Sexual assault varies at KSU

Steven Harbaugh

Stats show higher and lower prevalence

Pat Tabbara is as counselor for victims of sexual assault Townhall II. She also assists with the sexual assault hotline along with other volunteers.

Credit: Andrew popik

College campuses are not always the ivory towers of higher education. On the contrary, college women actually have a higher chance of being sexually assaulted or raped than those in the general population in the same age range, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Findings show a slightly higher prevalence than the national average when it comes to incidences of attempted penetration and touching against his or her will at Kent State, according to a study conducted last year by University Health Services.

But Kent State showed a lower prevalence than the national average when it came to incidences of sexually abusive relationships, physical fights and non-sexual physical assaults.

The study, which surveyed 651 Kent State students last year, was sponsored by the American College Health Association to compare universities’ numbers to the national average. The best way to respond to these statistics is to educate oneself and work on providing preventative programs at the college level, said Ann Penn, director of the Women’s Resource Center.

Someone to talk to

Help for victims of rape and sexual assault is just a phone call away at Townhall II. The volunteer-staffed helpline operates out of Townhall II’s offices at 123 S. Water St. and provides support for victims of rape and sexual assault in the Portage County vicinity.

Each volunteer receives 80 hours of rape crisis training to assure he or she will help the caller to the best of the volunteer’s ability. But the center does not provide advice, said Paul, a crisis intervention specialist at the hotline who was unable to give his last name due to an agency policy. Instead, Townhall II provides help and options — which the callers can either choose to take or ignore.

These options include helping the victim through the legal process, information about a post-assault hospital exam, information about other resources and suggestions for what to do next. The center also features therapy sessions on a sliding scale based on income.

“What happens with sexual assault is a person’s choices have been removed from them,” Paul said. “Part of what the helpline does is help them restore those choices. For some people, the choice is to not report. To tell people they have to or should is taking those choices away.”

A silent crime

And for this reason, crimes of sexual assault and rape are drastically underreported, with fewer than 40 percent reported to law enforcement officials, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Most victims reported this was because they did not see the incidents as harmful or serious enough to report. Others said it was due to lack of proof to explain what happened, fear of reprisal from the assailant and other reasons.

College women are especially more likely to be assaulted off-campus than on-campus, according to “The Sexual Victimization of College Women” study published by the U.S. Department of Justice. These incidents typically occur at a nightclub, bar, party or in student residences close to campus.

This is because college campuses have a concentrated amount of risk factors, said Sarah Graham Miller, communications director for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

“Another place we also see a concentration of young people out on their own for the first time is in the military,” she said. “There we also see the same trends as we do at college campuses.”

The Women’s Resource Center and The DeWeese Health Center on campus are also making an attempt to make a difference with sexual assault and rape locally.

April is national Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the Women’s Resource Center alongside Intercollegiate Athletics recently sponsored NO MORE, a program providing preventative outreach against sexual assault to men.

The center also does residence hall programs and provides consultation for victims of sexual assault, Penn said.

The gender gap

When discussing sexual assault and rape, men are frequently not mentioned. But this is because men are not as likely to be assaulted sexually, Miller said. One in six women will be sexually assaulted or be a victim of a sexual assault attempt in her lifetime, as opposed to one in 33 for men. When men are sexually assaulted, it usually happens in childhood in the form of child abuse, Miller said. It is important to note that men are less likely to report these crimes because of stigma and gender expectations, so the statistic could be slanted.

“Men are not as likely to seek out the services if they are victimized in any way,” Paul said, “especially men do not follow through because of the stigma, adding more stress to an immensely overwhelming situation.”

Men are less likely to become the victims of sexual assault, but they still play an important role in sexual assault preventative education. For this reason, many programs now focus on educating men, not just women.

Contact religion and culture reporter Steven Harbaugh at [email protected].