nominated by Women Helping Women
By: Marcee Nelson
Passion can be sparked by love. Or, it can be ignited by anger. This is the story of a woman whose passion is fueled by both.
The story starts when Kate Lawson was in college, where she first saw how survivors of sexual violence were treated by “the system.” It was the judgment that women who dress or behave a certain way are somehow to blame for their assault. And when she saw that perpetrators were often let off with probation or not even prosecuted, Kate was more than angry. She was enraged.
“I remember thinking, I’m either going to have to go vigilante about this or do something about it every day of my life.”
That anger lit Kate’s passion and fed her desire to train as a survivor advocate, and to learn how to educate her peers about responding to and preventing sexual assault.
“I needed power and influence to do the kind of advocacy I wanted to do. So I decided to go to law school.”
Now as the Chief Title IX Officer at Xavier and a key contributor to Women Helping Women, Kate is still driven by her passion every day to advocate for fairness and civil rights.
The love part of the story also started in college, where Kate re-connected with Meredith, her best friend from 10th grade. As college roommates, they shared a love for folk music. “We started singing together at open mikes and writing our own music. We actually made
Over the next few years the two parts of the story intertwined as Kate earned a law degree while she and Meredith pursued the music scene together. Once Kate graduated, she found her “professional soul mates”
at the Victims Rights Law Center in Boston, a nonprofit sharing her passion to help survivors of sexual violence.
Her personal soul mate, though, turned out to be her best friend. Kate and Meredith married in 2007 and now have two sons, age 7 and 5. Wanting to raise their sons closer to family prompted a move back to Cincinnati where Kate took on her current role at Xavier. She and Meredith have found a wonderful community of parents who share their views and have discovered that it is values, not demographics, that connect us.
As she watches her sons grow up, Kate feels the country is at least moving in the right direction when it comes to awareness and support of sexual violence survivors.
“I think we’ve made extraordinary strides. These issues are on the national front line. It’s not in the shadows anymore.”
Meanwhile, she and Meredith are teaching their sons to trust their good instincts, to be brave enough to speak up when they see something wrong, and to stand up for anyone being victimized. In other words, to feel anger about injustice. And love for whatever feels right.
Because as Kate knows, that is where passion lies.
If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
“For people to embrace, value, and celebrate difference rather than fear it.”
What is the most important piece of advice you would share
with a young woman growing up today?
“Demand more. Refuse to do the work of oppressors for them. Stand by, with, and for other women.”
What’s your favorite quote?
“I do not know your name—but your words are forever seared on my soul…I am in awe of your courage for speaking out—for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity…Your bravery is breathtaking. You are a warrior—with a solid steel spine. I do not know your name—but I see your unconquerable spirit. I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman—full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest. I see you.”
~Former Vice President Joe Biden to the survivor raped by Brock Turner
Women Helping Women
Founded in 1973, Women Helping Women (WHW) prevents gender-based violence and empowers all survivors. WHW provides evidence-based prevention and expert crisis intervention and support services for survivors of dating violence, sexual violence, domestic violence and stalking in Hamilton and Butler, Ohio Counties (including sexual violence crisis services to Preble, Brown and Adams Counties). WHW operates from a public health framework that is survivor centric and promotes diversity and inclusion as core operating values. WHW meets the needs of our region and serves over 15,000 clients annually.