By Henrietta Biayemi
No story is the same – these cases leave the victim scared, traumatized, alone and shocked. It could happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere – especially on college campuses.
April is recognized by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center as Sexual Assault Awareness Month acknowledged by the teal ribbon. Sexual Assault Awareness Month strives to raise public awareness about sexual violence and to educate communities on how to prevent sexual violence, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act the victim is either forced into doing or is forced upon them. Every two minutes, another American is sexually assaulted, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a national anti-sexual violence organization.
College students are specifically prone to sexual assault, as 80 percent of people that report sexual assault are under the age of 30.
“It makes me feel scared and vulnerable that I could be that 80 anytime,” said Sarala Prabhu, a freshman biology major. “It’s sad because if you’re under 30, you are in your prime youth time.”
While it is important for students to remain mindful of their surroundings, it is imperative that they also pay attention to the people around them.
Approximately, two-thirds of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
“I guess it’s kind of scary that it happens with someone you know,” said Sam Virta, a freshman environmental science and technology major. “When you’re with groups of friends or someone you know, you feel safe. It’s just awful to think that.”
Because of the nature of the crime, victims of sexual assault are 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, and six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
These women and men are at risk for comorbidities – the presence of a disorder co-existing with a primary disorder – while their outlook after the assault is more likely to be dejected and depressed.
Organizations like the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network have outreached to media productions, college campuses, and communities around the nation to help spread education on this detrimental public health issue.
Because sexual assault occurs so frequently on college campuses, the University of Maryland has taken this goal upon itself as well, initiating programs and organizations to alert the public about sexual assault.
The university is committed to stopping sexual misconduct through education and prevention programs. Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the University of Maryland prohibits sexual discrimination, which includes sexual harassment and sexual assault, according to the university’s Sexual Misconduct page.
Coupled with the policies in place on campus, the university offers several services for students to aid in issues dealing with sexual assault.
The university will offer student victims assistance in changing on-campus housing, classes and lectures, arranging alternative employment at the university, and arranging for incompletes, leaves or withdrawals from the campus. The university’s Counseling Center also offers resources for victims to contact professional therapists and help centers.
There are also police emergency response telephone stations, or blue phones, throughout the campus to easily alert campus police, as well as 24-hour police escorts available for students.
Faculty isn’t the only part of campus spreading awareness about the issue.
Campus Advocates Respond and Educate to Stop Violence (CARE) is a campus organization involving students that responds to incidents involving sexual assault and domestic violence, and also aims to educate prevention.
They have professional advocates who can provide resources, support and assistance to persons via email, telephone, or in person. They also plan events on campus for students to get involved.
“In the fall, 75 people came together to plant bulbs outside of the University Health Center,” said Morgan Powell, a sophomore women studies and English major and CARE peer educator. “Now we are coming together again to see the blooming bulbs that symbolize the growth and resilience of sexual violence survivors.”
They also have upcoming events including Survivor Garden and Take Back the Night on April 15, and Clothesline Project on April 29.
Be sure to show your support for Sexual Assault Awareness Month by wearing a teal ribbon as you walk around the campus.