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Project Prevention: Stopping Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

Project Prevention

Stopping Sexual Assaults on College Campuses

 

Statistically proven, in the United States, one out of every five women will be the victim of sexual assault at some point during their university career. Sexual assault or harassment is \ any unwanted sexual attention, gestures, obscene comments, or sexual advances made on someone without their clear, spoken consent. Sexual assault prevention on college campuses is at a great lack. Almost all institutions of higher education have resources and programs geared to help students and faculty members if they have been sexually harassed or abused, but how many of them have resources or programs aimed to stop and prevent from assaults from occurring in the future? Action needs to be taken before an act is committed.

Whether the assault occurs on or off campus, approximately eighty percent of victims know their attacker personally or are at least acquaintances with them. More than half of the assaults that occur on college campuses have alcohol involved. Being under the influence will never serve as an excuse for an assault. Roughly only 40% of assaults get reported to the police and of that, only about 4% of assaulters ever serve a single day in prison. That means that 96% of prosecuted attackers walk free.

Why is any of this actually important? Sexual harassment and rape can cause immediate injury and some long-term effects. Reports show women having lowered grades, feelings of helplessness and powerless over their academic lives, decreased  motivation, headaches, sleep disturbances, and eating disorders as common physical responses to sexual harassment. It can leave the victim with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as depression, which could all lead to self-harm and even suicide. Often, the victims also grow up to assault others, both sexually and/or physically.

St. John’s University has had a few cases of sexual harassment. In 1991, six members of the school’s lacrosse team was accused and found guilty of raping a young woman at their team house off campus. Four out of the six men were suspended from the college. More recently, last semester, New York Post put out an article about a twenty year-old St. John’s female student who woke up after blacking out drunk at a party at a fraternity house off campus. The school did not comment on the incident and the student has since been said to have withdrawn her statement. Upon searching on the internet for information about this briefly highlighted case, they are absolutely no records or information to be found on the case. This is often the case for females who are courageous enough to press charges when the victim of a sexual harassment case. They are often paid off or convinced to withdraw their case and remain silent as to not embarrass the school.

These scary sexual assaults can happen and have happened on practically every college campus across the nation. St. John’s has numerous programs and options on campus for victims of assault, but there should be a more prominent program on campus where students work together to find ways to prevent assaults and are available to talk to victims and assist them in finding help. So, where do universities and schools go from here? Students need to be taught from a young age that if you see something to speak up and not to just let it happen. There should be events and programs that students are required to participate in where they learn how to watch their friends and look out for each other. It would need to be drilled into students the right and wrong way to act and respond to various situations.

The ultimate, unfortunate truth is that sexual harassment is too common in society today. For college students, it is more evident than ever.  Higher education institutions need to work to install programs that further prevent sexual harassment and assaults from occurring to and by their students. Why should we have to wait for something bad to happen on campus to make some changes and raise awareness?

Elizabeth Adam is a sophomore at St. John's University. Hailing from the tiny rural town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, going to school so close to the city is completely surreal to her. She is currently studying to be a Theology major with a Social Justice minor in hopes of someday leading mission trips into third world countries for a career. She loves cats (especially her Maine Coon back home), Twizzlers, naps, and Demi Lovato. For more information, follow her Instagram at @lovatic_liz.
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