After today’s Abolish the Blame event and seeing the number of young people who attended, I decided to provide information about sexual assault of college students.

Sexual assault/rape on college campuses is more prevalent than many people realize. While colleges may report low numbers, the local rape crisis and domestic violence center will provide much higher numbers.

According to the American Association of University Women and local rape crisis centers,

20 to 25 percent of college women are raped while attending college.
65 percent of these attacks go unreported.
Alcohol is involved in 75 percent of attacks.
{Source: The American Association of University Women, 2004)

These statistics mirror statistics of sexual assaults globally, 1 in 4 women are victims of sexually violent crimes. Why is such a high percentage of assaults unreported? Many colleges and universities have protocols in place that make reporting difficult or unwelcome. The cases are handled on campus and may not be reported to law enforcement and are therefore not prosecuted. Victim-blaming is still a factor in many communities and influences survivors of violence to not report. Unfortunately, many myths still are present in society and inaccurate beliefs are still held, such as: wearing tight or revealing clothing causes rape, being out late at night, or wearing makeup. Alcohol is used frequently as a means to reduce judgement and impair the ability to provide consent.

These are myths. There is no correlation between certain clothing and rape. No rape victim is ever “asking for it.” If you are the victim of sexual violence, please understand that what happened was wrong and that it was not your fault.

What should you do if you get raped?

Get yourself to safe place, call 911. Sexual assault is an emergency. If at all possible, find a supportive person who can help you, like a close friend or a residence assistant.

Resist the urge to take a bath or a shower. Cleaning yourself is a natural impulse, but don’t. Your body is covered with physical evidence that can help catch the rapist. Preserve all evidence, such as your clothing.

Go to an emergency room and get medical attention immediately! Even if you do not plan to report the rape, it is crucial that you seek help at a local emergency room, campus health center or elsewhere. Prompt medical assistance reduces you chance of developing some STDs, and many women choose to take the morning after pill to prevent pregnancy. Rape victims also sustain other physical injuries, and you may be more hurt than you realize. Yes, an intimate medical exam is the last thing you want after such a horrible experience, but it’s something you need to do for the sake of your health.

Get psychological counseling as soon as possible. Rape is a traumatic experience, and most women need help coping. Be kind to yourself and get the help you need! Most communities have rape crisis centers and may provide counseling. Colleges also have counseling centers.

Report the assault to the campus and/or city police. Many women choose not to do this, and their decisions should be respected. But if you are raped, please consider reporting it. Doing so may prevent the rapist from hurting someone else, and if enough women report rapes, rape statistics may go down because the consequences will go up. And even if the rapist never strikes again, rape is a crime and needs to be reported.