SGA begins project on sexual assault prevention

Marcel Mayo

While Sexual Assault Awareness Month is in April, the Student Government Association believes waiting until the spring to address this issue is irresponsible.

“Sexual assault is pervasive on college campuses all across the United States,” SGA President Jay Todd Richey said.

Richey said SGA is in the process of making plans for Sexual Assault Awareness month.

“By saying that Western Kentucky University is void of sexual assault, we would be lying to ourselves,” said Richey

It’s On Us is a national campaign for people to pledge against sexual assault. According to the campaign’s website, the pledge is a personal commitment to be a part of the solution to prevent sexual assault. 

Richey plans to create a video that captures this initiative. 

The video will be a minute and 30 seconds long. It will portray different students around campus voicing their opinions on sexual assault.

“It’s going to feature predominately Hilltoppers. They’re looking into the camera saying, ‘It’s on us,’” said Richey.

SGA has already started working on this project, which should be completed within the next two months. The video will be aired during halftime on the scoreboard at the Homecoming game.

Including diversity in the video is very important to Richey.

“It’s on us as students. We have to be proactive in stopping sexual assault,” he said.

Richey said the video will be circulated online in hopes of igniting conversation about the problem of sexual assault. 

“We don’t believe a video will change culture immediately, but it’s going to start the conversation and get people’s attention,” Richey said.

Richey doesn’t want students to feel like being assaulted is a silent issue or taboo subject. Starting a dialogue may make students more knowledgable and comfortable towards speaking about sexual assault. 

“You can change the culture. And if you change the culture, then you can change the policy,” said Richey. “For a student that is sexually assaulted — they should know they’re not alone and not [be] afraid to share their story.” 

Elizabeth Madariaga, sexual assault services coordinator and staff counselor,  said there are several steps students can take if they have been assaulted. Resources for students include filing a police report, calling Madariaga directly or contacting a residence hall director if the student lives in that residence hall.

If students have classes with the assaulter, then the Counseling and Testing Center will work with the student to make a schedule change.

“We want to make sure our students are safe. That’s our No. 1 priority,” said Madariaga.

Madariaga said the local Sexual Assault Awareness Month Committee’s first meeting for planning activities during Sexual Assault Awareness Month will begin Friday, Oct. 9 in collaboration with Hope Harbor, a sexual trauma recovery center.

Events scheduled for this March include a Take Back the Night rally, Clothesline Project displays and a Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event.

Madariaga wants students on campus to be aware of the seriousness of sexual assault.

“We need to be forced to talk about it. This is not a shameful topic,” she said.

Sexual assault doesn’t discriminate against race, sex or religion. Men and women can both experience assault.

“The majority of victims tend to be women. That does not mean that males cannot be victims,” said Madariaga.

Madariaga said the community as a whole needs to come together to address sexual assault. 

“It’s important to understand that it’s not just a woman issue. It’s a community issue,” she said.