Rape and sexual abuse are very real fears that the majority of collegiate women have. In fact, women 18 to 24 in college are 3 times more likely than women in general to suffer sexual violence. This is a growing epidemic plaguing our college campuses, and it is important for every woman attending higher education to be aware of not only what rape is, but what to do if they or someone they know has been sexually abused.
Rape is the penetration of any orifice of the body with any object when there is not consent. It is important to recognize this definition because some people think that rape is simply a penis entering a vagina. That is not the case, as there are sadly many ways for someone’s body to be abused that does not include “intercourse”. Sexual assault is any sexual contact or behavior occurring without consent from the victim. This could include fondling or unwanted touching.
The majority of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim and 43% of rapes occur between 6 pm and midnight. More than 50% of all rapes and sexual assaults were reported by survivors to have occurred within 1 mile of their own homes. Almost 70% of rapes are not reported to the police. In our own Salt Lake Valley 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual assault, with 1 in 8 reporting being raped. For the past 10 years, our state has had a rape rate higher than the national average.
It is likely that at some point in your college career you have heard or will hear about a girl who lied about being raped. People claim that a girl is lying about rape when they do not want their friend or group member to get in trouble for assaulting someone. Only 2%-8% of victims who said they were raped give a false report. Think about that, out of 100 people claiming to have been raped only 1 or 2 of those people will be lying. If you hear of someone claiming to have been raped you need to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe them. Most college-aged men believe that unless they hear a direct “no” escape a women’s lips that proceeding with sex is fine. We as women need to recognize that rape comes in many forms and is not defined as telling your abuser a direct “no.” Women have it hard, and we need to support each other in cases like this and assume the best of each other.
If you or someone you know has been raped it is important to get help. Help can come in the form of a therapist, support group, or simply talking it out with friends. Survivors of sexual abuse are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 6 more times more likely to suffer from PTSD, and 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
If you have been raped, get to a safe place to call the police or a friend or family member. If possible, get yourself to the hospital and most importantly, do not shower. It is important for the hospital to find DNA evidence from your perpetrator.
If you choose to not report your rape, seek help elsewhere. Holding in a secret as devastating as this will not help you heal.
If someone you know has been raped, listen to them. Do not tell them that this subject is too uncomfortable for you to deal with. Do not tell them what you would have done in the situation. Do not tell them that other people have it worse than them or that they need to get over it. Let them know how much you care about them. Let them know you are there for them anytime they need to talk. Ask them if you can do anything to help. Most importantly, just be there.
*All the information in this article was received from Theresa Martinez’s lectures on rape and sexual assault in her class, Deviant Behavior. I HIGHLY recommend each and every one of you to take this course, even if you are not pursuing a degree in sociology. Her lectures offer vital real-world information that will help mold you into an intelligent and aware individual.