OPINION: Enhancing education: addressing the root of sexual assault at WKU

Taylor Huff is the opinion editor of the College Heights Herald. 

Taylor Huff


Last week, Attorney General Andy Beshear and President Timothy Caboni signed a proclamation that emphasizes “ … the inherent right of all women and children to remain free from violence.”

Beshear, who has already stated one of his four major goals as attorney general is “[to seek] justice for victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence,” seemed to highlight the sentiment of Caboni’s comment that “a single instance of interpersonal violence is one too many and it will not stand.”

These comments combined with the proclamation are encouraging, but are there enough resources at WKU to better address the issue of sexual assault on campus?

According to WKU’s website, “1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males will be the victim of sexual assault in their lifetime.” WKU offers several resources, including the WKU Counseling and Testing Center, Graves Gilbert Clinic, University Police and Hope Harbor, a sexual trauma recovery center.

These resources, while necessary, don’t target the root of the issue: systemic sexism. There is an imbalance of power between men and women where men are conditioned to believe they are superior because they are allowed to yield more power than women.

These power imbalances in gender roles can be seen explicitly as men are often expected to be the breadwinner of the household, and subtly when a male employee calls a female co-worker “sweetie.”

Although our society has made vast progress in addressing gender inequality, there is still a great amount of ignorance surrounding the issue of systemic sexism.

The Student Government Association recently passed a resolution that requires a sexual assault online course for first year students. Public Relations Committee Chair William Hurst speculated the course should replace University Experience: an optional three-hour course designed to help freshmen familiarize themselves with campus and all it has to offer.

While there is some benefit to this course, a required course on sexual assault education would ideally minimize the ignorance surrounding sexual assault and its ties to systemic sexism. Other universities, such as Stanford University and University of California-Berkeley, have seen a decrease in the number of sexual assaults on campus after implementing one-hour required courses.

Another issue with the current set of resources is that it requires victims of sexual assault to relive what was likely the most horrifying event of his or her life. Even after victims do speak out, they are often subjected to shaming by making it seem as if it was something they did which caused this crime to happen to them.

Sadly, since Education Secretary Betsy Devos has rescinded guidelines left from the Obama administration on how schools should handle sexual assault under Title IX, those guilty of sexual assault may find it easier to have their crimes swept under the rug of bureaucracy.

Simply, the fact the university president and attorney general have to sign a proclamation that states women and children should be free from violence tells you there is a real problem. One victim of sexual assault is too many. It’s time to enhance our campus resources that address the root of sexual assault.