Victims of Sexual Assault Should Take Action

 One in four women at institutions of higher learning have experienced unwanted sexual contact. / Photo illustration by Emilio Rodriguez / el Don

One in four women at institutions of higher learning have experienced unwanted sexual contact. / Photo illustration by Emilio Rodriguez / el Don

By Meghan Kliewer

Students should report sexual harassment because it is an offense that needs to be recognized and addressed.

One in four women at institutions of higher learning have experienced unwanted sexual contact since enrollment, a study by the Association of American Universities shows.

Rape culture is the pervasiveness and normalization of the oversexualization of women, sexual assault and violence, says Dawn Foor, the prevention education and outreach supervisor of Santa Ana-based Community Service Programs of Orange County.

In rape culture, women are generally blamed for acting or appearing in ways that would warrant an aggressive sexual response, according to the Women’s Center at Marshall University.

“Society expects and accepts that women will be raped and need to protect themselves,” Foor said.

Another example of rape culture is the myth that men cannot be raped because they should always enjoy or want sex.

Men who are victims of sexual assault do not often seek help because they do not know if they are victims, according to Lance Lockwood, Santa Ana College professor and Safe Space advisor.

Some people believe that most rape reports are a result of regret from choices made when intoxicated.

However, only 13 percent of sexual assault or rape victims who were incapacitated by drugs or alcohol reported the incident, the AAU survey revealed.

Nationwide, three in four people who had witnessed an intoxicated person in danger of a potential sexual assault or rape did not intervene, according to the AAU survey.

Social responsibility is crucial in preventing sexual assault, with the study suggesting most people who recognize a potential assault are apathetic. Foor and her team work to promote safe bystander intervention programs, which motivate people to be proactive in preventing sexual assault.

Only a quarter of victims who experienced forced penetration reported it, according to the AAU research. Most victims did not report the assault because they felt ashamed or embarrassed, blamed themselves, or did not consider it important enough.

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Each student has a different level of sexual education. Some have received sufficient information while others have not, according to Christina Duong, SAC health educator.

Lack of sexual education may be one reason students in the study did not think their sexual assault was serious enough to report.

In Orange County, Community Service Programs pushed for the new state law mandating comprehensive sexual education in schools for grades 7-12.

Assembly Bill No. 329 was signed by Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Oct. 1 and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

The law requires schools to educate students on “sexual harassment, sexual assault, adolescent relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, and sex trafficking.”

From an outside study of 2,500 women who had been sexually assaulted or raped by the legal definition, only 14 percent thought their circumstance was categorized as such, Foor said.

Sexual assault and rape ranges from all unwanted touching to forceful and violent penetration. Rape also occurs within intimate partner relationships.

“Our campus psychologists will be able to help students look for any red flags for intimate partner violence, including sexual assault,” Duong said.

Last year, there were only two sexual assault reports, both under the category of fondling, and two reports of stalking, in Rancho Santiago Community College District, according to the annual safety report for 2015.

Sexual harassment is included under stalking in the safety report, said Alistair Winter, director of safety and security for the district.

One student at SAC who requested anonymity said she had experienced sexual harassment from classmates several times but did not report any of the incidents.

Initiatives to address sexual assault have been instituted and it’s about time.

Under Title V and IX, professors must act as mandatory reporters of sexual assault to the district. But students decide whether they want to pursue an investigation or not.