SAFE acknowledges Sexual Assault Awareness Month
In October of 2013, Alex Douglas,* an Emporia State student, was sexually assaulted by a friend she said she had been talking to for a while.
“I’d gone out drinking and I was like, ‘Hey, I’m by your house, let me come over.’ And I thought we were just going to talk for a little bit and then it turned pretty bad,” Douglas said.
Douglas said she still sees the perpetrator on campus and it makes her nauseous.
“I didn’t file charges because (they) absolutely don’t even know that it happened,” Douglas said. “Like, it wasn’t a whole downplay, but it was rape. Saying no multiple times – it was all wrong. Everything was wrong. I wasn’t comfortable in any sort of way, at all. I felt a sort of rejection in it, too. They’re taking you, but they’re also pushing you away.”
According to the National Institute of Justice in the U.S. Department of Justice, a college with 10,000 students can experience as many as 350 rapes per year. But the yearly report from ESU’s Police and Safety contains only one report of sexual assault for the year of 2012, compared with three in 2011 and one reported assault in 2010.
“(I’m) just concerned (about) statements made by one individual in the police department – that not everything is actually reported because the victim will most likely recant,” said Allison Smith,* a professor at ESU. “If I had to make a guess, high reports for universities, in general, across the nation are typically low because that does not look good for the university. So if they report or record everything then it may make the university undesirable to students and the parents of those students.
During the month of April, SAFE – SOS Advocates from ESU – is pushing to make citizens of Emporia and students of ESU conscious of what goes on behind closed doors by putting up teal ribbons in honor of Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness Month.
“(Sexual assault) can be verbal, as well as physical,” said Jessica Sichel, senior sociology major and president of SAFE. “Physically, it’s any unwanted touching, space perimeter, even like facial expressions, that sort of stuff. Sexual harassment falls under sexual violence and assault.”
Smith said that this is not just an ESU problem, but a nationwide problem.
“(The statistics would be) much higher than one or two, which is typically what Emporia State University reports – zero, one, or two,” Smith said.
Douglas was also in an intimate partner violent relationship in high school, an extra piece of baggage in their life, and eventually she was able to escape the relationship. Counseling and the support of family has helped them feel better about the whole situation.
“I think getting over that part was just getting over the whole part, so it’s getting over the relationship as a whole is helping me with that,” Douglas said. “Also, trying not to define it, because it was a violation of me and I just have to accept that. I don’t have to put a label on it. But because we’re humans we want to have a name for things. I kind of have to remind myself a lot that that’s not the important part. The important part is that you know you didn’t deserve it.”
*names have been changed