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Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus

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The term sexual assault encompasses a range of behaviors from unwanted touching to rape. Definitions of rape and sexual assault vary, with each state having its own legal definition. College students are not always sure about what constitutes rape. There are many myths surrounding rape – if the woman was flirting or wearing sexy clothing, she was asking for it; it’s not rape unless the man injures the woman, etc. According to most legal definitions, if the victim did not agree to the sex, it’s rape, regardless of the circumstances.

One in four college women surveyed are victims of rape or attempted rape. One in six female college students report having been a victim of rape or attempted rape during the preceding year. Unfortunately, sexual assault is fairly common at college parties. 90% of acquaintance rapes involve alcohol. Some predators use alcohol or drugs in order to undermine a woman’s ability to resist sexual advances. Some men target drunk women because they are more likely to blame themselves, are likely to lack credibility if they report assaults, and may be unable to remember a night’s events clearly. Watch out for people who pressure you to drink or seem over-enthusiastic about getting you drunk. Trust your instincts – if someone seems creepy to you, they probably are. You don’t have to be nice. Don’t worry about being polite to someone who is making you feel uncomfortable.

Women who are assaulted are often blamed for choices they’ve made, including drinking alcohol. It is never a woman’s fault when she is assaulted. According to most laws, a person cannot consent to sexual activity if he or she is intoxicated, even if they are intoxicated by their own choice. When a person has sex with somebody after deliberately intoxicating them or tricking them into taking drugs or alcohol meets the legal definition of sexual assault in many states.

While there is no guarantee against a sexual assault, there are steps you can take to make your environment safer:

If you are outside -

  • Be alert to your surroundings and the people around you – especially if you are alone or it is dark.
  • When possible, travel with a friend.
  • Try to stay in well-lit areas as much as possible.
  • Walk confidently, directly, and at a steady pace. Do not appear vulnerable.
  • Walk on the side of the street facing traffic.
  • Walk close to the curb – avoid doorways, bushes, or alleys
  • If you think you are being followed, walk quickly to areas where there are lights ad people.
  • If you are in danger, scream, yell, run, break a window, etc. to draw attention to your situation.
  • If security escorts are available on your campus, use the service.

If you are at home –

  • Practice good home security. Install effective locks on all doors and windows – and use them.
  • Install a peephole viewer in your door. Don’t allow anyone in you don’t know. Require repairmen to show ID.
  • Avoid going to the laundry facilities by yourself, especially at night.
  • If you arrive home and see evidence of someone being in your home, don’t go in. Call the police.

If you are in your car –

  • Always lock your car doors after entering or leaving your car.
  • Park in well-lit areas.
  • Have your car keys in your hand so that you don’t have to linger while unlocking your car. Keys can also serve as a weapon against an attacker.
  • Check the back seat before getting into your car.
  • If you think you are being followed, drive to a public place or a police station.
  • If your car breaks down, open the hood and attach a white cloth to the car antenna. If someone stops to help, stay in your locked car and ask them to call the police or a garage. Better yet, have a cell phone with you.

Because of the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses, institutions have been directed by the federal government to provide programming aimed at educating students about sexual assault. The Jeanne Clery Act (Campus Security Act of 1990) requires ALL colleges in the U.S. to publish available programs and services available as they pertain to sexual assault. The act also requires colleges to outline policies about responding to sexual assault on campus, as well as requiring the publication of crime statistics on campus.

Only 5% of women ever report their rape. The number of men who report is even smaller. Reporting the rape is up to the individual. If you press charges, know what you are getting into. It can be emotionally challenging. If you are the victim of rape, consider doing the following:

Get to a safe place.

Run to a public place. Knock on someone’s door. Call friends to pick you up. Go to the police station. Make sure you are away from what just happened to you.

Tell someone.

You may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or think no one will believe you. It’s important to tell someone what happened to you. Talk to the police, a crisis counselor, or a friend. Let them help you through this process.

Get medical attention.

Medical care after a rape can detect injuries and test for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A health care provider can collect evidence that could be used if you choose to take legal or disciplinary action. Do not shower or change your clothes before you are examined, so that no evidence is destroyed. Emergency contraception can be dispensed if needed.

Take care of yourself.

You have just been through an extremely traumatic experience. There is no set formula for recovery. Seek counseling to guide you through the healing process.

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