According to RAINN, 11.2% of all students (graduate and undergraduate) are sexually assaulted. However, less stories are reported because of the lack of support and resources for survivors on most campuses. These survivors need support, and to illustrate why, I’ll talk about two campus sexual assault stories.
Hannah Price was assaulted by an acquaintance who walked her home after a college party. She said no multiple times, but he didn’t listen. Her university’s policy stated that they wouldn’t do anything unless the survivor reported what happened to the police. This meant that there was little to no support for people who didn’t want to get the police involved.
Hannah worried about whether or not her friends would believe her and about whether what happened was serious enough. She wondered if a criminal investigation would affect her studies and was skeptical about reporting to the police. As a result of these doubts and the lack of university support, she didn’t report to the authorities. She had to see the perpetrator multiple times on campus, and she minimized what happened to her for a long time.
After college, Hannah realized that she was assaulted and that other people weren’t comfortable with publicly sharing their experiences. She started a campaign called Revolt Sexual Assault, which is for university students in the UK to anonymously share their stories. After hearing other people’s stories, she came to terms with what happened to her.
If Hannah’s university had put more effort into supporting her, maybe she wouldn’t have had to see the perpetrator. She found out that she wasn’t alone after college, but knowing that soon after what happened would have been so beneficial. Having the right support can change how we view experiences, and maybe the university’s support would have helped her accept what happened without minimizing her story.
The second story is about Julia Dixon, a former student at the University of Akron. She was assaulted in the first two weeks of college by someone she met that day. When she tried to go through the university’s process of discipline, they said she had to attend an internal hearing with her attacker. A university official told her not to report because the defense official could claim that she was telling her story for attention. Despite these obstacles, she reported what happened to the local police and went to the hospital. She submitted a kit, which was processed after twenty months.
The assailant was free while the kit was being processed. Julia lived in fear for almost two years and had to eat in the same dining hall as the assailant. When she asked if she could take her meals to her dorm room to avoid him, the university didn’t allow it. By the time the kit was fully processed, the assailant wasn’t a student on campus, and he got a light sentence because he pleaded guilty for a lesser crime.
As of now, Julia is an ambassador for PAVE – Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment. PAVE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing and educating about sexual assault as well as supporting survivors. She’s healing from what happened to her, yet she wonders if anything else will happen.
Because the university didn’t follow the Title IX regulations, Julia wasn’t informed about her rights. She had the right to talk to a confidential advisor about her legal options. She reported what happened because she didn’t know there were other options. Julia also had the right to change her housing situation, which meant she wouldn’t have had to see her assailant as much. If the university had followed the regulations, informed Julia of her rights, kept her assailant away from her, and supported her in general, maybe it would have been easier for her to heal and undergo the reporting process.
These two stories show how important it is for survivors of campus sexual assault to be supported by the universities. The list below delves into why survivors need support.
The right steps can be taken so that the survivor doesn’t have to see the perpetrator. This can be extremely triggering and it can cause people to live in fear. No one should feel unsafe, especially in places they frequent.
As I’ve told the wonderful storytellers on this website, support can help so much throughout the healing process. Survivors can realize that it wasn’t their fault, that how they feel is valid, that they can take as much time as they need to heal, and that they’re not alone. We should look out for one another.
People are suffering in silence because of self-blame, guilt, disgust, and other negative feelings and thoughts, which could lead to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other illnesses. It isn’t easy to deal with everything alone, and it can be difficult to talk about what happened due to the fear of not being believed or of being invalidated. If universities become allies for survivors, it might be easier for the survivors to open up.
The perpetrators committed crimes. If universities support the survivors, they can put stricter consequences in place for the perpetrators and take steps toward reducing sexual assault. We should make sure everyone knows that sexual assault is a serious crime that can have devastating effects.
To sum up, campus sexual assault is a widespread problem, and there isn’t enough support for survivors. We should all do our part by informing people about resources, starting campaigns, supporting survivors, educating people about sexual assault and its effects, and so much more. It’s up to us to come together and take the necessary steps to solve this problem.
If you are a college student who is interested in becoming an AVFTI college ambassador to address sexual violence on your campus, we’d love to have you. Sign up here, and we will be in touch.