Sexual assault on college campus: Safety tips

Colleges and universities in the United States are waking up to the pervasive problem of sexual assault of college students on college campus. Many cases of sexual abuse are dismissed, unreported and unresolved. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating 67 colleges for possible Title IX violations related to sexual assaults.

Learn how to keep yourself safe on campus from a sexual assault. (Credit: Bob Priddy, Missourinet)

Learn how to keep yourself safe on campus from a sexual assault. (Credit: Bob Priddy, Missourinet)

Concerned about campus safety? Here are some campus life tips for college freshmen and everyone else to be safe and enjoy college life.

Colleges have “a rape problem”

Colleges under investigation are facing social media criticism of having “a rape problem.” One of these colleges, Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, held a Summit on Sexual Assault in July 2014 to address the dismal handling of sexual assault. Dartmouth saw a 14 percent drop in applications, partly due to its reputation for rowdiness and sexual assault. In “Summit on Sexual Assault,” posted July 15, 2014, in Inside Higher Education, Jake New wrote: “Declaring ‘enough is enough,’ Phil Hanlon, who became president of Dartmouth last summer, promised in April to rein in the excessive drinking and sexual misconduct he said was taking place on campus. In June, Dartmouth toughened its sexual misconduct policies, making expulsion the mandatory punishment for certain types of sexual assault.”

Statistics of sexual assault on campus

  • Freshmen and sophomore young women are the most vulnerable.
  • Peer pressure and alcohol play large roles in risky behavior that lead to inappropriate sexual conduct.
  • About 70 percent of rape victims know their assailant.
  • There are 35.3 incidents of sexual assault per 1,000 female students on a campus.
  • One in 4 college women and 1 in 10 college men have been the victim of rape or attempted rape.
  • One in 12 men admitted to having fulfilled the legal definition of rape.

“The talk”

As students are heading off to campus for the new school year, parents are having “the talk” with their incoming college freshmen. Parents want their young adult children to have fun, learn and enjoy their college years. It’s difficult to tell their daughter to be careful she doesn’t get raped or their son not to take advantage of a young woman. Yet many parents are sitting their kids down for the all-important talk. Yes, these students going to college are of consenting age, but that’s not an excuse for risky behavior that could get out of control.

Advice for women:

  • Don’t accept a drink from anyone. Get your own drink and know where it is at all times.
  • Use the buddy system when walking around campus and attending parties.
  • Use your phone to call someone for help if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
  • If an assault or rape does happen, report it to authorities. Don’t brush it aside.
  • Don’t be afraid to make friends, just use common sense about whom to trust.

Advice for men:

  • No means no. Stop when she says no. Flirting is not a free pass for forced sexual assault.
  • If you witness your male friends engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior, try to stop it.
  • Treat women with respect.

One mother offered further advice on that last point in “As Kids Head To Campus, Parents Broach The Subject Of Sexual Assault,” by Sayre Quevedo for NPR, posted August 19, 2014. “Cassandra tells [her son] Rae that it’s no excuse if a girl is drunk and it doesn’t matter how she’s behaving. And he may hear all kinds of justifications while at school, she tells him.” Cassandra went on to say, “I think what concerns me the most is not falling into that group mentality. … Like, ‘Oh, she’s a slut,’ or, ‘She came wearing a short skirt,’ or, ‘[She] already had sex with one of the guys, therefore it’s OK if everybody does.’ None of that is OK and acceptable. …You have to treat every single woman that you encounter like that’s your mom, your sister.”

Campus Men of Strength Club

One promising sign is the rise of men preventing rape on campus. The organization Men Can Stop Rape has a group called the Campus Men of Strength Club, a comprehensive strategy to engage college and university men in preventing violence against women, developing and supporting healthy masculinity and sustainably organizing to create campuses and cultures free from violence. “We provide training, organizing tools and technical assistance based on our experience of more than a decade as a national leader in the prevention of men’s violence against women,” a contributor explained on the group’s website. They offer mentoring, promote gender equity, conduct peer education, sponsor social events and partner with campus women’s groups.

What’s your advice for being safe and avoiding sexual assault? Tell us in the comments.

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