Bowling Green and WKU communities respond to on-campus rape in fraternity house

it happens here too

Editor’s note: This story contains reference to sexual violence and rape which could be disturbing to readers. If you’re a survivor of sexual violence, resources are available at the Counseling and Testing Center and the Title IX offices on campus and at Hope Harbor, a local sexual trauma recovery center.

A Warren County judge found probable cause in the alleged rape of a woman in the Sigma Nu chapter house last week.

The accused, Benjamin Massingille, will face a grand jury on March 23 under first-degree rape, sodomy and unlawful imprisonment charges.

According to a police report released by WKUPD on Friday, Massingille allegedly invited the victim to an unsanctioned party held at Sigma Nu’s chapter house on Feb. 27.

Massingille, who was intoxicated, bypassed the party and led the victim to his room, according to the report. She soon texted a friend to pick her up because she was uncomfortable.

Massingille became enraged and proceded to hold her down and rape her, according to the report. The report states that multiple members of the fraternity entered and left the room.

The victim’s friend soon arrived on the scene and both quickly left. The victim was transported to TriStar Greenview Hospital where an unnamed ER nurse told police the victim was experiencing lower abdominal, neck and rib pain and was “sore all over.”

Police were made aware of the incident and issued a warrant for Massingille, who turned himself in on March 1, the report states. Sigma Nu suspended Massingille’s membership pending the results of his trial, said Drew Logsdon, Sigma Nu’s national director of communications.

WKU has since placed Sigma Nu under interim suspension pending an investigation into policy violations, according to Media Relations Director Bob Skipper.

The incident sparked city- and campus-wide discussions, petitions and thousands of social media posts calling for action.

The university was made aware of the case hours after it happened, said Deborah Wilkins, Title IX coordinator. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act prevents WKU from commenting on specific cases.

“If anyone is concerned that there has not been a reaction, they need not be concerned,” Wilkins said. “There was a reaction, and it was virtually immediate.”

Wilkins said as soon as incidents of assault are reported to the Title IX office, its hearing and investigation processes begin within 24 hours. Wilkins said every time an incident is reported, her office makes contact with the victim and the accused to begin the investigating and hearing processes, which is independent of the legal system.

“We just don’t advertise it because it’s student information,” she said.

Since Massingille’s hearing on March 3, a group of local women formed the group CancelRapeCulture – BGKY. The group started a petition to revoke Massingille’s bond, which was set at $25,000. As of Monday, the petition received more than 21,000 signatures.

Bowling Green resident Chelsey Mather went to the courthouse the morning of the hearing to protest. What she heard from Massingille’s lawyer was “disturbing,” she said, and it motivated her to create the petition.

Mather runs Anything Goes, a Facebook group for Bowling Green women that covers a variety of topics. Someone shared the Massingille story in the group, and Mather said it sparked conversation that led to protesting that day.

“It was overnight, it was like that,” Mather said. “Women were like ‘yes, let’s get behind this,’ ‘Let’s make something happen,’ and it just steamrolled from there.”

Sadie McFadden, a member of Mather’s Facebook group, saw the post and wanted to get involved.

She said the story made her angry, so she created flyers to post around campus with Massingille’s mugshot and phrases including “No bond for rapists,” and “Cancel rape culture.”

“It tells people who haven’t had a voice in the past that… there are people who will voice for you,” McFadden said. “The victim of this crime hasn’t come forward, but we’re there for her.”

McFadden said she stood in front of the Sigma Nu house in protest after Massingille’s initial hearing. In the hour she was there, she said multiple people spoke to her about their thoughts on the incident, some even saying they were victims of sexual violence.

“I got people confessing to me their innermost feelings about it,” McFadden said. “That just shows that we need the community to have people talking about this and people seeing people talking about this. So that way, it’s not a silent crime anymore. And we know that we’re not alone.”

Mather and McFadden then formed the CancelRapeCulture group, focused on creating more educational and preventative resources in the community. They are planning multiple marches ahead of Massingille’s grand jury hearing.

“There’s no reason to sugarcoat it or try to dim it down,” Mather said. “We need to call it what it is and hold people accountable… Maybe if there was more preventative measures and education, maybe we wouldn’t have to hold as many people accountable.”

Wilkins said she is going to recommend that she meets with each Greek organization annually.

“I hear the outcry about the parties, and I totally agree that the Greek socials and the parties are a source of problem incidents,” Wilkins said.

She said many instances happen at off-campus locations and to prevent assaults “we’re all going to have to be a little more responsible.”

“We’re all responsible for each other’s safety,” Wilkins said. “Hilltoppers take care of Hilltoppers.”

Editor-in-Chief Laurel Deppen can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @laurel_deppen.

Digital News Editor Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MJCollinsNews.