Students can protect selves against rape

Steve Bushong

Nearly two weeks ago, a student living in Olson Hall approached her resident assistant saying she had been raped on campus at a residence hall.

Kent State Police Services were notified of the offense and began collecting evidence and information relative to the case.

Police collected condoms, clothes and bed sheets. They took the victim to St. Thomas Hospital in Akron for a sexual assault exam and interviewed both the victim and the suspect and compared their stories.

Police soon determined that the sex in question was consensual, though, some said, inappropriate. The students involved had known each other for less than a day.

Although the situation wasn’t what most consider ideal, its conclusion was far better than what could have been – a violent sexual assault.

Rape has occurred in the past on Kent State’s campus; it’s happened twice in the last three years. Police say it’s likely to happen again.

And the first few weeks of college are the most dangerous, statistics say, as new students stumble into unfamiliar places and meet new people.

But there are methods and manners that can be employed to better ensure an individual’s safety, university officials and staff said.

However, there is no survival guide, admits officer Alice Ickes.

“It’s a real misnomer to talk about sexual assault prevention,” Ickes said. “When it comes to the point that you are in trouble, it may be too late.”

Nevertheless, there are some key points that will help the innocent stay out of harm’s way.

Attackers aren’t strangers

According to the Department of Justice, 90 percent of rapes nationally are committed by an acquaintance of the victim. Detective Nancy Shefchuk said similar trends are seen at Kent State.

This statistic has led to the term “date rape” being retired and a new term, “acquaintance rape,” being the standard terminology for most rapes.

Acquaintances include classmates, neighbors, people from past relationships and others.

“If you’re hanging out with someone you know fairly well you may not think about being sexually assaulted, but we want people to be aware that (acquaintance rape) is a more a frequent occurrence than a stranger jumping out from behind the bushes,” Shefchuk said.

“We want people to be wary when they’re with people,” Shefchuk said. “We want people to use the same caution they’d use when walking home alone at night.”

Alcohol spoils escape

More than half of the women who have been raped had been drinking prior to the assault, according to the American College Health Association. Conversely, 75 percent of rapists had been drinking.

“We do see a lot of instances (of sexual assault) where alcohol is involved,” Shefchuk said.

“If you’re drunk to the point of passing out, you may not be able to protect yourself, whether that’s to say ‘no,’ or push someone away,” Shefchuk said.

According to a 2004 University Advisory Committee survey, 53 percent of undergraduate females and 58 percent of undergraduate males at Kent State are high-risk drinkers. Statistics like those illuminate the potential for sexual offenses on campus.

“We see young people drinking heavily before they go out. For many of them, they’re well on their way to (being drunk),” Ickes said.

Ickes suggested staying sober to minimize risk. She also offered other, more realistic advice: Drink one reasonable drink at a time, alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, eat before going out and always stay with friends.

Communicate openly

Sexual offenses could be avoided if people spoke appropriately about sex, Shefchuk said. Misperceptions of expectations among the suspect and victim are common, but mixed signals are not an excuse for rape.

“I had one gentlemen ask me, ‘Do I have to get a contract signed before having sex?'” Shefchuk said. She answered, “‘No, but you have to know each other.'”

If a woman feels like she’s being pressured to have sex or feels like a threatening situation could arise, Ickes recommends the woman speak “frankly” with the would-be attacker.

“Say, ‘Stop, I do not want to have sex,'” or, “‘We’re not here to have sex; keep your clothes on,'” Ickes said.

If a rapist knows his victim, he could abandon his intentions when he realizes her feelings, she said. If that doesn’t work, Ickes said to “take care of yourself” and do what is necessary.

ETR Associates, a nonprofit organization, recommends the following if you are in danger:

• Stay calm.

• Be assertive; crying won’t help.

• Use physical resistance.

• Use passive resistance; say you have HIV.

• Trust yourself; sometimes submission is the only way to avoid worse injury.

Seek support

Many agree Kent State is a safe place. Kent State Police Services has been deemed a Flagship Agency by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, meaning it keeps notably low rates of crime. But sexual assault defies conventional methods of law enforcement.

“Sexual assaults by acquaintances are unpredictable and can’t be controlled through institutions,” said Hilda Pettit, director of Kent State’s Women’s Resource Center. “All we can do is educate people. Hopefully through education we can learn about each other and why we should respect each other’s bodies.”

But when people disregard the warnings, assault happens.

Sexual assault ranging from sexual imposition, which is unwanted petting, to rape, which is forced intercourse, require immediate attention and should be reported to authorities.

Pettit said survivors – she prefers to call rape victims “survivors” for the better connotation of the word – can always turn to the Women’s Resource Center for help.

“Our job is to support people, find resources. We will help people get whatever it is they need,” Pettit said.

That includes everything from getting medical attention for rape and counseling for its aftermath, to reporting the incident to police.

And although the police are required to do the same, Pettit said the assistance people receive at the Women’s Resource Center is different than that of the police department.

“When people go to the police department, they go to report a crime – it’s structured, there’s a process,” Pettit said. “When people come here, our job is to support the survivor.”

Contact safety report Steve Bushong at [email protected].

MEN AND RAPE

Three percent of college men report surviving rape or attempted rape as a child or adult, according to the Department of Justice.

Most men who were abused knew and trusted their abusers.

Hilda Pettit, director of Kent State’s Women’s Resource Center, said the center will help anyone who walks through the door, including men.

“It’s true women are a priority, but we’re here for whoever needs help,” Pettit said.

EDUCATING MEN

Almost all rapes are carried out by men.

Knowing this, an organization called One in Four, Inc., previously called No More Inc., aims to educate men about how to deal with women who’ve been sexually assaulted and how to help prevent rape from

happening.

Kent State has a chapter of this program that is currently looking for membership.

For information, contact Allison Bruce at (330) 672-8267.