It’s College Time! Two of my grandkids are heading back to school. They are excited to be back in the swirl of classes, football, and social happenings.
In addition to all the positive excitement there can be, sadly, a dark side to the college campus scene: sex assault.
Consider These Facts:
One in five college women experience sex assault.
Statistically, students are at the highest risk of sexual assault in the first few months of their first year in college.
Women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or gay are more likely to experience sexual assault on campus than heterosexual women according to the, Campus Climate Survey Validation Study Final Technical Report, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.
Why is the Risk so Great?
The use of alcohol and drugs lead the list. According to a 2015 study reported in the, Journal of Studies in Alcohol and Drugs, 15% of young women were raped during a period when they were incapacitated and unable to give consent or stop the assault due to intoxication or unconsciousness from alcohol or drug use.
A second contributor is victim silence. Only 1 in 5 sexual assaults are reported to police according to the 2014 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statics report, Rape and Sexual Victimization Among College-Aged Females, 1995-2013.
A third factor is peer pressure. Whether it’s “go along to get along” or pressure from other female students who were witnesses, but don’t want to admit they were present when drug use or under age drinking was occurring, there can be significant social pressure to keep silent.
It will take courage to report an assault. Know that doing so is the right decision for you and for other women who will likely be victimized in the future if action isn't taken against an assailant.
How to Stay Safe
Here are some easy to follow, common sense ways to help you stay safe:
Recommendation Number 1: Avoid alcohol and drug use. If you’re 21 or older and choose to drink, consume no more than one alcoholic beverage an hour. Don’t leave a drink unattended. Date rape drugs are prevalent and dangerous.
If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, get help ASAP. Call for medical attention. Someone may have given you a date rape drug or (if you ignored Recommendation Number 1) given you pot or another drug laced with a potentially dangerous additive. Get help immediately if you’re feeling weak or out of control.
Ensure you know someone very, very well before being alone with that individual. Let friends know where you are by calling or texting periodically. Let a date know you’re staying in touch with friends and those friends know who you’re with and where you are.
Avoid situations and people who are potential risks. If you must walk on or off campus after dark, walk in a group, pay attention to your surroundings, and have your cellphone ready to call for help.
If you carry pepper spray, learn how to use it properly and have it readily available outside of your purse or book bag.
Listen to your gut instincts. Heed the “tiny voice” or feeling that signals something isn’t right.
Report any assault or threat to police and to college officials. Ensure you report an incident to the City or County police in addition to campus police.
“The Hunting Ground” Documentary Film
I highly recommend you visit the website for the Radius / CNN Films documentary called, “The Hunting Ground”. It provides a sobering view of what can happen if your college isn’t 100% supportive of student safety. You’ll find that website at http://thehuntinggroundfilm.com/.
The Bottom Line
Here's the bottom line: While law, college staff, police, and other students have a role to play in creating a safe environment, YOU must assume primary responsibility for your personal safety.
U.S. and International Support Resources
RAINN: One of the leading organizations dedicated to helping with sexual assault is RAINN, short for, Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. You’ll find their website at https://centers.rainn.org/.
FREA: FREA, short for Finding Recovery and Empowerment From Abuse, is dedicated to support, educate and empower people to heal themselves from the effects of sexual abuse. You are likely reading this blog post on the FREA site now. You’ll find FREA’s website at https://FREA.support.
International Resources: Visit http://www.ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html. Additionally, a great international resource is the, Handbook of International Centers for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Harassment, available at http://bit.ly/2wjrA1c.
More Safety Tips: For more safety tips, scroll through the “Stay Safe” themed blog posts on the FREA website blog at https://www.frea.support/blog.
You’ll also find articles and podcast episodes focused on keeping you safe at my, “Safe Living Today” website at, http://SafeLivingToday.com.
Stress Solutions, LLC | www.EFT-MD.com | Safe Living Today Podcast: http://SafeLivingToday.com
Stephen Carter is a former Chief of Police, Corporate Security Director and safely leader for one of the world's largest financial services companies. He is now the CEO of Stress Solutions, LLC, a company dedicated to helping people enhance physical and emotional wellbeing through stress mastery using mind-body methods. He is the host of the, "Safe Living Today" Internet radio show and podcast.