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Sexual Assaults on College Campuses – A Growing Concern

Sexual assault on college campuses has become a growing concern nationwide.

One in five female college students are sexually assaulted, according to the Campus Sexual Assault Study published by the Department of Justice in 2007, based on interviews with 5000 women between 2005 and 2007.  Most of those women said they did not report the assault to law enforcement, often because they didn’t want anyone to know what had happened.

“There are a lot of things tied to that,” said Sari Lipsett, coordinator for the California Coalition on Sexual Assault (CALCASA). “People are scared that they are going to be stamped with a label, and no one will respect them or look at them the same way, or they will be viewed as a weak person if they come forward and report the abuse that happened to them.”

President Obama’s recent call to action seeks to raise awareness about rape on college campuses. College students are particularly vulnerable, said a report prepared by the White House Council on Women and Girls. The dynamics of college life adds to the problem, as many victims are abused while they’re drunk or under the influence of drugs, passed out, or otherwise incapacitated. The Campus Sexual Assault Study reported at least half of sexual assaults involved the use of alcohol or drugs by the perpetrator, the victim, or both.

In California, Sen. Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles) has introduced a bill that would require colleges and universities to adopt uniform definitions of sexual assault and similar policies for reporting and preventing attacks.

CSUN student Rachel Klein said another student sexually assaulted her off campus. She said she was coerced by the man, who was an acquaintance, into having sex after he threatened to share a provocative picture she had sent him.

“I just gave in because I didn’t know what else to do,” Klein said.

Despite the fact that Klein agreed to a sexual act with someone she knew, what happened to her can be considered rape, said Maggie Stoicof, director of Project D.A.T.E. The Peer Education and Prevention Project, run by the University Counseling Center, reports that 85 percent of college campus rapes are committed by someone the victim knows.

“There are so many ways that somebody can lose consent,” Stoicof said. “Clearly he was intimidating her, and she was coerced and forced to this. It was not at her own will and that does constitute as rape. Consent means mind, body, soul, completely. You want to be involved in that act, with that person, at that very moment.”

“The whole time I was in that situation,” Klein said, ” my body was there, but my mind was not.”

But Klein said she had a negative experience when she reported the incident to the police.

Proper training of law enforcement and other officials on how to deal with reports of sexual violence is critical, Lipsett said.

“Campus specialized sexual assault officers go out and start talking to the victim, and we get a full and complete, detailed summary of what happened,” CSUN Police Lt. Mark Benavidez said. “After that, we take the victim to the hospital, where we get biological evidence via a sexual assault nurse who’s specialized in doing that. After that we provide counseling service referrals and victim advocacy and things like that.”

“Sensitivity training from the very, very top positions all the way down to the students is important,” Stoicof said. “Once everybody is on board and has that understanding, we are going to be more able to help and prevent at that point.”

Moderator: Trene Todd

Anchor: Jonny Green

Reporters: Mihkel Teemant, Brionna Lewis, Jacquelyn Koenig, Ben Ladiana

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