In the United States, one in six women will be the victim of sexual assault; out of that group, college age women are four times more likely to be victims of sexual assault. These statistics may seem shocking, but according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), they are entirely true. RAINN, the largest anti-sexual assault organization in the U.S, has provided numerous programs to support victims, raise awareness of sexual assault, and aid legislators with forming laws to ensure that justice is granted to those who have been assaulted. This organization has also operated the National Sexual Abuse Hotline (1-800-656-HOPE), a service that provides free, confidential counseling to victims of sexual assault and connects them to more than 1,000 rape crisis centers across the nation. RAINN recently pioneered the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline. This service is the first of its kind to provide confidential counseling and support via instant messaging. According to RAINN.org, the National Hotline has helped more than one million sexual assault victims since its start in 1994.
Along with its core mission of supporting sexual assault victims, RAINN has extended its movement to college campuses across the U.S. and Canada through RAINN Day, an annual campaign to stop sexual assault.
Over one million students raised awareness by volunteer drives, guest speakers, posters, educational fundraising events, and petitions.
Jenn Halligan, vice president of the Women’s Center Club, was the coordinator of this year’s very successful RAINN Day campaign on Thursday, September 25. Halligan was grateful from the help several on-campus organizations who were actively involved in helping with RAINN Day, including Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity, sororities Delta Zeta and Mu Sigma Upsilon, the Women’s Center Club and the staff of the Women’s Center. The volunteers, who were stationed at key locations around campus, helped spread awareness of sexual assault by distributing cards and flyers that provided information on precautions to take to reduce sexual assault and how to help friends and loved ones who have been assaulted. More RAINN Day activities took place inside of Sykes Student Union. WCU students signed a banner honoring sexual assault survivors, and informational literature was provided by WCU’s Women’s Center and Health and Wellness Center, the Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County, and the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County.
As the student coordinator of RAINN Day at WCU, Halligan felt that it was necessary for college students to become aware of sexual assault and prevention because of the number of people affected by it on a daily basis.
“According to RAINN, one in four women and one in six men will have been sexually assaulted by the time they turn 18. This is an astonishing statistic, but it’s probably much higher because so many people are afraid to seek help,” she said. Halligan also stated that educating college students about sexual assault was vital because many people in this age group are unclear how sexual assault is defined.
Halligan pointed out that sexual assault wasn’t just limited to rape. “Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted, forced physical contact,” she said.
One goal Halligan wanted to accomplish by organizing RAINN Day was to provide information to students about the various services the Women’s Center offers to support victims of sexual assault. She said the Women’s Center partners with on-campus resources such as the Counseling and Health and Wellness Centers.
Staff members at the Women’s Center also provide direct, confidential counseling and also direct students to various off-campus resources. Halligan stressed that the Women’s Center was a “Safe Space,” meaning that those seeking services would be supported unconditionally. The Women’s Center also provides presentations and workshops that focus on female empowerment and women’s history along with social events that allow students to connect with each other.
Students in need of support or assistance can reach the Women’s Center at (610)-436-2122. RAINN’s national mission to spread awareness about sexual assault was exhibited by the hard work of the WCU Women’s Center Club and its many volunteers in organizing RAINN Day.
Jen James is an English major with a minor in music. She can be reached at JJ655874@wcupa.edu.