In college, you may think that there’s not much you can do for Sexual Assault Awareness this month, but there is actually no wrong way to raise awareness and there are many opportunities to do so. By participating in awareness events put on by your campus and by taking the time to pay attention to informational resources, you can contribute to the broader awareness of this critical issue within the community.
Sexual assault is not an uncommon occurrence: one in five women and one in 16 men on college campuses are sexually assaulted. Sexual assault is when someone is forced or coerced into unwanted sexual activity without agreeing or consenting. Consent cannot be given if either person is intoxicated due to use of drugs or alcohol, and is a boundary that should not be crossed, both morally and legally. Having autonomy over your own body is a basic human right that should never be infringed upon.
We can ensure a campus community environment that does not tolerate any acts of sexual violence and gives voice to the victims of sexual assault. We can do this by signing the It’s On Us pledge to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, identify situations of sexual assault, intervene in these situations, and create an environment that does not accept rape culture of sexual assault and that supports the victims.
This pledge prompts you to no longer be a bystander but to be a part of the solution. As college students, we should all feel empowered to step in when we see something that we don't think is right. It is much better to intervene in something that looks wrong and be mistaken than to not intervene and something happen to someone that will affect them for the rest of their life. You can be the person to change a potential victim's life for the better.
You can take the Green Dot bystander intervention training to learn effective ways to intervene if you'd like the tools to be more proactive. However, an easy-to-use intervention strategy is the 4 D's: direct, distract, delegate, and delay.
Direct: Directly intervene in a situation by speaking to someone who might be trying to take advantage of another person and tell them to stop, or by asking the person who looks like they may need help if they are okay.
Distract: Distract either the would-be perpetrator or the victim or both from the situation by drawing their attention elsewhere. You could ask either of them for help with something else, tell them something that switches their focus, or bringing one of them away from the other.
Delegate: If you do not feel comfortable intervening or you feel like you need help, you can bring the situation to the attention of someone else who can step in. That may be the host of the party, bar tender, the victim's friend(s), or any other people at the place of the situation. By delegating, you are making others aware of a possible situation and enlisting their help in potentially stopping it.
Delay: If you couldn't interrupt or discourage an incident from happening, or if you were not there when it happened, you can also check in with someone if you think they were a victim of sexual assault. Ask them if they are okay and if you can do anything to help. By being a listening ear or a helping hand, you are being a much-needed support for someone at one of the most traumatic times of their life and showing him or her that you and the community cares.
By being more aware of ways you can help, you can act as an advocate in your campus and community. You can also attend events to help raise awareness.
This month, our university has invited a guest speaker and come together to organize events to raise awareness on the campus as a whole. Take Back the Night is a march or vigil that provides a platform for survivors of sexual assault to share their stories and be heard. By standing in support of them, we nurture a community in which victims get assistance and aid. "The Hunting Ground" is a documentary that brings to life the harsh realities of campus sexual assault and the very real problem that it is.
You can watch this on Netflix to learn more about the fight for justice. Attend a guest speaker event and listen to what they have to say. You can also go to philanthropy events that help raise money towards organizations that provide assistance to victims. Working together we can reduce occurrences of sexual assault and provide support to those who have survived it.
If you or someone you know has been abused, please reach out and encourage them to reach out to resources that can help. The NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center) can help to seek justice for victims of sexual assault. You can chat online anonymously to support specialists with RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member of a sexual assault service provider in your area. All of these support systems can be confidential for you to talk through what happened and provide information and resources to you.
Just by reading this article, and other articles on this topic, you have spent valuable time taking one step toward a more aware and well-equipped community to deal with sexual assault.