Sexual Assault Prevention
Your Safety Matters
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of sexual contacts or behaviors that occur without explicit consent of the victim. These include unwanted sexual touching, attempted rape, rape, and forcing a victim to perform sexual acts.
Victims might be coerced into sexual acts through verbal or non-verbal threats or through the use of substances, such as alcohol or drugs. Sexual assault also doesn’t always involve physical contact – acts such as voyeurism and exhibitionism can still count as unwanted sexual attention.
Many victims know their assailant or rapist. Approximately two out of three sexual assaults are committed by an attacker that the victim knows, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). About 38% of rape incidents are committed by a friend or acquaintance of the victim. These trends are reinforced by Department of Justice (DOJ) statistics shown below, revealing that most attacks are perpetrated by someone close to or known by the victim.
Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus
Campus safety concerns all students, and one of the dangers young adults must face is the risk of sexual assault. According to a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released in April 2014, one in five college students experiences sexual assault during their college career.
The ACLU estimates that 95% of U.S. campus rapes go unreported. The problem of under-reporting reflects an extreme need for increased campus prevention and support systems. See McNeese’s University Sexual Misconduct Policy for more information.
Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim. But there are a number of ways to help keep yourself safe.
- Know your alcohol limits: Over half of sexual assaults committed against college students involve alcohol, according to researchers at Wayne State University.
- Watch your drinks: Take your drink to the restroom with you. Never drink a beverage that has been given to you by someone else or taken from a communal alcohol source (like a punch bowl).
- Trust your gut: If you get a bad feeling about a location or a person, leave immediately. Head in the direction of the nearest crowd, lighted area or building. Many attackers are unwilling to pursue victims who are aggressive or loud, which draws attention to the crime.
- Stick with your friends: Attend social gatherings with a group of friends that you trust. Look out for each other and help each other arrive home safely. If you do go out alone, always tell someone where you are going and avoid walking in unlit or untrafficked parts of town or campus.
A report by the National Institute of Justice reveals that self-protection actions such as weaponless attacking, running, hiding, getting help, or struggling seem to decrease the risk of rape completion by 80%. Many colleges offer personal development courses in basic self-defense. If you can’t find one on campus, explore programs offered by nearby gyms and dedicated martial arts studios to learn about their training options.
Assault Prevention in Relationships
If you’ve identified that your partner exhibits the controlling or aggressive behaviors listed above and you are too afraid to bring these issues up safely within your relationship, it’s time to get help. Victims often realize the dangers of their situation after it’s too late; the dynamic between the abuser and abused is strategically created to discourage the victims to acknowledge or address the problem.
Intimate partner abuse and violence is never okay. It is more common than you may think and it is wholly within your power and your rights to get out safely.
- Contact a support line: If you’re unsure how to get away from an abusive partner, contact a support hotline for assistance. Love Is Respect and the National Domestic Abuse Hotline both provide 24/7 phone assistance.
- Do not blame yourself: Self-blame is extremely common in abusive relationships. It can be easy to feel trapped in your situation. However, your partner’s abusive actions are absolutely not your fault or a sign of weakness on your part. Keep this in mind as you seek help.
- List safe places: Know where you can go in case you need to get away from an abusive partner. This might include a campus counseling center, a trusted friends’ dorm room, a survivors’ shelter, or a residence hall staff office.
- Document hostile communications: It can be emotionally painful to save threatening messages that your partner sends. However, voice messages, emails, IMs, and other hostile communications can be immensely useful to demonstrate a history of assault when you speak with counselors or authorities.
- Get counseling: Virtually all college campuses have on-site counselors who are trained to help with relationship assault and domestic violence. If you can’t find a way to contact a campus counselor directly, ask a residence advisor, professor, or academic advisor to help you explore these resources.
- Call the police: If you are being threatened with assault, attempt to reach a safe place and call the police immediately.
Additional Information and Resources
According to DOJ survey results, awareness campaigns, campus training, law enforcement protocols, and legislative strategies have lowered the rates of assault a full 50% since 1993.
- Official Campus Statistics For Sexual Violence Mislead: Campuses with higher rates of reported sexual assault might actually be safer than campuses with low rates, since they’ve created an atmosphere that that encourages victims to report incidents. Students and their parents should review this article before making a college decision based on campus crime statistics.
- Enlisting Smartphones in the Campaign for Campus Safety: App developers are creating innovative ways for student to reach safety during risky situations. Load some of these onto your smartphone so that you can quickly communicate with emergency contacts.
- Campus Sexual Assault Tool Kit: The American Association of University Women has created this resource to help faculty and campus staff lead student discussions on sexual violence prevention.
- NPR: Campus Sexual Assaults Are Targeted In New White House Report: The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault has created a website, NotAlone.com, dedicated to helping college students understand their rights and find viable local support options.
- National Sexual Assault Online Hotline and Chat: RAINN runs this extremely secure and anonymous crisis support phone line and chat system, which is dedicated to assisting sexual assault survivors, along with the spouses, family members, and friends of survivors.
- Support for Rape and Sexual Assault Victims: Safe Horizon is a national violence prevention network with hotlines dedicated to crisis support.