An average of 21 percent of female undergraduates told researchers they’d been sexually assaulted since starting school in a Bureau of Justice Statistics-funded study of nine unnamed U.S. colleges and universities published last year. At some of the schools, the rate of sexual assault was as high as 1 in 2.
Here in Chicago, SABRE, which produces pepper sprays, is holding a scholarship Sweepstakes that will award one winner $15,000 in scholarship funds, which is set to run from July 1 – Sept. 3, tied to making students more aware of this problem.
“Our decision to award a scholarship was twofold,” explains SABRE CEO David Nance, in a press release. “We wanted to give back to our community by helping someone with their college dream, while also teaching students and their parents about campus safety.”
Rape is the most underreported crime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, which estimates that 63 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to police.
The Huffington Post reported that the numbers are even smaller if you only consider college students. Fewer than 5 percent of completed and attempted rapes of women in college were reported to law enforcement officials, according to a Department of Justice study in 2000.
The Hunting Ground was a film made in 2015 that documented the problem of date rape on college campuses. They stated that the universities – similar to the Catholic Church shielding pedophile priests – have a financial interest to minimize sexual assault reports because they are selling a brand. And the fraternities – where rape is the second most common insurance claim against them – are a source of future alumni donations and home to many athletes who generate a lot of money for the schools.
I know as a public school teacher that principals are loathe to report crimes in their schools for fear that it would not look good for the school.
“Given that more than 4 out of 5 rape victims knew their assailant, experts believe social pressures play a large role in why rape goes unreported,” The Huffington Post reported in 2014. “Women in college have also identified fear of not being believed, not being sure whether what they experienced was a sexual assault and not wanting family or other people to know about the incidents as reasons for not reporting.”
And victims know they’re entering an uphill battle that even the most privileged women can’t always win. The singer Kesha filed a lawsuit against her producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald). She claimed he had drugged her and raped her, but was forced to honor her contract with him and she dropped the charges.
It’s also hard to get a guilty verdict in sexual-assault trials. So prosecutors who are generally concerned with conviction rates will generally pursue only the strongest cases. Rape and sexual assault cases are difficult to prosecute because they usually happen behind closed doors, making it hard to prove, The Huffington Post reported.
And those who are found guilty of sexual assault are rarely properly punished. According to a HuffPost analysis, a student who was found guilty of sexual assault was expelled from school in fewer than one half of cases and suspended in fewer than half the cases. Stanford student Brock Turner who was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman was only sentenced to six months in prison.
There are more college programs today that are addressing this enormous problem. They are launching bystander intervention programs to teach people how to intervene and stop assaults from happening and more colleges are adopting affirmative-consent standards to demonstrate a person hasn’t necessarily consented to sexual activity just because they didn’t scream “no,” Huffington Post reported.
SABRE is encouraging this year’s new crop of college students to follow some safety tips: 1. Check out what free safe ride or walking services are offered by the campus. 2. Take a safety seminar on self-defense. 3. Prepare yourself with pepper sprays and gels which are one of the most effective ways to deter or distract an attacker, and 4. Stick together – stay close to friends when going out or coming home late from parties.
By Jim Vail