Ransdell signs sexual assault awareness proclamation

Emma Collins

To kick off a month-long series of events promoting sexual assault awareness, President Gary Ransdell signed a proclamation declaring April Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The event, which was hosted by the WKU Counseling and Testing Center and Hope Harbor, also included selfies with Big Red, a spin-the-wheel with prizes and a photo booth.

Elizabeth Madariaga, sexual assault services coordinator, said the proclamation signing has taken place for several years.

“It’s just the opportunity for President [Ransdell] to recognize the importance of this month both on our campus and in our community,” Madariaga said.

Megan Talcott, the community educator for Hope Harbor, said sexual assault is a common, nation-wide problem on college campuses and throughout many communities.

“Unfortunately it’s a topic we don’t really talk about a lot, so events like Sexual Assault Awareness Month help us kind of bring that conversation to the forefront and talk about how we can change our campuses and our communities for the better,” Talcott said.

According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, college women ages 18 to 24 are three times more likely to be assaulted than women in the general population. Male college students are 78 percent more likely than non-students to be victims of assault or rape.

According to WKU’s Annual Campus Safety and Security Report, between 2012 and 2014 four rapes were reported to campus security authorities or local police agencies.

RAINN estimates that only a small percent of assaults and rapes are reported.

According to RAINN’s website, 68 percent of all sexual assaults are not reported to authorities. Of the assaults made on college females, only about 20% of the survivors report to law enforcement.

WKU offers numerous opportunities for students to be exposed to sexual assault awareness.

During M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan, incoming freshman are exposed to the Green Dot program.

According to WKU’s website, the Green Dot program is a “comprehensive approach to the primary prevention of violence that capitalizes on the power of peer and cultural influence.”

Students are encouraged to make choices to build a culture intolerant of violence.

Madariaga said WKU works hard to raise awareness about sexual assault; however, she said she believes more can always be done.

“We work really hard to increase the awareness, and while sexual assaults are continuing to happen anywhere, I feel no one can do ‘enough’ to raise awareness,” Madariaga said. “We have to continue working [to] shift the rape culture.”

The WKU Police Department, in an attempt to decrease sexual assault, offers a self-defense course for women. The course, Rape Aggression Defense, teaches participants about rape and how to reduce the risk of rape.

The campus police also offer an escort service to walk students across campus from dusk to dawn.

Talcott said WKU has been a good ally during SAAM.

“We work really closely with Western and have lots of events on campus and find lots of creative ways to engage students in what could potentially be a really difficult topic,” Talcott said.

In addition to Hope Harbor and the Counseling and Testing Center, WKU’s SAAM committee also consists of the Alive Center, Housing and Residence Life, Greek Affairs, Health Education and Promotion, Gender and Women’s Studies, Office of Judicial Affairs, Greek Affairs and the Student Government Association.

For any students who have been sexually assaulted, Talcott said there are a number of avenues through which they can seek help.

Students can call the national Hope Harbor crisis-line or the direct number for the Bowling Green office. They also have the option to visit the Counseling and Testing center or to contact the Office of Judicial Affairs.

“They kind of have three really wonderful routes that they can take,” Talcott said.

The services are open to anyone no matter how recent the assault may be.