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SUPPORT WITHIN REACH: Addressing sexual assault on college campuses

One in five women experience sexual assault on college campuses and one in 33 men experience sexual assault in their lifetime.

Beth Wilson Support Within Reach.jpg
Beth Wilson is an Itasca County outreach and prevention coordinator at Support Within Reach.
We are part of The Trust Project.

Sexual assault on college campuses, is this a problem? In a nutshell, yes.

One in five women experience sexual assault on college campuses and one in 33 men experience sexual assault in their lifetime. LQBTQ+ people are more likely to experience sexual assault on college campuses than heterosexual men and women.

The first two months of college are known as the red period. This is when the students are at the highest risk for sexual assault, traditionally happening to women ages 18-24.

Only one in five women will report sexual violence. Why is this happening? Drugs and alcohol play a big role. About 15% of young women are incapacitated when they are raped. According to Minnesota Statute, you cannot give consent when you are incapacitated.

Peer pressure can play a big role in sexual assault. This may be your first time away from home. Many of you as college students are being pressured to engage in social activities such as drinking, using drugs, going to parties and engaging in sex. If you are pressured into engaging in unwanted sexual activity, this is sexual coercion.

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A big reason sexual violence is not being reported is shame and guilt. It is very hard to report to someone that is a stranger. Many questions can cross your mind. Are they going to question my clothing? Am I going to get in trouble for drinking and using drugs underage? Is law enforcement/school going to believe me?

You have the choice to contact your local law enforcement by calling 911. The school also has a duty to protect you under Title IX. Contact the school authorities and they will assist you. You are not alone and this is not your fault.

At this point, you might be asking: How can I stay safe on campus? Here are some ideas. You do not have the power to stop sexual violence, but you do have the power to become situationally aware.

Increase on-campus safety by:

  • Knowing your resources
  • Staying alert
  • Being careful about posting your location
  • Making others earn your trust
  • Thinking about Plan B
  • Being secure

Stay safe in social situations by:

  • Making a plan
  • Protecting your drink
  • Knowing your limits
  • Remembering it's OK to lie
  • Being a good friend

How can I help my friends you might ask? Be an active bystander. What is an active bystander? An active bystander is someone who interrupts a potentially dangerous situation, typically when sexual violence is involved.
You can do this by putting the "three Ds" into play:

  • Distract: Interrupt the situation safely by communicating with the person in trouble.
  • Being Direct: See if the person is in trouble. Ask if help is needed when the perpetrator is not around. Call the authorities.
  • Delegate: Get the person out of harm’s way. If you don’t feel safe, find someone who can help the person in trouble.

Make sure you are safe before doing any of these! Never put your own safety at risk.
If an assault occurs, there are several things you can do to help yourself feel safer:

  • Make use of on-campus resources
  • Request a schedule or housing change
  • Access off-campus support
  • Seek a Harassment Restraining Order or Order For Protection
  • Create a safety plan

If you have experienced sexual violence on or off campus, advocates are here and ready to help you by contacting Support Within Reach at (218) 547-4892 or (800) 708-2727.

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Beth Wilson is an Itasca County outreach and prevention coordinator at Support Within Reach.

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