West Chester University is recognizing the month of April as National Sexual Assault Month. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center 20-25 percent of college women have experienced an attempted or completed rape during their college career. First-year students are the most likely victims of sexual assault on college campuses. 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted/completed rape in their lifetime. 2.78 million American men have been victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Girls between the ages of 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. Ninety-three percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. 34 percent were family members, and 59 percent were acquaintances. It is also estimated that fewer than 48 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. This means that, in all actuality, the statistics are much higher. The term sexual violence is a sex act completed or attempted against a person’s will or when a person is unable to consent due to age, illness, disability or the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
One may be asking one self why victims would choose to not report. According to www.cdc.gov/injury, there are many reasons. Many victims are afraid to tell the police, friends or family. Victims also think that their stories will not be believed and that police cannot help them. They may be ashamed or embarrassed. Victims may also keep quiet because they have been threatened with further harm if they speak. There is also a potent social stigma, attached to addressing such a personal issue. In the end, whether or not to report is ultimately the victim’s decision to make.
From a legal perspective, the results can be beneficial. According to www.cdc.gov/injury, if a rape is reported, there is a 50 percent chance of an arrest. If an arrest is made, there is an 80 percent chance of conviction. If there is a felony conviction, there is a 69 percent chance the convict will spend time in jail. It is highly recommended, to maximize the chances of an arrest and successful prosecution, that the incident be reported as soon as possible after the rape. Any physical evidence will help build a case against the perpetrator. Often, by just reporting the rape to police or taking legal action, can help the victim emotionally and psychologically regain some sense of control and take their power back. So, how can we prevent sexual violence? According to www.cdc.gov/injury, by “engaging high school students in mentoring programs or other skill-based activities that address healthy sexuality and dating relationships also helps parents identify and address social and cultural influences that may promote attitudes and violent behavior in their kids.” Another idea involves developing mass media messages that promote norms, or shared beliefs about healthy sexual, relationships.
Other preventative tips involve getting to know your surroundings, always carrying emergency cash, forming buddy systems, always trusting your instincts, avoiding being alone, not accepting drinks and never leaving your drinks unattended. According to www.nsvrc.org, reporting to the police is the most effective tool that exists to prevent future rapes; every time we lock up a rapist, we are preventing him or her from committing another crime.
For anyone interested in more information, there are many resources for sexual violence. Resources from the internet include: www.rainn.org, or 1 (800) 656-HOPE, www.nsrc.org, www.vawnet.org. Most provide beneficial tips and information. West Chester University also offers health services, and the Women’s Center, 2nd floor Lawrence Center- (610)436-2122 or e-mail to the center’s director, Robin Garrett email@example.com.
Kerry Barth is a student at West Chester University majoring in professional studies with minors in journalism and health sciences. She can be reached at KB358328@wcupa.edu.