Women should be aware of sexual assault dangers
The first semester of freshman year in college is an exciting time for incoming students. Many are emerging from under their parents’ thumbs for the first time. It is an exhilarating time of freedom, self-discovery and assertion of independence. And, let’s be honest, usually a little partying and walking on the wild side will accompany these wonderful new changes.
Unfortunately, it is also a potentially dangerous time for young women. It is a time when they need to understand the responsibility for their own safety and well-being. Several studies have shown that the first semester of freshman year is when young women are most likely to be sexually assaulted.
The US Department of Education reports that about 20 percent of young women will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault. The sad reality is that this number is only an estimate. Rape and sexual assault are the most under-reported crimes in our criminal justice system.
Studies also show that sexual assaults are often committed by people the victims know, not strangers, which also impedes reporting. According to the US Department of Justice, only 5 percent of college women who have been raped report it to authorities.
Would you? Would you even know what to do, where to go or who to talk to if it happened to you?
When it happened to me at the age of 21, I was hanging out with a friend from campus that I thought I could trust. In a split second, I was alone in an unsafe situation and my life changed forever.
It is imperative that this issue is confronted. Women need to be aware of the risks and know how to avoid becoming victims of sexual assault. Rainn.org recently published a list of back to school safety tips for women on its website.
Their tips go beyond the resources our campus already has in place, like security escorts and emergency phones. It highlights the risks that exist from people who are not strangers. UH women should read it, print it and slap it on their wall somewhere so their friends can read it too.
If you do find yourself in a situation that constitutes sexual violence, which can also include stalking, sexual harassment and dating violence, you need to talk to someone. UH has a phenomenal Women’s Resource Center that offers many services to women.
Beverly A. McPhail, director of the Women’s Resource Center, said that the Center is actively campaigning to make students aware of sexual violence and offers numerous resources to students on campus.
In addition to the WRC, our campus has its own counseling center, the Counseling and Psychological Services. Houston also has numerous resources such as the Houston Area Women’s Center, the Rape Crisis Center and many others.
If you remember only one thing from this, know that it is not a good practice to always assume that everyone you know is as nice and as trustworthy as you may be. Keep in mind that they might also be going through a new period of freedom and self-discovery and can make bad decisions in the process.
Remember to always have an exit strategy — a backup plan. And, when you’ve figured that plan out, make another one. Take care of yourself and enjoy your college experience the way it was meant to be.
Kirsti Pollard is a senior sociology major and may be reached at [email protected].