Ashley Evans | Contributing Writer
Till it happens to you, you don’t know how it feels, how it feels. Until it happens to you, you won’t know, it won’t be real.
Lady Gaga’s recent release of her powerful and raw music video “Till It Happens To You” portrays college students and their fight against sexual assault on campus. Although it is just a music video, it reveals the reality of sexual assault and rape that occurs on college campuses as well as the pain, suffering and shame that victims live with everyday.
The college years are full of going on adventures, trying new things, growing and living life to the fullest. Dormitories and on-campus apartments turn from bleak and puny to expressive and cozy as their residents cover walls with photos and new memories. The last thing that college students consider when calling these new places home is the danger that could ensue when living on campus.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), there are about 293,000 average victims of sexual assault each year. While sexual assault occurs in an array of situations and places, college campuses have become primary targets. The National Women’s Study found that among the women who reported having been raped, 22.2 percent were between 18 and 24 years old—the common age range of college students.
One in Four is a national organization fighting to prevent sexual assault. It stands for the one in four college women who have been sexually victimized or have experienced attempted sexual assault. J.T. Newberry, a board member for One in Four, stresses the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and the importance of raising awareness.
“One thing I would want people to know is that sexual assault is a serious issue that impacts people that they know. We spoke to over 10,000 people and everyone except for maybe one person came up to us about how they relate to this issue,” said Newberry. “In your sports teams, in your residence halls, it never ceases to amaze me the breadth to which this impacts people that we all know.”
When it comes to college students, RAINN states that undergraduate women are three times more likely to suffer from some sort of sexual assault than women in general, while college-aged men are 78 percent more likely to be a victim of rape or sexual assault than non-students.
Although women are most often victims of sexual assault, it is important to recognize that both sexes are sexually victimized. Whether it is somebody you know or your own personal experiences, a huge part of protecting college students is by first admitting and accepting that this is happening on college campuses today.
Moving Forward Together
One in Four provides a men’s program that seeks to educate men regarding sexual assault issues and provide ways in which males and females can work together on college campuses to prevent sexual assault. The program teaches participants that they can be allies and informs them how to address the problem and be part of the solution, explained Newberry.
“I think self-blame and blame from others is one of the hardest things sexual assault survivors deal with, so recognizing that there is nothing you can ever do or deserve to have somebody treat you like that—it seems like a small realization, but it’s one of the most important, ” said Newberry.
According to the Association of American Universities (AAU) Campus Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct, more than 50 percent of victims never regard their situation with the gravity it deserves, primarily because they do not find it “serious enough.”
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, there are five types of sexual assault: sexual attack with serious assault, sexual attack with minor assault, sexual assault without injury, unwanted sexual contact without force and verbal threats of sexual assault other than rape. These are all considered serious and should never be dismissed.
Taking a Stand
College campuses, whether public or private, are all at risk for sexual assault. Unfortunately, it is a reality wherever you live and whatever university you attend. Despite how smart or in-control students assume themselves to be, it is crucial to be fully aware of what’s happening around you. Sexual assault is never something anyone asks for, but we must not wait until it is too late to take action.
Dr. Elaine Walton, director of Azusa Pacific University’s Women’s Resource Center, shares her experience with victims of sexual assault on campus and the influence and resources that the women’s center provides.
“I work one-on-one, I might be the first place [sexual assault victims] come after they’ve spoken with friends because we can be their support,” Walton said. “This office gets to offer support and that’s what makes it very real. There are some things that maybe just won’t happen here at a private Christian university, but when you factor in the fact that we’re all human, there are lots of things that students experience but don’t talk about because they don’t want to be judged or have a reputation of someone they don’t want to be. To be able to have a place that offers support is just an incredible opportunity.”
Walton wants those who have been sexually assaulted to know that there is always somewhere you can go to find positive social support, especially on this campus.
If you have been sexually assaulted or consider yourself a victim of sexual harassment, please take advantage of the sexual assault support and resources found in the Women’s Resource Center or the Community Counseling Center. There are also events to take part in, such as the Clothesline Project, which is a national event that gives women the opportunity to break their silence regarding sexual assault and victims of abuse.
It is the community’s responsibility to stand up against sexual victimization and to provide resources and help for our student body regarding sexual assault. You can also visit www.notalone.gov, www.oneinfourusa.org, or www.changingourcampus.org for more information. If you wish to make a difference and join hundreds of others fighting against sexual assault, please take the pledge and visit www.itsonus.org. Or, if you have first-hand experienced sexual assault, don’t hesitate to call the National Sexual Assault hotline to report it, or tell a friend. Chances are you are not alone.