College sexual assault victims aren’t going to authorities

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Due to the aftermath of the Larry Nassar scandal, the #MeToo movement has become a nationwide effort in the support of raising prevention and awareness of sexual abuse.

More than 300 women came forward as victims and were awarded a $500 million settlement total. Because of this, the conversation about sexual assault, especially on college campuses, has been brought to the forefront.

The founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, spoke at Michigan State University this past April as a part of the Transformative Justice Speaker Series.

She expressed that many times girls she worked with were sexual assault victims and were not even aware.

“Girls would consistently come forward with their stories about sexual violence and a lot of times didn’t know it was sexual violence.  A lot of times it was just sharing things that had become so normalized in their life that they had no language to describe it other than just another thing,” Burke said.

This is also proven to be true when it comes to college campuses. According to a report published by the Department of Justice, only 20 percent of campus sexual assault victims go to the police.

The report also says that about one in 10 victims reportedly don’t go to the police because they don’t think what happened to them is severe enough to bring to authorities. One in five victims fear retaliation from the culprit, and some believe that the assault is a personal matter and authorities will not or cannot help.

“Sexual assaults have always been an issue on college campuses, but people aren’t educated on what sexual assault is,” Cassandra Beverly, a college sophomore at Lansing Community College, said.  “College-age kids are finding their own voices and paths, so when it comes to sexual issues, some people may not be able to necessarily point them out.”

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“People think rape means that some stranger pulled you in the bushes and forced themselves on you,” Beverly said. “Truth is, rape can come from your boyfriend, a classmate or even a trusted loved one. Rape is someone having their way without your consent. It’s that simple.”

She also went on to describe how a person can feel like a victim all over again if they do decide to go to police after a sexual assault.

“Rape victims are treated like exactly that—victims,” Beverly said. “They are forced to share their story over and over again, get tests run on them, and go through so many processes on top of trying to cope with such a traumatic thing. There has to be a way to treat people like survivors and not victims.”

Justice Department experts also say that many students blame themselves for assault crimes and do not know their legal rights in a culture that is so widely accepting of sexual behavior.

“Sex is such a widely talked about topic in today’s society and it’s not taboo anymore. You hear it in music and see it on television regularly so that people are desensitized to what sexual violence actually is,”a representative from SafeHouse, a center for sexual assault and domestic violence victims, said.

A report done by the American Association of University Women in 2015 shows that most college sexual assault cases do not get reported. They also reported that 89 percent of 11,000 colleges surveyed said that they had zero rape cases that school year. The prior year’s report listed that 91 percent of schools had no rape cases.

Though there are a large number of sexual assault cases that do not get reported. There are a large number of programs and organizations aimed to help and prevent sexual violence.

At MSU, the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Prevention Program aims to create a safer environment for students. It requires all first-year undergraduate students to attend a workshop that defines sexual violence and aids in prevention of it.

Beverly exlpained that the workshop helped her “understand what falls under the umbrella of sexual assault.”

On a national level, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) is the biggest sexual assault prevention organization in the nation. They work with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the nation and operate the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

RAINN also provides programs aimed at the prevention of sexual violence to bring sexual violence criminals to justice and to help survivors.

Students and victims of sexual assault are encouraged to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE. The line is free and accessible at all hours of the day.

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