April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and in our current social and political climate, it’s more important than ever to recognize what that means. Every 98 seconds, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, and although the sexual assault rate has fallen by half in the last twenty years, it still remains a significant problem. Sexual assault is especially prevalent on college campuses. 11.2 percent of all students will experience some form of sexual violence during their time in college, a statistic that is completely unacceptable. During this month it’s important to acknowledge the victims of assault and how to support them, but it’s also essential to understand how we as students can do our part to prevent assault from happening in the first place. Fresh U has compiled a list of actions that students can take directly to prevent sexual assault on their campuses.
1. Join national and on-campus organizations.
Joining organizations committed to fighting sexual assault is a great way to get involved in sexual assault prevention and start conversations with like-minded people. While every college has their own organizations committed to this cause, RAINN and Not Alone are both great national organizations intended to prevent sexual assault through education and policy making and support victims.
2. Be an active bystander.
If you’re at a party and see someone engaging in potentially aggressive behavior, it’s your job to step in and do what you can to help. Interrupt the situation and try to steer the person being harassed away, or create a distraction that allows them to slip away unnoticed by their harasser.
3. Use the buddy system.
If you can tell that a person has had too much to drink and needs to leave a party right away, make sure to either find a friend of theirs to walk home with them or walk home with them yourself. There will then be someone to look out for them, where they may otherwise have been compromised. In addition, if you went to a party with someone, check in on them over the course of the night to ensure that they’re safe.
4. Attend workshops and educate yourself.
Educating yourself on sexual assault, what it looks like and how to prevent it is one of the first steps you can take towards preventing it. Workshops are a great way to learn techniques for assault prevention on your campus specifically, but online research is also important. Here is information on what consent looks like.
5. Start conversations and educate others.
Many people are unaware of the prevalence of sexual assault and rape culture in our society, and unless the two are pointed out, it’s unlikely that change will come any time soon. This means calling out things like rape jokes and media representation that glorifies sexual violence, even if doing so makes you feel uncomfortable, because if people are allowed to make harmful jokes, those jokes can turn into harmful actions.
6. Write to your administration.
Some college campuses have notorious records with handling sexual assault cases: 95 percent of victims don’t report cases of assault to college police or administration, and many colleges tend to dole out very light punishments for students who are convicted. If there are cases of assault on your campus that are handled poorly, contacting your administration, especially if you recruit others to help you, is a good way to instigate action.
7. Know your school’s policies.
Understanding your college’s policies regarding sexual assault will help you know how to respond when issues do come up. It’s important to know your rights as a student; don’t let your administration overpower you when you have something worthy to say.
8. Practice alcohol safety.
Many students who are the victims of sexual assault are also the victims of drugging. Make sure to keep an eye on your friends to be sure they’re not drinking too much, and never leave a drink unattended or accept one from someone you don’t know. Always be sure to have a plan for getting home, whether that be Uber, a designated driver or public transportation, and have a backup plan in case your original plan goes awry.
9. Recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship.
Teach yourself the warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship in order to prevent assault from happening within one. If you or a friend find yourself withdrawing from other relationships or being pressured by a partner, seek immediate help and encourage the termination of the relationship. Often people in abusive relationships have trouble recognizing abuse, so they will often need external support.
Sexual assault is absolutely a reality on college campuses, but with the collaboration of students across the country and the world, the rates of it happening can be reduced. Everyone must do their part to end sexual violence, from standing up to potential perpetrators to looking out for potential victims. The problem will not be solved unless everyone takes definitive action, but together, we can end on-campus sexual assault.
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