Across college campuses throughout the United States the issue of sexual assault has hit a tipping point, and the White House is cracking down. The matter continues to spread like wildfire. Students at Columbia University are taking action by showcasing accused rapists’ names throughout the bathrooms campus-wide and TIME magazine featured a cover story titled “The Sexual Assault Crisis on American Campuses” this week.
Groups like End Rape on Campus are meeting with politicians to spread the word, with hopes to build legislation that brings awareness to sexual assault. The first roundtable on sexual assault, hosted by Senator Claire McCaskill, took place on Monday. One large focus for this first discussion was how to penalize the schools that fail to report sexual crimes accurately.
Recently a comprehensive report from the White House Task Force was released. This report, along with a new website for students and schools, addresses the need to protect students from sexual assault. This site, NotAlone.gov, provides guidance to schools on how to best prevent and handle sexual assault cases. The report includes new guidelines to force schools to handle sexual assault on their campuses. These guidelines include conducting anonymous surveys about sexual assault, ensuring all crimes reported remain confidential, and adopting more comprehensive education programs that train bystanders to intervene if they witness something they feel is wrong.
What does this mean for the future of sexual assault incidences on college campuses? It is not clear yet. Some groups suggest removing funding for schools as retribution, but others argue that this just hurts students. Alternative punishments continue to be discussed. However, it is clear that the United States is moving in a positive direction.
While this dialogue is a step in the right direction, it is still important to be aware and protected on campus.
Here are tips for ensuring your safety when on campus and what you should do if sexual assaulted:
- Always be alert. Keep your head up, know your surroundings and don’t be caught by surprise.
- Stay in areas with a lot of people. A crime is less likely to occur if there are many witnesses. If an area is deserted, you probably shouldn’t be there either.
- Try to let at least one person know where you are going and when you are expected to return.
- Carry a whistle or other type of alarm so you can quickly – and loudly – grab someone’s attention in case of an emergency. Devices like SPIKEY are great for these situations as well!
- Use well-lit paths on- and off-campus. Avoid dark streets, where criminals can more easily hide.
- Walk in pairs or in a group. The more eyes, the better.
- Check if your campus provides special services to keep students safe late at night. Volunteers may escort you to your destination so you won’t be alone.
- Know your limit. Off-campus parties may provide plenty of alcohol, but you’ll let your guard down if you’re drunk.
- Avoid alcohol/drugs; be aware of the effects that alcohol/ drugs have on your behavior and the behavior of others.
- Trust intuitions; feeling creepy/uncomfortable – get out of the situation.
- Previous consent does not imply current consent; NO MEANS NO.
- Learn self-defense.
- Never walk alone. Call University Police for an escort if you feel you need one.
- Sign in guests and register all overnight visitors with your Hall Director.
- Report any suspicious persons or activities to the RA, Hall Director, or University Police immediately.
- Should any problems persist, report it to University Police.
For more information, tips, and articles about sexual assault on college campuses: