Sexual assault on college campus’ is becoming more frequent with 15% of women attending college facing some sort of sexual assault every year (Wood, Stichman 1). Rape culture is becoming a increasingly talked about topic in young adult audiences, with more mental health resources becoming available and pushes for women to involve the criminal justice system to report their assaults. With these advancements taken in consideration, why do so many cases of sexual assault still go unreported and how do universities reduce it from happening all together? The threat of sexual assault is a constant fear for most women, especially in college age populations. According to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “310 out of every 1,000 rapes are reported to the police and that college-aged women have the lowest reporting rate”.
Universities and police alike need to create an encouraging environment, access to counseling, and trauma-sensitive training that allows victims to feel comfortable in reporting these attacks. Reporting sexual assault immediately following an attack is incredibly difficult for survivors, especially for women seeking legal action and reporting their assault to the authorities. These women are all too commonly met with disbelief, judgment, and a poor understanding of the psychological trauma associated. This is more common among college aged women, as most of them are often exposed to sexual assault in varying degrees and have witnessed people brush it under the rug or ignore it . Often times younger women are seen as fabulists in the eyes of the law, with a focus on crimes of sexual assault.
Women in college aren’t taken seriously and constantly seen as being childish or dramatic. This furthers a younger woman’s reluctance to involve police, instilling a fear that is grounded in concerns about not being taken seriously, blamed, or embarrassed. As a community, our understanding and treatment of sexual assault is dim and bleak. Even more so for those that directly fall on the path of a victim seeking litigation, such as law enforcement. With further sensitivity training and education that discourages placing blame on the victims, and an attitude that makes these women feel as though their story is important and should be given careful attention and due process, the percentage of sexual assaults going unreported will decrease.
Universities are expanding their resources to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward and report their assaults, but the availability of these resources for sexual assault prevention, reporting, and treatment on college campuses does not mean that they are adequate or sufficient. Problems may arise when university therapists and counselors harbor gender biases, buy into rape myths, or are unprepared to be sympathetic and understanding to the trauma that sexual assault victims are experiencing. Colleges need to focus on how they can provide an environment that facilitates an understanding and supportive atmosphere. Gathering information related to help-seeking behaviors can lead to campus policies in regard to encouraging victims to report their experiences and seek medical and emotional assistance, as well as aid in the development of prevention policies.
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