According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2016 study, one in five female undergraduates have experienced some kind of sexual assault in college. Furthermore, the Justice Department report said that young women between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to be raped than any other age group. However, only 20% of the assaults are reported to authorities and many experts believe the number of sexual assaults is closer to 25% for women and 6 to 8% for male students.
It is widely known in higher education that 50% of sexual assaults occur with freshmen and sophomores during “the red zone” – the beginning of a school’s fall term through Thanksgiving vacation.
Thrown together with unknown people, trying to fit in, going to parties and naïve to consequences, our sons and daughters are vulnerable to peer pressure. They miss the signs of predatory behavior or it’s the first time they’re experimenting with alcohol or rushing a Greek fraternity or sorority. Many of them have not had comprehensive sexual education (up to 25% in states and 31% in schools where there is reportedly high religiosity); thus, many students do not know what mutual consent is.
So how do we reduce campus sexual assault?
Check with the potential college to see if they have appropriate sexual violence prevention programs including bystander intervention training for staff and students. Ask about their alcohol and security policies on campus.
Educate our daughters about the reality of campus assault. According to the analysis released in early 2015 by United Educators’ (a company offering liability insurance to schools), there are several conclusions from data based on 305 cases from 104 colleges. Some of them include:
- -Drinking increases a man’s likelihood to rape.
- -78% of college sexual assaults involved alcohol.
- -Fraternity members and athletes are the highest segment for repeat perpetrators.
- -Athletes are more likely to gang rape.
- -Freshmen girls account for the 88% of alleged victims of gang rape assaults.
- -Many girls delay reporting their rape because of fear, intimidation, or really not knowing what happened to them. In fact, most students do not report their assaults at all.
- Campus serial rapists choose victims who offer the greatest chance of success. They choose naïve college women who are dazzled by their allure and who don’t know the campus geography and who drink heavily. If a woman is drunk, she can no longer resist or escape. She won’t recognize the dangerous effects of a colorless, odorless or tasteless date rape drug after she drinks it — which can go into effect within 10-15 minutes. If her friends are partying as well, they will not even know what has happened or suspect that the “nice” guy taking her home could actually hurt her.
Teach our Sons. By modeling respectful behavior toward women, we demonstrate how to interact. Never slut shame or body-shame a woman. Never make derogatory remarks about a woman’s clothes, work or reputation. Discuss media’s portrayals of women and offer alternatives to your sons. Never discount women’s stories or blame the victims of violence. Teach them how to recognize predatory behavior and how to be an effective bystander. If a girl seems to be harassed or bothered at a party, teach them how to ask her if she needs help.
Recognizing the physical red flags of a potential predator.
- The guy at the party who bought you a drink, then invades your personal space by laying his hand on you, pushing his body close to you, putting his arm around your neck, or grabbing your arm and forcing you into his personal space could signal danger. According law enforcement, every sexual predator will test a person’s boundaries to see if they will protest or if he can go to the next level.
- He forces multiple drinks on one girl all night long while ignoring others at the party. He manipulates the situation so that he is alone with the potential victim, literally separating her from her friends.This can take the form of slowly backing her up against a wall or in a corner while talking to her or dancing with her as he scans the room. If she’s drunk, he can easily lead her to another room for the assault.
- The helpful stranger who violates social conventions by being too persistent, talking too much, with contradicting behavior that could trigger your gut instinct to get out but doesn’t because your mind is overloaded by his “charm”. The seemingly too “nice”, too “good-looking” guy who wants to get to know you better doesn’t look like a rapist. However, he diverts your attention so that he can get you to a secluded area.
- He exploits sympathy or guilt. For example, he could say, “I’ve already been dumped by my girlfriend tonight. You’re not going to leave me as well, are you?” Or as one woman described her boyfriend’s roommate appeared one night, claiming that he was locked out of his apartment. He later assaulted her with a knife. Don’t let sympathy or guilt override your gut instinct. Sometimes being too nice is the wrong thing to do.
- Eye contact can be deceiving. Disregard the conventional wisdom that an honest person will look you in the eye. A serial rapist just like a con man is more motivated to maintain eye contact than honest people. In fact, the eye contact will be too direct, too disconcerting. If it becomes a stare, the man could be intent on aggression.
How to be safe at college parties.
- Travel in packs. Have a buddy system with friends who make sure they bring you home and periodically check on you at the party. If you need help, have a secret hand gesture that brings them running to your side. There is safety in numbers. Have your phone charged and taxi money to get home. When you get to a nightclub or house party, always scan for possible exits.
- Never leave your drink unattended and if so, discard it. Never accept a drink that you didn’t receive from a bartender or waitress. Keep your drink covered with your hand. Avoid punchbowls and drinking games.
- Beware of anyone who is plying you with alcohol and checking to see if you’re drunk.
- Know your limit and make sure you eat so that you don’t get drunk easily. Alcohol is still the number one date rape drug. Keep track of how many drinks you’ve had. If suddenly you become weak, and your arms and legs feel like lead or you pass out after one beer, someone could have put rohypnol or GHB in your drink. Get help immediately.
- If you see someone leading a person to a secluded place and the person is too drunk to give consent, create a distraction to divert the attention of the potential perpetrator to allow the potential victim to escape.
- Beware of parties at fraternities where there is a history of sexual assault. If there is a history, there is a reason. You do not want to become a statistic.
How to Help If They’ve Been Assaulted. Get help immediately. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800-656-4673, operated by RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault hotline in the country. Survivors need psychological support and to be tested for STDs and HIV. Since some schools do not provide adequate resources, families need to work together to see what is best for their daughter or son (one in every sixteen young men are sexually assaulted on campus). Also many students are now filing Title IX complaints against the schools after their assault. For more information see http://endrapeoncampus.org/title-ix/
Remember by working together and educating our children, we decrease campus assaults.