Tips to avoid sexual assault

Photo illustration by Tom Song

Rachel Jones

College students are four times more likely to be the victim of sexual assault, said Cindy Bloom, the victim outreach services coordinator at Townhall II.

The program provides a Rape Crisis Hotline and advocates who are available for counseling 24/7.

By The Numbers

According to kent.edu/sart, Someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the United States

1 in 4 college women is a survivor of rape or attempted rape

in 6 men is sexually assaulted during his lifetime

About 3/4 of sexual assaults of college students involve alcohol use

9 out of 10 sexual assaults of college women are committed by someone known to the victim

60% of sexual assaults are never reported to the police

Victims of sexual assault are:

3 times more likely to suffer from depression

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol

26 times more likely to abuse drugs

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

With this week marking the first time some students will explore downtown Kent, attend their first college party or roam College Ave, Heather Adams, director of the Women’s Center, said being knowledgeable can only be beneficial.

“Sexual assault is an all-encompassing term meaning any kind of sexual violence,” Bloom said. “It spans from unwanted touching to rape.”

Consent is the main factor to consider in these cases, she said. If the victim did not give consent either verbally or through clear body language, it is considered sexual assault.

If someone has had too many drinks or drugs—by choice or force—and cannot say yes or no, Bloom said he or she has diminished capacity.

Victims’ response

Michquel Penn, the community resources officer for the Campus Police, said consuming alcohol increases a person’s chances of being sexually assaulted because his or her judgment will be altered.

“A lot of college-aged women say, ‘Oh, I was really drunk, and they took advantage of me,’” Bloom added. “But that’s not taking advantage. That’s raping.”

According to the Sexual Assault Response Team’s website, 9 out of 10 college women who are sexually assaulted know their attackers.

“There’s that stereotype that rapes happen when someone jumps out of the bushes at night,” Penn said. “But really, it’s more likely to be someone they know.”

There’s also a stereotype that every rape victim cries hysterically after the attack.

“That’s the least common reaction,” Bloom said.

SAFETY TIPS FROM SART

Tip 1: Trust your gut.

If you feel unsafe or uneasy in a situation, always trust your instincts.

Tip 2 Be aware of your route and surroundings.Stay away from isolated areas.

Always know where you are, where you are going and where you could go for help if you need it. Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t know or trust.

Tip 3 Avoid having headphones in both of your ears.

Leaving one ear open allows you to be more aware of your surroundings and traffic, especially if you are walking alone.

Tip 4: Travel in a group and watch out for your friends.

When you go to a social gathering, go with a group of friends, check in with each other throughout the night and leave together. Don’t be afraid to let a friend know you’re worried about his or her safety.

Tip 5: Don’t accept a beverage from someone you don’t know or trust.

If you accept a beverage from someone you don’t know well, make sure that you watch it being poured and carry it yourself. Avoid beverages that come from large punch bowls or other open containers. Most importantly, never leave your beverage unattended.

Tip 6 Carry a charged cell phone and cash.

Tip 7 Be smart in your online social networking.

Adjust your privacy settings, and be cautious about revealing too much personal information. Use your best judgment in posting your location through status updates, tweets or check-ins. If meeting in person with someone you met online, choose a neutral, public place.

Tip 8 Lock your door.

If you live on campus, always lock your door when you leave your room—even if you’re just going down the hall. Don’t get into the habit of using the deadbolt to keep the door from closing.

Every victim responds to his or her assault differently. Bloom has seen a wide range of victims while working for Townhall II, and she said their reactions range from anger and sadness to numbness and denial.

“We have a certain tolerance level with situations life gives us, but sexual assault goes so beyond all of that,” Bloom said. “We just don’t have the mechanisms or skills to properly deal with it.”

Police involvement

Regardless of their reactions, sexual assault counselors say all victims should take action to ensure their medical, physical and emotional health and safety.

They can file police reports through Campus Police or Kent Police. Penn said if the attack happened in a residence hall or other part of campus, student victims can also file a complaint with the university.

“Looking at Title IX, the U.S. Department of Education says sexual misconduct can inhibit education,” Penn said. “It’s considered a form of discrimination.”

Medical response

All victims who file reports through Campus Police are taken to St. Thomas Hospital in Akron for a full medical exam.

The Developing Options for Violent Emergencies program is a forensics nursing unit that gives exams—formerly known as “rape kits”—to victims 14 or older.

Nurses can conduct the exams up to 96 hours after the attack. They recommend victims not shower or brush their teeth before the exam for better results.

“We give a head to toe assessment, collect samples, take photos and discuss the victim’s history,” said Jill Bunnell, the coordinator of law enforcement services at St. Thomas Hospital. “We also provide medication to prevent STIs and pregnancy.”

The exam is confidential and not put on a hospital record, but DOVE is mandated by the state to give a police report even if the victim does not submit one themselves.

Keeping quiet

Although she greatly encourages it, Penn said most victims do not report sexual assault.

“Some people also think the cops won’t be able to do anything or that they will blame the victim based on their clothes or if they were drinking,” Penn said. “Other people don’t report out of fear for retaliation, embarrassment or self-blame. But do not blame yourself because you are the victim of a crime.”

Letting it out

CONTACT INFO

SART

330-672-8016

www.kent.edu/sart

DOVE

330-379-9743

877-742-3683

St. Thomas Hospital

330-379-5950

Campus Police

330-672-3070

Townhall II

330-678-4357

866-449-8518

Psychological Services

(330)672-2487

The Women’s Center

330-672-9230

866-339-3699

Whether a report is filed or not, both Penn and Bloom recommend victims seek some form of counseling after being sexually assaulted.

Free counseling is available for students through the Psychological Services in the DeWeese Health Center and the Women’s Center. The newest safety initiative at the university is SART.

“SART was created to educate students about personal safety and violence prevention, empower them to build healthier relationships and be responsive to students in need,” Adams said.

Bloom added that victims need to talk to people and get it all out. When reaching out to a counselor, victims do not have to provide any personal information unless they want to. Support will be provided, whether the victim chooses to stay anonymous or not.

“Sometimes people just need time to get out of the shock and let the denial go away, but it will not disappear,” Bloom explained. “It’s with you forever.”

Counseling sessions help ease the pain and make the victim feel happy and safe again.

Bloom said it’s important to remember that even the safest person can encounter an unsafe situation.

“Sometimes you can do all the right things, and it doesn’t prevent anything,” Bloom said. “It can still happen to the most careful person, but it’s never ever your fault.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected]..