone — one was jogging, the other was playing golf. Power offers tips for any woman who’s searching for answers about personal security.
“You need to do what helps you feel safe,” Power says. “For some people, that’s taking a self-defense class. For some people, that is carrying mace in their purse. For other people, it’s never going out alone. If you are going for that run, you go with somebody.” Last week, Iowa State University student Celia Barquin Arozamena was murdered on a golf course near the Ames campus, while University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts was killed in July while jogging in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Suspects are jailed in both cases.
Power says the two murders are unusual since investigators believe the killers chose their victims at random. “We know that you are much more likely to be assaulted by somebody you know than by a stranger,” Power says. “While those crimes absolutely happen, as we’ve seen, the chances of you being assaulted by somebody you know is so much greater.” A federal survey finds one in three women and one in seven men have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking at some point in their lives.
The center bills itself as a haven for anyone experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking. It offers “free, high-quality services to address clients’ immediate safety needs and help them to grow into independence over time.”