EDITORIAL: WKU’s response to sexual assault needs to change

Sexual assault cartoon

The issue: Sexual assault continues to be a problem on college campuses and reporting it just seems to make the victims’ situation worse.

Our stance: The way in which instances of sexual assault are handled on campus can be detrimental to victims and needs to change.


Last Monday, the Association of American Universities released the results of the “Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct,” which was completed by students from 27 different universities in the U.S. 

According to this survey, 11.7 percent of undergraduate students have been victims of sexual assault, and 23.1 percent of undergraduate females have been victims. 

Within the results of this survey was information pertaining to the rates in which students report sexual assault. It shows that a small percentage of “even the most serious incidents” are actually reported because victims believe that they are not important, are ashamed, or are afraid nothing will be done. 

WKU offers services and resources to help those who have been victims of sexual assault, but its methods of response need improvement.

While it stresses the importance of reporting instances of sexual assault, WKU’s Counseling and Testing Center’s “Sexual Assault Response” Web page doesn’t provide much information for victims who are considering this option. 

If victims want to report a sexual assault, they can go to the Counseling and Testing Center and talk to the sexual assault services coordinator, who will aid them in finding resources. However, if  victims do not want to report their assault, they should be careful about who they confide in. 

All WKU employees, even student employees, are legally mandated to report any instances of sexual assault they are aware of and include all the information they have, according to the Title IX sexual misconduct/assault procedure document.

After it is reported, a formal university complaint is filed, and an investigation proceeds through the Office of Judicial Affairs. During this investigation, anonymity for victims is not guaranteed even if they wish to remain unnamed. 

However, it is important to note that if the victim approaches a WKU employee seeking assistance in finding professional counseling or medical treatment, the employee does not have to report. By law, all medical information is private. 

Fighting back against sexual assault is necessary, and it’s great WKU is trying, but there are surely better ways to do it that don’t offer victims as unwilling martyrs for the cause. 

Reporting and filing formal complaints aren’t always the best options for victims. Enduring the investigation process can bring back memories of the event, which only furthers traumatization. 

Also, it isn’t always assured that the offender will be punished. It’s not easy to provide concrete evidence of a sexual assault, and victims often don’t realize the severity or acknowledge what happened until weeks or months after the assault occurred. 

While this policy shows that WKU is trying to combat sexual assault, it could be done with more tact. Taking into consideration the welfare of the victim, rather than pushing for investigation, would be a much better response. 

Making it mandatory for all WKU employees to report all instances of sexual assault only furthers the isolation of victims who don’t want to undergo a formal investigation. It makes victims less likely to talk about their experience with friends or people they trust if those people are legally obligated to report. 

To make navigating the system easier for victims, WKU could get rid of the rule that all employees have to report instances of sexual assault they are made aware of so that only those who want to file a formal complaint have to. If victims weren’t willing to go that far, WKU could guarantee anonymity to those victims who wish to remain so.

Sexual assault is a widespread issue that can’t be stopped by just one university, but WKU can be more conscientious of how it treats victims.