Sexual assault stories are commonplace in today’s media outlets. What a sad but true sentence to come to grips with. Every week we hear news reports, personal stories, and media posts that reflect this pitiful reality. The issue is so widespread that The White House launched a special task force in 2014 solely to investigate rape and sexual assault on college campuses. But has the prevalence of sexual assault incidences spiked in the last several years, or are we finally opening our eyes to the truth?
The U.S Department of Justice used a tool called the National Crime Victimization Survey – or NCVS – to collect data from female university students aged 18 to 24 from 1995 to 2011 and found surprising results. While there is no arguing that this age and gender group is the highest to report rape or sexual assault crimes, the number of cases has not significantly increased over the 16 year span. The highest reported number of crimes occurred in 2002 at 294,786 according to the NCVS. And as of 2011 the number of reported sexual assault crimes listed on the NCVS was 259,479.
According to Dr. Scott Hampton –the director of an organization called Ending the Violence that focuses on assisting victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence – almost 30% of all sexual assaults involve alcohol or other drugs. The argument has been that sexual assaults on college campuses are difficult to prevent due to most incidences involving alcohol or other drugs, and due to victims being familiar with their attackers. Students often unknowingly put themselves in vulnerable situations at parties where alcohol is present. Dr. Hampton suggests the number one way to not become a victim of a sexually violent crime is to be aware of your surroundings and listen to your instincts. Another way to address the rise in rapes and sexual attacks across campuses is through student education and awareness.
All undergraduate and graduate level Mercer students were sent a required online Title IX training course at the beginning of the spring semester. This course – as part of an action plan that President Underwood’s appointed committee put in place last fall – helps educate students about sexual assault and addresses student’s safety on campus. According to an email sent by President Underwood last December, the committee was formed due to rising national attention around sexual assault statistics and the outcry for action from parents, students, and political figures. This course was meant to help educate students about the prevalence of sexual assault on university campuses and help prevent any crimes on Mercer’s campus.
An interesting educational campaign was recently conducted by an organization called Rape Crisis Scotland. The U.K. group focuses on preventing rape and sexual assault by publically blasting common myths about sexual assault. Myths like, for example, if a women dresses in revealing clothing she is contributing to her likelihood to be raped. While the organization uses humorous posters to bring a serious subject to light, the message across the globe is agreeably the same. Regardless of age or gender, the more the subject of sexual violence is talked about and the more educated students are, the less likely they are to become victims.