An average of 321,500 sexual assaults occur each year in the U.S., according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. That means 880 every day, 36 every hour, and one every 98 seconds. Only 98 seconds. That’s less time than it takes to listen to a single song or even brush your teeth.
Unsurprisingly, this pressing issue is prevalent on college campuses. According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, one in every five women and one in every 16 men experience sexual assault at some point while in college.
What are colleges doing about this? Well, fortunately, they’re doing a lot to try and stop it, implementing programs such as Sex Signals, Green Dot, Speak About It, RealConsent, and others to help educate students on how to prevent sexual assault.
These are great efforts, but they’re not enough.
Don’t get me wrong. These programs do great work to reduce the occurrence of sexual assault and I in no way intend to diminish their importance or benefit. However, as unfortunate as it is, it’s simply unrealistic that they will rid campuses of sexual assault entirely.
It is still happening and there are still victims.
That being said, it is absolutely crucial that colleges work to increase awareness not only about how to prevent sexual assault from happening, but also resources that survivors can turn to for support when it does happen.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that colleges need more resources for victims (although it wouldn’t hurt). What they do need though, at least as a first step, is simply a heavier emphasis on the support resources that already exist, both on and off campus.
Let’s look at on-campus resources here at McDaniel. Should a student be sexually assaulted, they could utilize the Wellness Center and make an appointment with one of the full time mental health counselors there, which would be free of charge and completely confidential. They could also turn to Campus Safety or our Title IX Coordinator Jenni Glennon.
There are also various off-campus resources accessible to students, such as the Rape Crisis Intervention Service of Carroll County. Located less than 10 minutes away from McDaniel, RCIS provides a multitude of services including free therapy for up to six months and will even accompany victims to the hospital.
Similar support services exist at and near other colleges as well, however, victims cannot receive help from these resources if they don’t utilize them.
So why wouldn’t they utilize them?
Maybe they simply don’t know about them because their college’s sexual assault awareness efforts only addressed prevention. Maybe they don’t think these agencies/programs will actually help because the specific ways in which these programs can help them were never emphasized to them. Maybe they fear they will be scrutinized or judged, the way they often are by society.
So, colleges, make sure you do talk about more than prevention. Make sure students know, should they be sexually assaulted, what their resources are and what kind of help each of them offers. Make sure they know there are places they can turn to that are not there to scrutinize or judge them.
Places like RCIS, which are there for no other purpose than to help victims get through a difficult time, according to Crisis Intervention Specialist Eunice Wooten.
As members of campus communities, let’s continue to work towards preventing sexual assault. But let’s also continue to work towards preventing anyone who has been sexually assaulted from going without help and suffering any more than they already have.