The Scary Reality of Sexual Assault on College Campuses

rape in colleges

“I didn’t go to the police because I didn’t want to go through the process of it all and have my word be challenged against his. I felt like it was my fault in the first place, even though I realized later it wasn’t. I still have to face my attacker almost every day as he is a classmate.” — Sara, a sophomore at the University of St. Francis

There are a few well-publicized examples of assault on university campuses we can all remember: Indiana University student Lauren Spierer (missing since June 2011), University of Virginia student Hannah Graham who died of “homicidal violence,” and Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University senior who carries her mattress everywhere on campus as a symbolic gesture as long as her alleged rapist remains a student at Columbia (the administration adjudicated the case in 2013 and ruled in favor of the young man).

But, silence on college campuses has sadly become the norm across the country where reporting sexual assault is concerned. Some campuses have persuaded victimized students – both male and female – not to go to the police due to unfavorable publicity for the school.

Rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice. In fact, one in four college women will be the victim of sexual assault during her academic career (source: http://www.oneinfourusa.org).

Julie Yunker, chief of police at IPFW, said none of the school’s students polled wanted to speak about their sexual assaults publicly. She felt it was because of fear of retribution, reliving their painful experience through the courts, or even being ostracized by targeting their attackers who may have been popular football/basketball players or otherwise sought after. Yunker also says she doesn’t have statistics on how successful prosecutors had been in getting convictions on the school’s reported crimes, adding that some of the assaulted students were even reluctant to make an initial police report.

Ivy Tech and Huntington University did not return calls seeking comment about sexual assault on their grounds, but the University of St. Francis did provide two people who were willing to share their experiences.

According to Kendra Kremer, a resident assistant at the University of St. Francis, sexual assault and harassment is a more common campus occurrence that most would think, according to the stories she hears from dorm mates.

“I also know this is true because I have seen it firsthand at several USF parties when I was younger,” said Kremer, who is from Ohio. “I have had students who talked to me about what happened and what they should do. They came in fear because they didn’t remember what happened besides bits and pieces of the night. They never wanted anything to happen but they thought the opposite gender was cute and it took off from there.

“In all the incidences that I have talked to about, alcohol was involved – this seems to be a huge trigger when sexual assault occurs.”

“There are no names listed in our student handbook for victims to go to for help. With my position as a resident assistant, there have been many times I have had to wait quite some time before security would show up to help with an incident. I do feel safe on our campus, but our security system is lax and has many flaws. Our student government has expressed concern about updating our system, but that requires lots of money and our school is not putting time to invest in this at the moment. I fear that someday a student will get harmed because we did not want to invest in something to keep our students safe.”

Sara, a USF sophomore, was the victim of such a campus attack almost a year ago.

“I didn’t go to the police because I didn’t want to go through the process of it all and have my word be challenged against his. I felt like it was my fault in the first place, even though I realized later it wasn’t. I still have to face my attacker almost every day as he is a classmate,” said Sara, who did not want her last name used.

“He ignores me, but he usually makes really uncomfortable eye contact that I just ignore as well.”

After the attack, Sara first confided in her best friend and her sister-in-law because they were closer to her age.

“I finally got the guts to tell my mom a month or two later and she was extremely understanding and helped me remember that it wasn’t my fault. I went for counseling for a day and it didn’t help so I quit going, because it seemed pointless to keep telling the story over and over. The only thing that helped was taking time to realize things on my own.”

Asked if she could still press charges against him at this late date, Sara said that technically she could because she went to the school administration the day after the attack, “but I would not give his name because then they would’ve been obligated to press charges.

“Believe me, it wasn’t a simple decision not to go to the police. I was told to do so by many people. But if it would’ve been a scenario like I had gotten jumped on the street, of course I would’ve reported it. But every case is different, every story is different. Maybe it was an extremely selfish act to not report it, but my life would’ve changed even more if I would have. I never want to have to take anything as unclear as this into our ridiculous court system. Nothing would have gotten solved and I didn’t want to be questioned against myself. It’s just a super weird thing to be honest. It seems very unreal still and I think that’s part of my problem.”

According to Kremer, there are some steps women students can take to prevent simple forms of harassment.

“Wearing short skirts, tight pants, low-cut tops, etc. gives the impression that females are putting themselves out there as an ‘easy target.’ They present themselves that way so as to attract male attention,” said Kremer.

“Respect their bodies and hold each other accountable. My parents have raised me to have very strong morals and my friends hold me accountable when they know I am doing something I shouldn’t. This goes both ways for males and females.

“Another way is to stand up for yourself. This does not mean to start an argument but rather to stand up for who you are and make it known that you respect yourself. If a case becomes very extreme, know how to do self-defense. Many classes are offered in Fort Wayne.  In fact, USF offers this occasionally for women on how they can protect themselves from a perpetrator.

“The main thing is to be smart and to always have a friend who will stick up for you.”

Rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice. In fact, one in four college women will be the victim of sexual assault during her academic career (source: http://www.oneinfourusa.org).


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