University of Vermont student Michelle Gardner-Quinn, 21, disappeared October 7, 2006, after being seen talking to a mysterious man on a surveillance video at 2:30 a.m. She had been separated from friends at a party and she approached a man to ask him to borrow his cell phone. That was a deadly mistake. Police found Gardner-Quinn’s body in a ravine six days later. A 2004 study concluded that many college women inadvertently put their welfare at risk on a daily basis. Statistically, women are most likely to be victims of rape and assault and most of the time alcohol is involved. Young women seem to be faced with a decision: stay safe or party.
However, this decision does not have to be made.
Women are victimized on every campus. A 2004 study was conducted at 119 colleges, and it was found that one in 20 college women reported being raped during the school year, and 75 percent of those women were intoxicated at the time of their attack. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Arizona, and, more locally, St. Joseph’s University, conducted the study. The study was published in the January 2004 issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and it also found that white women under the age of 21 residing in sorority houses, using drugs and binge drinking are at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted. Another study by the U.S. Department of Justice shows that about 90 percent of rape victims knew their attackers. This study showed that on a campus of 10,000 women, about 280 rapes or attempted rapes occur each school year, but less than five percent are reported.
There are some preventative measures women can take to avoid being victimized on and around campus. Safety experts at Camosun College in British Columbia, Canada suggest the following safety tips:
Study in groups and avoid isolated classrooms, stairwells and other areas of campus that are isolated.
Try to always carry a cell phone when you are alone. If listening to music, do not have the music so loud that it is difficult to hear if someone is approaching.
Avoid taking short-cuts in unfamiliar places.
Even though it may be difficult, do not stop to talk to strangers asking for assistance or directions, especially at night.
Keep your car doors locked. If someone tries to approach your car, drive away immediately if possible, or honk to draw attention to yourself.
Do not park in deserted or poorly lit areas.
At parties, drink with dependable friends, and always bring a friend who is not drinking.
Always leave parties and bars as a group. Never leave a friend behind, even if they insist. If they simply will not leave with you, then stay with them.
Always pour your own drinks and never accept opened containers from others. Never let your drinks out of your sight.
If you ever feel uncomfortable, leave the situation in a safe manner.
Because rape does not just involve women, Plattsburgh University in New York offers the following tips for men in order to protect them from crossing any line:
If you are receiving an unclear message, ask for clarification.
If a woman tells you no, believe her and stop.
If the woman is silent, stop.
Most importantly, be aware that having sexual contact with any person who is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent is a crime; this includes intoxicated people.
Cosmopolitan Magazine recently detailed a new way that men are gaining access to women. In the article, Cosmopolitan says that men dress as repairmen for any number of problems a house may have. Since it is relatively easy to find a police badge, some of these men are posing as police to gain access to the home. Once inside, they may sexually assault, rob, or attempt to physically harm their victims. Cosmopolitan suggests asking for identification if you find yourself alone with a strange man asking for entrance into your home. Do not unlock the door, and schedule an appointment with them. If they are legitimate, they will oblige and you can schedule a time when you will not be alone. If it is a police officer, keep the door locked until you call the police station to confirm that an officer should be at your home.
Also, if you are alone in your car and you see those dreaded blinking lights of a police car, decrease your speed and put your hazard lights on. Call the police station to confirm that it is an actual officer pulling you over. Once confirmed, pull over. If you still feel uncomfortable, tell the police dispatcher that you will pull over once you reach a well-lit area. The dispatcher will let the police officer know. If you think this is going over-board, think again. Anyone with $40 can purchase a convincing police badge. An additional $15 will get anyone blue flashing light.
If you have been a victim of rape or sexual assault, you are encouraged to report the crime to police and seek counseling. If the attack occurs off-campus, call 911. If the attack is on-campus, contact West Chester University’s Office of Public Safety by dialing 3311. Public Safety can dispatch police officers and an ambulance if necessary. If you want to anonymously report a crime, call Public Safety on-campus at 3100. This is an answering service, and you will be asked to leave a message with as much detail as possible.
Also, Lt. Jon Brill from West Chester’s Office of Public Safety runs a rape aggression self-defense class. This is a 12 hour comprehensive program that costs $10. Contact Lt. Brill with any interest at firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also classes for men, which focuses on rape awareness and prevention. See www.rad-systems.com for further information.