Sexual assault on campus: a hidden but real threat
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Itâ€™s a Saturday night, and youâ€™re at yet another party in the Apartments. You and your friends have had a couple of drinks, youâ€™ve been dancing and everything is great. One of your friends leaves early with someone she met at the party, and you think nothing of it.
In most cases, there is nothing more to think about. This is college; everyone is an adult and is capable of making his or her own decisions. To quote a student from a previous Echo article entitled â€œFriends let friends hook-up drunk,â€: â€œWho wants friends interfering with their sex life? No one.â€
Yet even though most hook ups are benign, the potential risks of todayâ€™s hook-up culture should not be taken lightly, especially when alcohol becomes involved. Alcohol can contribute to regretted sex, sexual assault and even rape; whatâ€™s more, it can destroy friendships and reputations.
Student Health on Campus (SHOC) is launching a two-week-long campaign that addresses the issue of sexual assault here on the Hill. First, it is important to clarify what exactly some of these words mean. Sexual assault is defined as the physical or verbal abuse of an individual in a sexual manner, ranging from unwanted sexual threats and touching to rape. Sexual assault is not gender-specific; both men and women can fall prey to it.
Regretted sex, unlike assault, is sex that was consentual but prompted guilty or uneasy feelings in one of the involved partners after the fact.
An individualâ€™s consent is not considered valid if he or she is exposed to any physical or verbal pressure to consent or is under the influence of any substances at the time of sexual contact. In fact, under Maine state law, an individual who is intoxicated absolutely cannot give consent.
Individuals can also withdraw a previous statement of consent at any point. Thus, an individualâ€™s expression of interest toward someone else early in the night carries no weight if said person denies this interest at the point of sexual contact later in the night.
So what does this mean for you students on the Hill? Be on guard whenever you find yourself in a circumstance that involves alcohol. Even the nicest guys and girls can find themselves making a decision they will later regret because of alcohol.
It is also important to keep track of how much alcohol you have consumed and what is in your drink. Furthermore, try to keep track of your friends; go out as a group and leave as one as well.
Although this piece of advice seems simple enough, in practice a trip to the Spa can seem more enticing than ensuring your group is still together before you leave a party.
As always, the simplest way to avoid any of these complications is to avoid these dangerous situations entirely, and thus limit your alcohol consumption.
Fortunately, according to the Garrison Foster Health Center, no sexual assaults have been reported on campus in the last year. However, this does not mean that none have occurred. Sexual assaults are often underreported for a variety of reasons. Staff at the Health Center say that stories of sexual assault come up during counseling sessions and in patientsâ€™ histories, but the victims almost always do not want to get involved in legal proceedings. Their hesitance often stems from a wish to forget what happened or to avoid turning the situation into public knowledge.
In fact, when students were interviewed about sexual assault on campus, many were surprised to hear that none have been reported this year. Many students on campus know fellow students who have, at some point, been victimized in this manner. They say that their friends didnâ€™t report the assaults because they didnâ€™t want to deal with the hassle of reporting them or figured they were just part of the hook-up scene.
When asked if they knew what resources were available on campus for sexual assault victims, many students cited the Health Center and Counseling services. However, almost all these students also stated that they did not recommend such services to friends who may have been victims because they did not feel it was right to interfere.
Many of the students expressed this fear of interfering when asked if they would stop one of their friends from leaving a party. As was mentioned in the Echo article referenced earlier, most students would only interfere if it was obvious that their friend was in a state of inebriation that would limit his or her ability to make rational decisions or if the individual he or she were leaving with had an unsavory reputation. Otherwise, they felt it was their friendâ€™s right to leave, even if he or she had been drinking.
There are several things students at the College can do to stand up against sexual assault. For one, students can take the MyColby pledge, a student-run initiative that is aimed at guaranteeing every studentâ€™s safety and is being run from October 4-15. This week SHOC will be asking the student body what they think will make Colby a safer community and will be compiling their answers into a pledge that everyone can sign.
Students also have the option to participate in the Green Dot Campaign, a national movement that aims to stop sexual assault before it occurs.
So whether you take a more active role in the fight against sexual assault, or just stop your friend from making a regrettable mistake, please help ensure that no student ever feels unsafe on campus.
For additional information and counseling, contact the College Health Center or call the Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Center of Waterville at 1-800-871-6641.