Campus sexual assault: a bigger problem than you think


| Photo illustration by Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

According to the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, one in five college students experiences sexual assault during their college career.

They also estimate that 95 percent of U.S. campus rapes go unreported. The problem of under-reporting reflects an extreme need for increased campus prevention and support systems.

This is one of the most important issues at any college campus, yet we still hear stories about someone getting assaulted on an almost weekly basis.

This is a problem that becomes relevant before college, but many young adults still lack the knowledge regarding this matter.

“I wasn’t expecting this to happen to me. I just didn’t see it coming,” said a victim who wishes to be anonymous. “I was raped two years ago, and the feeling of being a victim still haunts me.”

This victim was sexually assaulted by a friend and has been seeing a psychologist for one year due to anxiety as well as other mental health issues.

“You don’t really know who to trust nowadays. You always have to be careful, and be aware that it can happen to you at any time,” said the victim. “I think knowing how to cope with it afterwards is the hardest part. I still have flashbacks that wake me up at night, and it’s just something that I have learned to deal with.”


UH actually has a webpage that informs students about sexual abuse.

Recognizing high-risk emotional and physical abuse is one of the first key factors in a problematic relationship. Violence, threats and controlling statements are just some things to look for.

“I think colleges make it seem like it will always happen at a party, or in an unusual circumstance like the robbery,” said public relations sophomore Holly Benson. “A lot of abuse can happen from within a relationship, and that’s when it’s a real danger because no one says anything.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, few programs to date have prevented the perpetration of sexual violence, and those listed on the website are actually targeted for middle school and high school students.


Training bystanders to intervene and addressing social norms among influential voices are two aspects that need to be addressed on college campuses. Simply telling students that this can happen and to be careful isn’t enough.

According to research by the task force to protect students from sexual assault, “Brief, one-session educational programs focused on increasing awareness and changing beliefs and attitudes are not effective at changing behavior in the long-term.”

These approaches may be useful as one component of a comprehensive strategy. However, they are not likely to have any impact on rates of violence if implemented as a stand-alone strategy, or as a primary component of a prevention plan.

Students should also educate themselves on different types of sexual violence and learn to be cautious of their surroundings, even in the most comfortable situations.

This can happen to anyone, and preventive actions need to be taken by both the school and individuals.

Opinion columnist Rebekah Barquero is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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