An epidemic of rape and sexual assault is ravaging universities across the United States at alarming numbers with little reporting.
“Do I regret not reporting it? Sometimes I do, but it’s only because I sometimes see him around campus or around town and I relive it all again – and it’s been affecting my classes. I feel like there’s nothing I can do now because it’s been over a year ago.”
“I just want to forget what happened and move on with my life, but how can I? I didn’t report because I didn’t want him to be kicked out of college or to ruin his life,” reported a 20-year-old male student at Virginia Tech who requested to remain anonymous.
He did not report the incident to prevent further interactions with that individual if it went to court proceedings. He believed the offender had graduated; since then he’s tried to keep it from his mind.
“When I saw him for the first time after it happened it was just – it was an immediate shock as if someone took a knife and stabbed me in the gut, and as if someone just threw two-ton weights onto my body. I couldn’t move; I was visibly shaking,” he said.
“Nearly two-thirds of college students experience sexual harassment,” the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) reports.
Freshmen enter college campuses unaware of the dangers they face during their initial months. Why aren’t there discussions about the danger students face when they go to universities?
Universities are afraid that their student body will decline due to the facts about those situations, they’re afraid of looking bad? So many individuals turn a blind eye to sexual assaults and rape because they are under the impression that it isn’t happening, that it isn’t as abundant as people say, or that people misuse their situations when they report to punish young men for their “ignorance.”
NSVRC also reports that “One in five women and one in six men experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime,” so if individuals aren’t personally affected, they may have several friends who have been affected.
NSVRC also reports that, in 2009, “The prevalence of false reporting is low – between 2 percent and 10 percent.” To those who believe that sexual assault reporting is used to punish young males for their ignorance or who believe that reports are fictional, the number of those are minuscule compared to those who accurately report.
“I just wanted it to be over with and move on from it,” reported a 19-year-old female attending Virginia Tech who asked to remain anonymous. “When it happened to me, I didn’t know where to go. I knew that I could go to the police or I could go to the Women’s Center, but I didn’t want to. I was afraid that he’d find out and harm me more in more ways than he had already done.”
Students are aware of the resources available to them but are afraid of retaliation. How can students feel safe during those situations?
“On average, the women’s center [at Virginia Tech] sees around 200 people a year, and those are folks that can be students, faculty or staff who have been impacted on gender-based violence in some way; those including domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual assaults or rape. Of those people [who report or go to the center], some may be those who are directly impacted or could also be those [who have experienced gender-based violence] people’s family members or friends, etc. [that are impacted],” said Christine Smith, co-director of the Women’s Center at Virginia Tech.
“In 2017, 20 percent of our cases were police reports filed,” she said.
The Women’s Center provides resources for students, faculty and staff who may have gone through these situations. They provide accompaniment, advocacy, information on medical care, help with classes after the event as well as offering housing options for students who may need to relocate.
“We provide counseling and advocacy services, and that can be doing what we call crisis intervention and depending on what they need at that particular time,” Smith said.
Recent events, such as the Kavanaugh hearing with Dr. Ford, have provoked conversations about sexual assault and rape reporting. Individuals in the political arena have voiced their opinions on the hearing and accusations claiming that they were a way to sway votes.
Is there ever a good time to report an actual sexual assault or rape? The incident can happen at any time; however, there are times on a college campus when reports increase.
“More than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October or November; students are at an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college,” RAINN reported.
College campuses are a warzone for sexual assaults and rapes; however, the enemies are in plain sight. No particular characteristic sets them apart from the general population.
“The person who – the person who raped me used to intern at a place I had worked at over the summer. They had nothing but good things to say about him, and some of them were still friends with him,” said the anonymous male student. “I kept thinking over and over in my
head, ‘How could someone like that be so… normal and likable?’ I realized that that’s how it happened… he was charismatic and was friendly – everyone liked him. Apparently, he didn’t realize that ‘No means no.’”
One of the issues with social interpretations or views of rape and sexual assault is that it doesn’t happen to men, that a man cannot be raped or sexually assaulted by a woman.
“Ninety-one percent of victims of rape and sexual assault are female, and 9 percent are male,” RAINN reported.
Until individuals learn that no one is lesser than themselves or that, simply put, “no means no,” sexual assaults will to continue to increase.
Information on what The Virginia Tech Women’s Center do can be found here.
More information on campus sexual assaults and resources are found at RAINN, along with National resources for sexual assault survivors and their loved ones.