Every two minutes, one person is sexually assaulted somewhere in the world. “We’re in the red zone,” Sherry Mendez said, a graduate assistant director of the Women’s Center. Mendez explained that at the start of the school year in August through Thanksgiving is a time period known as the red zone. During this time of the year, most sexual assaults occur. First-year college students are the highest risk of being sexually assaulted.
“(Assaults) are not easily defined,” Mendez said. “Anyone can be a victim.”
Sexual assaults can be committed by man to woman, woman to man, woman to woman and man to man. About 10% of sexual assault victims are men.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide.
RAINN is a nationally known organization that helps survivors. With an average of 237,550 sexual assaults per year, RAINN stresses that friends keep one another safe. RAINN recommends watching your drinks throughout the night, not taking a drink from a stranger or someone you do not trust, and if a friend is too intoxicated, get them home safely for the night. Be aware of the surroundings, including the location and the people around.
For more information, or to get involved as a volunteer for the program, visit rainn.org. The national sexual assault hotline is 1-800-656-HOPE, the lines are open 24/7 and all calls are confidential.
According to RAINN, 80% of sexual assault victims are under the age of 30, and 44% of victims are under the age of 18. It is expected that more than half of sexual assaults that occur are not reported to law enforcement.
Most assaults happen with a person that the victim knows, with a person of some acquaintance. It is less often that a stranger is the one committing an assault. Acquaintance assault occurs in one out of four women.
There are resources on campus for students to use and attend to if needed. The Woman’s Center is located on the second floor of the Lawrence Center, room 220. The number to reach the Women’s Center is 610-436-2122. In an emergency, call 911.
When on campus, WCU emergency numbers include the following: Public Safety 610-436-3311, Counseling Center 610-436-2301, and the Health Center 610-436-2509.
College-age women are four times more likely to be the victim of sexual assault, according to RAINN. Several reasons include that in a college setting, alcohol is available, there is no parental control and people are unaware of warning signs.
It is recommended that victims of an assault do not shower or bathe, or change clothes as it can destroy legal evidence. Victims can file to press charges of their assault by reporting to law enforcement.
Off campus resources include: Crime Victim Center/Rape Crisis, 610-692-7273; West Chester Police Department, 610-696-2700; and Chester County Hospital, 610-431-5150.
Students are recommended to save the phone numbers in their cell phones in case of an emergency.
Services from the Crime Victims’ Center are available to all victims, and witnesses, of a crime regardless of if the crime is reported or not. The mission statement of the Crime Victims’ Center is “to reduce the effects of sexual assault and other crimes on victims, witnesses, and family members, to reduce victimization, and to sensitize professionals to victims’ needs.”
Victims of an assault are allowed to have a victim advocate or a family member with them during “all public criminal proceedings” as according to the Crime Victims’ Center of Chester County.
Mendez is a crime victim advocate, she has been trained for this position and was certified in California. When she lived there, she would go to the hospital with the survivor of an assault. She worked with the resources to help victims find counseling. Now in Pa. and at WCU, Mendez directs victims to resources on campus.
The Women’s Center of West Chester University will be hosting a RAINN event on campus, on Sept. 23. Mendez said that the Women’s Center would like to thank students for what they did last year during the RAINN event. This time last year, the campus was covered with umbrellas that had statistics and information about sexual assaults. One umbrella had writting on it that one in every six women in America have been sexually assaulted.
Last year the main focus for the Women’s Center was to have the sexual assault policies changed. This year the policies are in the process of being updated. This year the Women’s Center would like to make students awareness of sexual assault and the real statistics.
Later this week, on September 23, students are encouraged to wear jeans to represent “denim day.”
This is on behalf of the victims of assault whose alleged perpetrator was found not guilty after it was deemed that the victim was wearing skinny jeans and thus would make it difficult for an assailant to take her jeans off. “Demin day” began as a protest for women to wear jeans to work.
Students are also encouraged to wear red t-shirts in support of RAINN and survivors of sexual assault.
The Women’s Center will be hosting several events this year. Upcoming events include “Love Your Body Day” on Oct. 21. October is Domestic Awareness Month, a hotline for this is 1-800-799-SAFE.
On Nov. 17 the Women’s Center will be “Speaking up about Peer Sexual Harassment” from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in 220 Lawrence. “Pussies, Pens, and Politics” will be on Dec. 6 in Brandywine room 33, beginning at 7:30 p.m. More events can be found on the Web site, www.wcupa.edu/_services/stu.wce/calender.asp.
The Women’s Center also has “Survivor Space” on Thursdays from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. which is an informal support space for people who have been sexually abused or assaulted. Email SRVP@wcupa.edu for more information or to ask questions.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.