Why Women Must Report Campus Rapes

Avery Hartmans. (Photo: Avery Hartmans for USA TODAY)
Avery Hartmans.
(Photo: Avery Hartmans for USA TODAY)

One in five.

I’ve had that statistic drilled into my head since it first hit the news in December 2011. If someone asks what I learned in college, it’s that one out of every five women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime. Nearly 40% of those assaults will happen to college-aged women.

Luckily, I haven’t become a statistic. But three of my friends have.

I wish I could say that their assailants are behind bars, serving time for what they did, but none of them is. The perpetrators have gone on with their lives, graduated from college and maintained their social status, in part because in two of the cases, the victims did not report what happened to them.

When Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., introduced the Campus Safety and Accountability Act this summer, survivors of sexual assault and advocates of ending campus rape applauded. Hopefully its passage will mean more on-campus resources for victims and more transparency by universities when it comes to reporting these crimes.

But while it’s a start, it’s not enough. It’s not enough until women feel comfortable enough to report sexual assaults.

Melissa Fritchle, a sex therapist, educator and author of the Conscious Sexual Self Workbook, due out in November, has worked with victims of sexual assault. She says what surprised her most was how often they blame themselves for what happened to them.

“It’s frightening to imagine that you didn’t have control,” Fritchle says. “There’s something reassuring to think, ‘If I’d done something differently, if I had been stronger or spoke up faster, this wouldn’t have happened.’ The truth is, you should be able to get drunk at a party and not be violated.”

Fritchle says that when she’s helping victims recover from the ordeal, she focuses on getting them to come to terms with the fact that someone else crossed the line and that the situation was out of their control.

“It’s scary to really face that,” she says. “I think that people blame themselves as a way to avoid that fear.”

I graduated from a university where the women I knew were smart and self-assured, women with high GPAs and equally high alcohol tolerances. They came from supportive families and felt empowered and independent. They went out on the weekends. They had sex. They, and I, believed we could do it all.

But if the culture is to work hard and party harder, it’s inevitable that things will go too far. Someone will have too much to drink or, as two of my friends experienced, something will be slipped into an open beer or Solo cup. And though it was never said aloud, the expectation seemed to be that women should accept what happened as a foolish, intoxicated night out and move on — on to the next weekend, the next party, the next guy.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Avery Hartman

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