The consequences of unreported sexual assaults among college students are a threat to a campus’ safety.
One out of every eight college women are raped, and surprisingly Tyler Junior College crime statistics only show two for the year of 2010 and one for 2011. The level of accuracy could be questionable compared to the statistics compiled by the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault. In a campus with a total average of 11,000, the question of who really is speaking up and reporting arises.
“There are a lot of things that play a role in the underreporting of it, and it’s mainly fear of how it will damage the person’s reputation and the emotional turmoil they have to go through to report it,” said Tracey Williams, counselor and learning specialist at TJC.
The low percentage of reporting and proceeding with the charges does more harm than good.
If the victim stays silent, not only does he or she continue to put themselves in danger by not reporting and filing charges but also gives the offender the freedom to strike again.
In September of 2012, a 19 year-old female TJC student was raped after attending a party at her apartment complex, the Cambridge in Tyler. The rapist was a 20-year-old male friend and also a resident of the complex. After the party the male took her while both intoxicated to his apartment and forcefully had sex with the victim. The female reported the assault, but after a Facebook chat apology, the victim dropped all charges and did not proceed with the case.
“In sociology we have a statistic that says 90% off rapes are acquaintance rapes, and that’s huge,” said Deborah Kelley professor and department chair of behavioral sciences at TJC.
The female victim in the previous case was part of that percentage who are raped by someone they previously had known—either a friend, classmate, family member or acquaintance.
This type of rape is called date rape and is most common in the college scene.
“Sometimes it is a person that they know so their more reluctant to come forward and report that. They also may know what that person (the offender) has to lose as far a scholarship or something they are part of on campus, that they don’t want that person to lose,” said Williams.
Various factors play in the victim’s decision to drop charges. Feelings of shame of publicly announcing the assault, self-blaming for consuming too much alcohol, guilt for wearing seductive clothing or embarrassment for acting in a flirtatious manner with the perpetrator before the rape.
Another reason for not continuing the charges is reliving the trauma when reporting with police officials or investigators and continuing the processes by testifying in a courtroom for several days can hold back the victim from following with the processes, according to Williams.
“It’s a devastating process. On one hand you want to stop this person and you don’t want it to happen again, but on the other hand what you have to go through to make that happen.”
Rape is one of the most talked about crimes in a student’s academic career. In a campus atmosphere where the coalition of alcohol and drugs are a major part of many student’s night live, there is always someone in the class that has experience the trauma themselves or they either know a family member or of a friend who has been raped. Yet 42 percent of the victims do not tell anyone, according to the HarperCollins Publishers ‘I Never Called it Rape’ report.
For Liliana Reyna, sophomore business administration major, it was a first cousin who at the age of 13 was sexually assaulted by another family member making the pain more real than just a statistic.
“It was a dramatic change for her… she was a sweet innocent girl. She became real depressed afterwards. She tried to kill herself many times because of it, she ended in the hospital a few time,” Reyna said. “It never crosses your mind someone so close would do something, specially a girl that young.”
Although the young victim was accused by acquaintances of provoking the perpetrator and discourage to go through with the charges because the effect it would have on her family, with courage and her families support the victims continued with the charge.
“It changes the person, it changes the family, it’s a horrible thing to go through,” Reyna said. “There’s so much you can say. So much you can do, if you have never been in that situation, you don’t know how that person feels. Just be there and support them,”
Every sexual assault situation differs, but when victims fail to report such acts, it’s harmful for other people.
Story by: Belen caillas