Attorney general raises sexual assault awareness

Story by Abby Siegel, News Editor

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear traveled to Murray State Monday to raise awareness and bring transparency to sexual violence on college campuses.

“We need to make sure that the way we go about investigating and prosecuting always puts that person first and gives them the confidence that when you report an assault here on campus, people will believe you…they will seek justice for you,” Beshear said. 

Beshear

A current issue regarding sexual violence on campus, Beshear said, is a lack of transparency and accountability. He said when transparency lacks, there is no way to judge whether the university is reporting and investigating sexual violence well.

“If you are going to take on the responsibility of protecting students who have come forward with an allegation of sexual assault, you need to be able to protect identities, but also be transparent enough so we can judge if you truly are doing it well because how does a parent or potential student know how safe a university is?” Beshear said.

Bryan Ernstberger, Calloway County Attorney, said there is a low number of reported cases of sexual violence at Murray State.

“I would love to believe that is all that is going on here because we get so few,” Ernstberger said. “But I very much doubt that is true.”

Beshear said one in five women and one in 16 men were sexually assaulted while in college in 2015, yet only 36 of those sexual assaults were reported to authorities.

Lori Wells Brown, Purchase Area Sexual Assault and Advocacy Center (PASAC) executive director, said some students are referred to PASAC when he or she reports a sexual assault on campus. Others are referred to the Women’s Center Director Abigail French.

She said she believes the lack of coordinated response among all of the investigative and prosecuted parties and service providers has caused low numbers of reporting.

“Historically, there have not been systems in place that really helped to empower a survivor.” Wells Brown said. “It was often very confusing about where to go and who to report to.”

To raise awareness and prevention of sexual assault, Beshear is holding video contest  called #VoiceofJustice that students are encouraged to enter.

Each video entry must be 30-seconds long and is due by April 1.

There will be two winners awarded with a cash prize of $500. One winner will be chosen by an expert committee. The other is the Viral Award determined by who has the most views on the KyOAG YouTube channel.  Winners will be announced in late April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

The video must contain the following information:

24/7 confidential sexual assault hotline, 1-800-656-SAFE

Awareness of campus sexual assault,

Active bystanding to prevent sexual assault, or

Reporting, investigations and prosecutions of campus sexual assault.

Click here for more information about the video contest.