Sexual assault policies on campus: College students speak out via social media

Sexual Assault AwarenessIn the wake of the Steubenville rape case where two students were found guilty, colleges across the country are grappling with their own sexual assault policies (or lack thereof) in dealing with sexual assault reports and the culture of rape that surrounds victims and perpetrators. College students at several high-profile universities have claimed their schools botched rape cases among the student body over recent months and are stressing the importance of speaking out via social media. Doing so, they have started a new national conversation. They are pleading with college officials to ramp up education on sexual education and are pushing for more resources for counseling, health services and legal support. We, as college students, can make a difference. Silence and shame do not need to be tolerated. If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, find out how your peers are taking a stand. Read on to find out how others are making a difference.

Maximizing the Internet

Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and blogs — these are the tools that are helping college students to spread the word about rape. In an article by the New York Times dated March 19, 2013, titled, “College Groups Connect to Fight Sexual Assault“, Richard Perez-Pena, reports that groups of university students and faculty have increasingly taken to the Internet to network with their peers at other colleges around the U.S. to take action. Students at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA filed a civil rights case involving what they say has been the school administration’s mishandling of sexual misconduct. Those students had contacted the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who had taken pointers from students at Amherst College in Massachusetts, all of whom had experienced similar situations with their administrations.

“Activists say the most important change the Internet has made is allowing victims to tell their stories — remaining anonymous if they choose, and reaching vast audiences,” Perez-Pena wrote.

“You don’t need to be in a survivors’ group meeting to hear these stories anymore,” said Dana Bolger, one of Amherst’s leading activists. “The human connection is the same, but social media lets you do it on a completely different scale.”

Statistics

The statistics on rape for college students is a disturbing read. According to the numbers, the likelihood that it could happen to you or someone you know is a reality check. Here are some of the figures reported by Sarah Lawrence College in “Statistics about Sexual Assault and College Campuses,” from a study compiled by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault:

  • At least 1 in 4 college women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career.
  • At least 80 percent of all sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim.
  • 48.8 percent of college women who were victims of attacks did not consider what happened to them rape.
  • More than 70 percent of rape victims knew their attackers, compared to about half with other violent crime victims.
  • There are 35.3 incidents of sexual assault per 1,000 female students on a campus as recorded over a 6.91 month period.
  • On average, at least 50 percent of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use.

How to get help

Looking to help a friend or loved one who has been a victim of sexual violence or rape? The key to helping someone who is most likely experiencing shock and anger is compassion. There are many resources to turn to for advice, aside from your campus resource center. Suzanna Bobadilla, a student at Harvard University, in a post to policymic.com, “College Sexual Assault: How Students Can Help Prevent Rape On Campus,” lists the following action items for those seeking support:

  • Listen. Don’t underestimate the importance of hearing out someone who may be reaching out to you for help.
  • Help empower your friend or loved one. Don’t put pressure on them to do something they aren’t ready to do yet.
  • Contact a Title IX coordinator. Most universities have these agencies to respond to gender-based discrimination.
  • Reach out to organizations like the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network and Male Survivor.
  • Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE.
  • “Support Campus SaVE (a national program that would require all college campuses to provide preventative sexual assault programming) and the 2013 version of the Violence Against Women Act that pledges $12,000,000 to fighting gender violence on American campuses every fiscal year from 2014 to 2018. It passed the Senate and is awaiting House approval. Call your rep today!”

Question to readers: How does your campus handle sexual assault reports? Do you agree or disagree with its policies?

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