Sexual Assault

A closer look at the harsh realities of rape

Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted sexual touch or threatened physical force. Included in this definition are rape, attempted rape and intercourse with an individual who is intoxicated to the point that he or she cannot express consent (such as a passed-out student at a party). Sexual assault and rape have nothing to do with sex or passion. They are wholly acts of violence and aggression. Female students are the victims of most sexual assaults on college campuses, but males can be victims as well.

Rape Statistics

Women between the ages of 16 and 24 are four times more likely to be raped than women in any other age group. A staggering 20 to 25 percent of female college students will be raped or experience an attempted rape during their time in college, yet only 5 percent will ever report it to the police and nearly half of all rape victims will tell no one about it.

The disparity in rapes versus reported rapes may be due to the fact that a mere 25 percent of women who have been raped (according to current legal definitions ) think of themselves as rape victims. This confusion surrounding what constitutes rape is also evident in males, as over 80 percent of college men who have committed rape genuinely believe that their actions didn’t meet the criteria of a rape.

Sadly, over 40 percent of female rape victims expect to be raped again, and 60 percent of college-aged males report that they would commit rape if they were guaranteed not to be caught.

It should be noted that all statistics listed above are best estimates since most rapes go unreported and exact figures are impossible to obtain.

Acquaintance Rape

Over 80 percent of rapes are committed by someone whom the victim is familiar with, such as a friend, romantic interest, classmate or co-worker. One study found that 90 percent of these so-called “date rapes” involve the voluntary consumption of drugs or alcohol or the involuntary consumption of a date-rape drug such as Rohypnol (also known as “roofies”). In some cases, the victim has had a prior sexual relationship with his or her attacker. Some will even continue to have one in the future. However, this doesn’t excuse forced sexual intimacy; it is never an acceptable course of action. Just because you’re in a dating relationship with someone doesn’t permit you unlimited sexual access to their body.

Preventing Rape

The best way to protect yourself against rape is to set limits for yourself and communicate them to others. Travel with a buddy and in safe, well-lit places. Trust your instincts and leave any situation that makes you feel vulnerable. Only consume a volume of alcohol that you know you can handle.

Be blunt and assertive in stating your limits to others. Say “no” forcefully so that it is clear that you mean it. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings; your personal safety is much more important. Try these statements if you’re in a situation where you’re facing unwanted sexual advances:

  • “Stop immediately. I don’t like this.”
  • “Take your hands off me.”
  • “I do not consent to sex.”
  • “What you are doing constitutes sexual assault and is illegal."

What to Do if You Have Been Sexually Assaulted

If you have been a victim of a sexual assault, follow these steps:

  • Immediately seek medical care. You’ll need to be checked for injuries, as well as pregnancy and STDs. If you have not yet done so, don’t bathe or change your clothes, as doing so could wash away important evidence.
  • Immediately talk to someone about it. Contact the police, a counselor, victim’s services or even just a friend or family member. Recovery begins as soon as you open a dialogue. Withholding details of a rape can be psychologically damaging.

If someone you know has been sexually assaulted, assist them in the following ways:

  • Be a good listener. Believe everything they tell you.
  • Provide emotional support and reassurance.
  • Encourage the victim to seek medical help and to contact the proper authorities. Assist him or her in doing so.
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