Video contest aims to raise sexual assault awareness

Andy Beshear, Attorney General for the state of Kentucky, introduces Elizabeth Madariaga, WKU’s Sexual Assault Services Coordinator, during a press conference announcing the #VoicesofJustice video contest in DSU on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. The contest includes the creation of a short film that demonstrates the effects of sexual violence and misconduct.

Jamie Williams

Attorney General Andy Beshear visited campus on Wednesday to introduce a new video contest in which students will raise awareness of sexual assault.

The Voice of Justice contest aims to get students involved in educating their peers and supporting victims of sexual assault. Beshear visited WKU after the Student Government Association was the first group to show interest in the contest and reach out to him.

“All college students deserve to be safe,” Beshear said. “This is supposed to be one of the best times of your life, where your future is limitless. You deserve to be safe, and no one deserves to be preyed on during these years.”

The contest will require student groups to make a 30-second video that includes information on the free and confidential sexual assault hotline, 1-800-656-SAFE, and that increases awareness of on-campus sexual assault. Additionally, the videos should include information on being an active bystander in an assault situation and the reporting, investigating and prosecution process of campus sexual assault.

Two $500 prizes will be awarded at the conclusion of the contest — one for the video that gets the most likes on the attorney general’s online page and one for the video chosen by a panel of expert judges.

Beshear said one of the four goals of his office is to seek justice for victims of sexual assault, and he wanted to get creative students involved in raising awareness on an issue that directly affects them. He said one in five women and one in 16 men were sexually assaulted on college campuses in 2015, yet only 10 percent of all on-campus sexual assaults were reported.

“We have got to change that statistic,” Beshear said. “That’s why we’re launching the Voice of Justice contest.”

Melissa Whitley, the executive director for Hope Harbor, said college students are one of the most at-risk populations for sexual assault. Whitley said the Voice of Justice contest is one of many opportunities for students to amplify voices of sexual assault victims.

“It’s imperative that we must all use our voices — and speak with a unified message — of the intolerance of this crime,” Whitley said.

Elizabeth Madariaga, the sexual assault services coordinator for WKU, said we often forget to support and believe survivors of sexual assault. She said it is the job of not only students,  but faculty, government officials and the community as well to speak out for victims.

“Let us be that voice of justice for our victims of violence,” Madariaga said. “It is so incredibly important that we use our voice.”

The WKU SGA already has plans to produce a video for the contest and is working with Yellowberri*, a video production company in Bowling Green. The SGA has been involved in various projects to end sexual assault including creating the SAVES (Standing Against Violence and for Ending Self-Harm) committee and polling students about on-campus areas where they feel unsafe.

“We, like all universities, still have much to do when it comes to ending both sexual assault and rape culture at our university,” SGA President Jay Todd Richey said.

Reporter Jamie Williams can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]

*Update: The SGA is now working with VidMonster Productions to produce a film for the contest, rather than Yellowberri as planned when the article was published.