“Till It Happens” exhibit aims to bring sexual assault prominence to light

Destinee Daugherty (Left) and Ashlynn Evans (Right) man the SGA booth at Tuesday’s event holding supportive posters. Other signs included phrases said to victims of sexual assault by abusers, such as one stating “it’s not rape if we’re dating, now stop crying, you’re ruining it.”

The WKU counseling center, Hope Harbor, and BRASS Inc. hosted an exhibit titled “Till It Happens” Exhibit in the courtyard outside of DSU as part of its month long sexual assault prevention series.

Volunteers held signs of common responses victims of assault hear, prevention facts and messages for those victims. Volunteers gave out masks, t-shirts and keychain safety alarms with the prevention month logo.

Elizabeth Madariaga, the sexual assault services coordinator for the counseling center, said she has helped plan the events throughout the month in collaboration with their sponsors.

“We’re doing this because we want victim-survivors to understand that they’re not by themselves,” Madariaga said. “This is a good visual impact way for students to see that sexual violence, not only occurs on our campus but on other campuses in the country as well as in the community.”

“So it’s an opportunity for us to share some of the things that have been said to victim-survivors as well as share some of the responses that you can say to help your friends and lovers,” Madariaga said. “I just think it’s really important that we talk about this because it happens on our campus. There are way more victims than we think there are. It’s important for us to know what assault is, what it means and how we can help them and that they’re not by themselves.”

Zoe Caswell is a non-traditional student studying art and agriculture. She volunteered at the exhibit and held up a sign based on a comment her youth pastor said to her when she was 14 years old. 

“It is important to learn about these subjects,” Caswell said. “You never know when it’s going to be your friend, your sister, or you.”

Caswell left college after being raped but recently started working towards getting her degree.

“I left college for a seven year break because I was raped by someone that claimed to be a designated driver for the college, but they weren’t,” Caswell said. “I know it happens a lot in this environment as well and it’s important to have people know that they’re safe to talk to someone instead of blaming themselves.”

Ashlynn Evans, a senior studying criminology and SGA member, volunteered to run the SGA booth at the exhibit. 

“I think it’s important for the awareness factor to make sure people are aware that this is an issue that is happening,” Evans said. “This is something that people that you may not even know, that you walk past every single day, t are dealing with the effects of being sexually assaulted and sexually abused.”

Evans referred to a study released on March 10, 2021, by UN Women UK that reported 97 percent of young women ages 18 through 24 have been sexually harassed.

“I’m sure that you’ve seen where the number of women is like 97% and I happen to be part of the 97,” Evans said. “With the assault that happened on campus [referring to a rape at the Sigma Nu house in March], I think that just kind of sparked everyone to think ‘Oh this is a real issue,’ because we never hear about it.”

Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy