Sexual assault: What you need to know and how to help end it

You’re at a house party on Saturday night, laughing and drinking with friends. One friend drags you onto the dance floor and you leave your cup on the kitchen counter. When you return, you take a few sips, go to the bathroom and then everything is blurry after that.

The next morning, you wake up on the floor of a bedroom, feeling icky and in a daze. Your underwear is on backwards, your bottom half is throbbing, and you have a pit feeling in your stomach.

Nothing is clear, but as you put the pieces slowly together while walking back home, you begin to understand what happened last night.

Described above, is called incapacitated sexual assault, in which the survivor is unable to stop the unwanted sexual contact because she is passed out, drugged or too drunk to comprehend what is happening.

This kind of assault is the more common form of sexual assault on college campuses today.

A recent NPR report  stated that the number of “forcible rapes” reported has gone up 50 percent since 2008 and it highlights the significant persistence of college campus sexual assault. A problem that is not going away, yet more are speaking up.

In May, the federal government released a list of 55 schools, having risen to 60 since, that are being investigated for their handling of sexual assault cases.

Advocates claim that colleges are in denial of the strong prevalence of sexual assault on campuses because of their fragmented reporting system, which only legitimizes reports brought to police, leaving out reports made to counseling centers.

This masks the amount of sexual assaults that actually occur on campuses and of the decreasing rape statistics to make the campus appear safer.

Even when colleges do investigate and find the assaulter guilty, punishment is minimal to almost non-existent. The Center for Public Integrity found in a year-long survey that students found responsible for the crimes receive little to no punishment from a university’s judicial system.

Students found responsible rarely get expelled, while the survivors tend to drop out of school. Typical punishments range from suspension to social probation and academic penalties, and even those minimal punishments rarely seem implemented.

But college administrations’ denial is not the only reason as to why sexual violence dominates college campuses.

Our society of indifference and persistence of rape culture, where sexual violence is normalized, creates an atmosphere where sexual assault is normal, downplayed and even ignored.

How can you, as a student, reverse this trend, and stop campus sexual assault all together? It is not going to be easy and it will take some serious, dedicated work, but below are five ways you can contribute to ending sexual violence across college campuses.

1.       Make media.

PACT is an organization that uses student voices through documentaries as education tools to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

Five universities have already joined in on the collaborative movement and created powerful documentaries to use as education in ending campus sexual assault.

You can have your university join with the other five universities and produce your own documentary with student filmmakers and faculty.

You can also get involved by signing the pact on their website pledging your commitment to ending sexual assault.

2.       Be SAFER.

Start a student-led campaign to end sexual assault at your school by reforming campus sexual assault policies using the resources provided by Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), an organization that helps students fight sexual violence on campus.

3.       Host a bystander intervention session.

Bystanders play an important role in preventing sexual violence. Host a session with your fellow students on how to intervene when you see sexual assault occurring, or how to spot a situation that could escalate to sexual assault.

For more information on training and resources, click here.

4.       Get involved with your Women’s Resource Center.

Volunteer or intern at your campus’ women’s resource center and donate your time to programs that empower and encourage women to help the campus become a safer space for women.

5.       Educate yourself.

Know your rights by learning about Title IX, a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972 that states “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Featured Image: Bigstock

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About Jessica Renae Buxbaum (12 Articles)
Online journalist covering politics, feminism, and social change

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