Originally published in Issue 4, Fifty-First Year of The Minstrel (October 20, 2016). Click here to view the entire issue.
Cowritten with Kimmie Semiday
College campuses across the nation are facing the growing epidemic of sexual assault. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), women on college campuses are three times more likely to fall victim to an act of sexual violence than a woman not attending college. That means your friend, sister or you yourself, if you’re a woman, could be at a higher risk of experiencing sexual assault simply by attending a college or university.
While at college, 23.1 percent of undergraduate female students and 5.4 percent of graduate female students have reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment, along with cases of stalking and assaults that have lead to physical force and violence (RAINN).
However, the sexual assault is not biased when it comes to what gender, race or sexual identity a person has. In fact, male college students ages 18-24 are 78 percent more likely to fall victim to sexual assault than other males. Along with this, 21 percent of transgender or non- conforming gender individuals have reported being sexually
assaulted on campus (RAINN).
Data collected from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) showed that 12.8 percent of “successful rapes” have occurred during or after a date, while nine in ten women knew their offender. This is alarming because out of the women victims of sexual assault, 22.8 precent of them had been previously raped multiple times.
Rape and sexual assault is more common on college campuses than other crimes such as theft; however, even the statistics provided don’t include those men and women that have been assaulted but choose not to report it. According to RAINN, women and men decided to avoid reporting their rape or sexual assault because they feared getting in trouble, believed nothing could be done for them, wanted to protect the rapist or believed that it was a personal matter.
This means that the problem becomes more prevalent than originally reported, because such a large number of individuals choose to remain silent on the matter. Unfortunately, this also means that those who are victims of sexual assault do not seek help or assistance after an incident.
Additionally, with the rise of sexual assault on campus, there has been a rise of news coverage that reports and exposes those sexual assaults. One of the most recent cases of this is the People v. Brock Turner case, where a Princeton University student raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster after leaving a party. He landed a mere six-month sentence in jail, where he served only three for good behavior.
News coverage was split between painting Turner as a successful college athlete that
had a bright future ahead of him, and showing Turner for who he really is: a rapist. This coverage allowed the public, both directly connected to university life and those on the outside, a firsthand look at the very real and alarming problem college campuses around the United States face.
It also allows rapists and those who choose to sexually assault any individual a look at the consequences for his or her actions. Turner is now a registered sex offender in two counties, and what his father deemed as a few minutes of action will follow him around for the rest of his life.
While statistics may seem like just numbers, those numbers represent real men and women around the U.S. that are dealing with the trauma of being victims to another’s selfish actions. Although DeSales is unlike other campuses that report high counts of sexual assault and rape, it is still a relevant and important topic that needs to be discussed.
The Minstrel sat down for an exclusive interview from a source that chooses to remain anonymous. We have omitted details to keep the source’s identity protected.
Two years ago in 2014, a female DeSales student was sexually assaulted on campus by a male student. It was a typical afternoon and the two students were hanging out in her dorm room as friends when the situation escalated and he raped her.
There was absolutely no alcohol involved and she made it very clear she did not want to have sex with him. However, she physically could not get away and received many injuries including broken body parts and bruises.
Her good friend took her to urgent care for her physical injuries, and while she was there, the doctors highly suggested a rape kit; however, rape kits cannot be completed in urgent care, so she went to an emergency room later on that evening.
Speaking about her friend that took her to the hospital, she said, “He stood by my side the whole time, and I think that’s a huge thing. You need somebody there who’s going to support you and not be judgmental because I would not have made it through that night without him, at all.”
In most cases, a rape kit needs be completed within 72 hours so a crime lab can analyze any DNA. To get as much DNA as possible, RAINN suggests avoiding showering, using the restroom, changing clothes and combing hair. It is natural to want to do these things after a traumatic experience, and if any of these activities are done, the exam can still be performed.
During the exam, injuries that need immediate attention are taken care of first. The doctors and nurses will also ask questions about health history and the details of what happened during the assault. Next, is the head-to-toe examination, which may include internal examination of the mouth, vagina and/ or anus, and also samples of blood, urine and/or hair. Lastly, they offer medicines to prevent contracting STDS, HIV and other implications that could have happened from the sexual assault.
Under the Violence Against Women Act, sexual assault forensic exams are free of charge. Additionally, the decision to report is entirely up to the sexual assault victim. Having the rape kit ensures that the forensic evidence will be safely preserved if victims want to report at a later time.
After a rape kit is completed, the police must pick it up. Upper Saucon Police Department was called first, but since she was a DeSales student, DSUPD had
to gather the kit instead. The only person DSUPD informs is Wendy Krisak, director of counseling. Parents never have to find out if victims do not want them to.
The next day, Krisak sat down with the student and informed her of all her options. She could file an official report and press charges by speaking with director of university police Steven Marshall, she could make a Jane Doe report where she tells Marshall what happens in detail in case she wants to make an official report/press charges in the future or she can do nothing.
“Sometimes people make it seem like you have a duty to report it and press charges so it doesn’t happen to another girl and you want to be the person to do that, but sometimes situations just make you feel like you want it to be over. You don’t want to face anything that happened,” she said.
“As much as you wish to be that person to stop it from happening to other girls, you have to put your own mental state and well-being before anybody else. The Wellness Center here didn’t make me feel like I would be a horrible person if I just wanted it to all go away even if I chose to not do anything, not even make a Jane Doe report.”
In the end, she chose to make a Jane Doe report and stressed how important it was to be given that choice.
“It’s giving you a say when you feel like your voice and all your securities have been taken away.”
Ultimately, she wanted to put the situation behind her and let it go.
“I think when it happens you’re a victim, but as time goes on, you have the power to rise above the situation or not let the situation define who you are. And I’ve chose to let the situation not define who I am. I’m not my rape. I’m a person.”
She continued, “There are worse things that could have happened to me when I was sexually assaulted. There are still tough times: I ran into my rapist twice after it happened, and it of course, brings everything back.”
Reflecting on the rape now, she said, “You’re more conscious and you’re more aware of everything. I’m very aware of my surroundings, the people I choose to let into my life, especially my personal space, but I’m more than what happened to me.”
Although sexual assault is a vastly growing problem amongst college communities, it doesn’t have to be. By rallying together and standing up for those who have been assaulted and continuing to raise awareness on the issue, college students can one day attend school without the fear of becoming another victim.