Mon. Jun 27th, 2022

If you have never been raped or sexually assaulted, you might think that rape is something that would never happen to you or your friends. If you have been assaulted, you might think you are alone. But you would be wrong on both accounts.According to recent statistics, one out of four college women and one out of seven men have been victims of rape. These are conservative figures and the real numbers may be quite higher.

Although crime statistics report that rape and sexual assault are declining, these crimes still occur at alarming rates. Every two minutes, someone in the United States is raped or sexually assaulted.

Survivors of sexual violence are forced, coerced and/or manipulated to participate in unwanted sexual activity. Sexual violence includes rape, date rape, incest, child sexual abuse, marital or partner rape, sexual harassment, exposure, and voyeurism. The risk of sexual violence is highest for women aged 16 to 24, the prime dating ages. Victims are more likely to be assaulted by someone they know, rather than by a stranger.

With these alarming statistics, you might assume that victims would feel comfortable getting help and know what to do after an assault. But that is not always the case. After an assault, survivors might feel embarrassed or might think they “deserved it.” The ideas that wearing provocative clothing or having multiple sex partners entitles others to have sex with you still prevails in some circles. Such attitudes often lead to more shame and guilt in the minds of victims.

Often after having experienced the trauma of sexual assault, victims become temporarily confused or just want to be left alone. Later, they may think it is too late to get help or that no one will believe them because they waited too long. But it is never too late to get help.

About one-half of women who have been raped or assaulted will go on to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD (statistics are not in for males). Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the event through nightmares or flashbacks, being “on edge,” having difficulty concentrating, and avoiding places or thoughts that remind you of the attack.

In addition to PTSD, survivors of sexual assault may have other medical complications such as having acquired a sexually-transmitted disease or becoming pregnant. Whether you were assaulted yesterday or five years ago, you should seek medical treatment to rule out or treat any problems. If you suffer from symptoms of PTSD, you should schedule an appointment with a therapist. Treatment of PTSD is very successful.

There are several ways that you can reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted. First, be aware of your surroundings. Avoid walking alone in unfamiliar or secluded places, especially at night. Public Safety (reached at 436-3311) will provide an escort to and from campus locations. Do not use headphones or anything else that can distract you if you are walking alone.

Second, when attending a party or event, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, look out for one another, and leave together.

Third, be especially careful if you are drinking alcohol or using drugs. Seventy-five percent of campus assaults involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages, either by the perpetrator or the victim. Never accept a drink from a stranger if it is not poured in front of you, and watch your own drink carefully to prevent someone from slipping you GHB, “the date rape drug.”

Finally, in intimate situations, know your limits and communicate them clearly. If your partner does not listen to you or you do not feel comfortable for any reason, try to get out of the situation as quickly and safely as possible. Remember, it is better to be safe than sorry, even if you feel embarrassed the next day.

If a friend has been the victim of assault, they need your support. Listen to your friend, even if you do not know how to respond, and do not be judgmental. Gently encourage your friend to report the rape, get medical attention, and speak to a counselor or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline. (1-800-656-HOPE)

If you are assaulted, take care of yourself. Go to a safe place away from your attacker and ask a friend to stay with you for moral support. Report the assault to police and get a medical exam before you take a shower. Treatment and emergency contraception can be provided to you by doctors and nurses. They will also collect physical evidence in case you choose to press charges.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline provides free, confidential counseling and operates 24 hours a day. Counseling services are available on campus, free of charge, through the counseling center (reachable at 436-2301). Also consider attending the Peer-to-Peer Survivor Group, where survivors of sexual assault support one another and learn how to deal with unpleasant emotions. The group meets Mondays, 4:45 to 6 p.m. in the Wellness Center Meeting Room in Wayne Hall, on the 2 floor, beginning Feb. 2. Most importantly, remember that it was not your fault.

Have a health concern or problem you’d like to know more about? Email us at quadfeatures@hotmail.com

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