Sexual assault an issue for all genders

Ella Burnside

Starting on the evenings of “Thirsty Thursdays” and continuing through to the early hours of Sunday, WKU women warn one another of the possible, and perhaps imminent, danger of sexual assault that they face when going out to parties with friends.

“Don’t wear that, you look like a hooker  — you’re going to get raped.”

“Don’t set your drink down at a party — you’ll get drugged.’”

“If you go to that party you are asking to get raped.”     

These phrases and more were circulating the hallways of Bemis Lawrence Hall on Thursday night. The statements are not new or surprising to residents.

The fear of being sexually assaulted is instilled into almost every college-aged woman and is one that has been proven valid by national statistics on sexual violence.

Statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control state that 20-25 percent of college women report experiencing attempted or completed rape while in college.

The proclamation of this and other similar statistics is a critical part of serving and protecting college students. WKU has many avenues with which it seeks to educate students about sexually violent crimes such as the Counseling and Testing Center and Health Services.

Elizabeth Madariaga, the Sexual Assault Service Coordinator at the center, said she believes the university works very hard to create a safe environment for students. She also said societal norms promote desensitization to violence that makes it a lot easier to put the responsibility of prevention on to the shoulders of women.

“We tend to blame the girl for what they were wearing, where they were or specific actions rather than hold a perpetrator accountable for why they were capable of committing an assault,” Madariaga said. “It’s the idea that because a victim did this, this and this, then ‘No wonder it happened to them.’”

According to Madariaga, sexual assault is a community issue and should be treated as such. Males and females have the ability and responsibility to prevent assault and she said that the most important thing to do is break the silence surrounding this issue.

“When we are silent about something, we imply that it’s okay for us to do or say those things,” she said. “It’s important to speak up and say, ‘No, it’s not okay for you to joke about sexual assault, or yell sexual obscenities to a group of girls walking by.’”

Evan Pollock, a Raymond freshman, said he thinks there is a lot guys can do to prevent sexual violence.

“I think that guys just need to respect women and build a relationship with them before they start anything sexually,” Pollock said. “I think guys need to hold each other accountable for treating women right, and if they see of or hear of anyone being mistreated in that way, they need to do what they can to prevent it.”

Madariaga said that guys can lead by example.

“It’s important for guys to intervene and step up to their friend …. Help direct them elsewhere if you see someone walking upstairs with a girl or guy that doesn’t seem to be in the right frame of mind to give consent,” she said. “Make sure, as a guy or girl, that you get consent. Help to distract in situations that look a little questionable or delegate it to someone else, like the police, friends, etc.”

WKU has several programs year-round and in March, during sexual assault awareness month, that everyone on campus can be a part of.  

“It’s important for men to show support of victims so that victims can feel comfortable to come forward,” Madariaga said. “Men can also participate in activities that promote the awareness of sexual violence and how it is a community issue.”