By Margaret Mitschke*
There is no specific day that it will happen. There is no specific place. There is no time when students can simply avoid it. Sexual assault is nearly impossible to predict, and can happen to anyone. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men have been raped in their lifetime.
On college campuses this number rises, and a Department of Justice report found that approximately 20-25% of women will be raped during their college career. Several events have been held on Sam Houston State University’s campus in the past year to help raise awareness for sexual assault prevention, including new regulations for Title IX compliance and training, “Walk a Mile in her Shoes,” and Ignite the Night.
Part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month is to raise awareness of how sexual assault does not just happen to a single demographic, and that anyone could be a victim. Sam Houston State University’s Counseling Center challenges the common thought that “Sexual assault could never happen to me” by stating that “Everyone is a potential rape victim: females/males of any age, race, class, religion, occupation, education, or sexual orientation.” In fact, a YouTube video shared by the Director of Sexual & Domestic Violence Services at the University of Virginia titled “Dormancy” shows exactly how unexpected and fast sexual assault can be in a university dorm environment.
The video, posted on DateSafeProject.com, begins with four friends playing pool, playing in the snow, watching TV, and socializing in a dorm environment. There are no words in the video, however the students appear to be having fun and acting completely normal. However, during the course of the video, two of the students are left alone watching TV while the other two are gone getting sodas from a vending machine. While they are gone, it is apparent that one of the students who was left alone sexually assaults the other, and the video fades to black. As the video continues, the same four students are doing the same activities they were before, but now the student who was assaulted does not participate. She remains motionless while the others play in the snow, play pool, and interact with each other as they did before. The video then displays statistics about sexual assault, including: 84% of men who allegedly committed rape said that what they did was definitely not rape, and 84% of survivors knew their attacker.
The Counseling Center at SHSU lists common reactions to sexual assault to include depression, powerlessness, shock, anxiety, embarrassment, shame, guilt, numbness, self-blame, and anger. They also suggest that to help protect yourself from sexual assault you should:
- Set up contacts with your friends to watch out for each other and help each other in unsafe situations or places;
- Trust your gut instinct. If you are uncomfortable in a situation or with a person, it’s okay to leave. It’s better to be safe;
- Be clear and assertive about your limits; and
- Say NO clearly.
If you or anyone you know has been the survivor of such an attack, call the police immediately. If you have any questions about sexual assault, contact Student Legal & Mediation Services at (936) 294-1717, or email at email@example.com to schedule an appointment with our attorney.