Women under age 25 most at risk for rape

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If you are a woman reading this, you have a lot in common with the majority of rape victims.

Nearly 80 percent of female rape victims were raped before the age of 25, according to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. 

 “I’ve got to be here, this can’t be a danger zone,” senior piano pedagogy major Kate Auringer said, when shown these statistics.

Recent reports by the White House Task Force showed that one in five women in the U.S. are sexually assaulted, but further research reveals the most dangerous age range for women vulnerability to rape and sexual violence.

Girls and women ages 16 to 24 are four times more vulnerable to rape than all other women, according to Rana Sampson who worked in coordination with the U.S. Department of Justice in her 2011 report “Acquaintance Rape of College Students.” 

College women are the most vulnerable, according to Sampson. Their proximity to larger groups makes them an easier target. 

These statistics show that college can be one of the most dangerous times of a woman’s life. 

The nightmares that women conjure up about rape include attacks in the night by strangers. The opposing myth is that you are automatically safe with people you have met and know. 

“They [attackers] are someone you know, they are not waiting behind a bush,” said Samantha Dwight, a University heath education specialist who works at the campus health center.

“We like to trust each other, but in a variety of ways we’re vulnerable to people and we should remember that sex is one of [those ways].”

Simply being an acquaintance, a classmate or a friend of a friend does not make someone trustworthy.

Sampson’s report supports these findings and suggests that often alcohol is involved.

“90% of college rape victims knew their attacker,” Sampson said in her report. “[In] over three-fourths of college rapes, the offender, the victim, or both had been drinking.”

These statistics have been confirmed by University faculty as well. Kim Harvey-Livingston, University director of student services, agrees that the majority of college assault cases include drugs or alcohol.

 Alcohol can lead to a variety of trouble, but for women it can lead to further serious issues.

This is why the University has now partnered with Everfi, whose prevention programs are used on over 500 campuses throughout the nation.

According to a University press release, these programs are AlcoholEdu, to educate students on avoidance of various campus dangers with science-based research, and Haven, to show students the latest sexual assault prevention techniques.

With 75 percent of college rapes involving alcohol it is evident that the effects of alcohol, such as lack of control, put college women at risk.

“A true predator knows how to exploit his or her environment,” Dwight said.

A sexual predator can easily take advantage of an alcoholic situation.

Dwight said this can be done by adding something to a victim’s drink, supplying more alcohol than a person can handle, lying about the strength of an alcoholic beverage or simply targeting a person who has had too much.

 “If you should not drive a car, you should not have sex. Period,” Dwight said as an easy way to remember when you are past the point of giving genuine consent.

Contrary opinions would like to impress upon society that the fault of rape lies with the victim. Dwight believes this is not true.

“It doesn’t matter what you did, you didn’t deserve what happened to you, and you have every right to go after the person that did it,” Dwight said.

The age-old buddy system still stands. Having a friend accompany in uncertain situations and a plan for getting home develops a basic, but not absolute, defense against danger.

Dwight feels this method could prevent sexual attacks.

“Everyone should feel not merely empowered to do so, but responsible to stop it,” said Dwight who believes that bystanders play a role in safety.

Bystanders can try to spot a predator and notice who is being made into a victim.

Telltale signs, said Dwight, are people walking upstairs to a closed room or to a car when one or both has visibly been drinking.

 “Not all guys are good. Some like to take advantage of certain situations, so sometimes you’ve got to step in,” Jay Williams, senior composition major said.

Getting Help

In June, the University launched a free app to help students stay safe.  The RAVE Guardian app gives someone in need a direct line to campus police and a way to check in with friends and family.

Another feature allows a user to set a proposed arrival timer. If the timer is not deactivated upon arrival a notification will be sent to friends and family along with the user’s exact location sent to police.

A person can use every possible safety measure and still become victim of assault.

This is why the University has put organizations into place to make these situations more bearable.

 The Campus Assault Response Effort is the University’s support system for sexual abuse victims.

This group, including Dwight and Harvey-Livingston, provides victims with their rights, options and the steps to take after an assault.

A victim’s rights include: The right to have others present at judicial hearings, the right to be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding, the right to be informed of their options to notify the law enforcement, the right to be notified of counseling services and the right to be notified of options for changing academic and living situations, according to the 1992 Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights.

A victim’s options through CARE include: medical care, services of a patient care advocate, the option to file criminal charges, the option to file civic charges, the option to file disciplinary charges, the option to file as Jane/John Doe or to seek services elsewhere.

CARE leaves all decisions up to the victim.

“We want to leave it in their control, because they’ve just experienced an episode with lack of control,” Dwight said.

A strong assertion made by CARE members is for students to immediately seek medical attention. Even if a victim decides against police involvement they are still advised to initially go to an emergency room.

An anonymous sexual assault exam, with no report made to the police, can be completed for free and stored for up to two years by a hospital, Dwight said.

This gives a victim time to process what has happened and what they want to happen next.

“Go and get the help first and the police can follow up later,” Dwight said.

If a victim decides to press charges, they have options of where to begin, either with law enforcement or with Campus officials.

If a student is seeking criminal charges the police will have to be notified, but if a victim is seeking disciplinary charges the first step is to make a Title IX Violation Report, which can be done in several ways.

Title IX applies to any kind of sexual violence that is gender related, including domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, hazing, along with sexual assault.

Harvey-Livingston said, a student can go to www.uttyler.edu/titleix/, submit a report on the Title IX section of the University website, contact Howard Patterson, the Title IX Coordinator or the Deputy Coordinators at 903-566-7350, contact Campus Police at 903-566-7300 or speak confidentially with an on-campus counselor.

Once a Title IX report has been made, it will undergo investigation by trained faculty members.

“Then we will begin to remedy what has happened,” Harvey-Livingston said.

The remedying process may include class changes and new housing options; whatever assures the safety of the victim.

“The University is really committed to making all of this happen,” Harvey-Livingston said.

After the investigation, a hearing will be held.

Both sides of the attack have the right to have someone with them at the hearing, the right to know the outcome, the right to an advocate and the right to an appeal, said Harvey-Livingston.

Depending upon the severity, possible hearing outcomes include expulsion and suspension.

It is easy to believe that something like sexual assault could never happen, but being informed of dangers and actively putting safety measures into place is the best way to prevent it.