As much as one would want to believe otherwise, campus sexual and gender-based violence happens too frequently across the United States.
This is according to the Association of American Universities (AAU), who, after polling over 180,000 students at 33 schools on sexual assault in 2019, found that non-consensual sexual conduct and assault still occur in many US campuses.
According to the study, the overall rate of nonconsensual sexual contact experienced by students stood at 13.0 percent, with significantly higher rates experienced by women, transgender, genderqueer, and undergraduate students compared to men and graduate students.
The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) notes that college-aged girls are three times more likely to experience sexual violence compared to the general population. Even more alarming, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) says the victims are, unfortunately, getting younger, with one in three victims of sexual assault and rape between the ages of 11 and 17.
Schools and other youth-oriented institutions are urged to implement stronger safety measures and provide resources and programs that can help students detect and prevent instances of abuse.
As noted by different advocacy groups, schools and learning institutiuons can help prevent and address sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence by doing the following:
Educate young people on the subject of consent and the nature of sexual violence
According to Susan Moen of the organization Stop Sexual Assault In Schools, educating young people — especially children — remains one of the most effective ways to prevent sexual violence. This would allow them to figure out what consent is, as well as how to spot dangerous and abusive behavior at an early age.
Moen, however, says discussions on these topics should not be limited to the classroom, but should also happen in communities and homes.
According to Moen, other topics that can be explored during these discussions are:
- Personal space
- Healthy relationships
- Online safety
- Peer pressure
- Gender norms
Teach young people not to be passive bystanders
One of the many reasons why sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence is so prolific is because young people are taught that only two parties are involved in the incident: the perpetrator and the victim. A growing movement asserts that as well as victim and perpetrator, any bystanders are also involved, and this third party has the potential to identify and defuse potentially dangerous situations.
This idea has since led to the creation of several bystander intervention programs which can help break patterns of sexual assault by fostering a sense of shared responsibility in individuals.
These programs are effective, with one study noting significant reductions in the perpetration of sexual violence in schools that implement them.
Offer support and empathize with victims
It’s difficult whenever someone comes out and admits to having been sexually violated, especially if that person is a friend or a relative.
Some of the most ways to provide support to assault survivors are the following:
Be present. Listen and communicate without judgment and be as understanding as possible.
Be patient. Coming to terms with and recovering from trauma can take a long time. This means you should avoid activities such as pressuring the victim to recall the incident when they are not ready, or exposing them to triggers that could affect their mental and emotional state.
Ask for consent. Ask permission before comforting the victim with a hug or any form of physical contact. This is important because any unwanted physical contact may cause their trauma to resurface.
Practice confidentiality. Assault victims often deal with a lot of shame as a result of the incident. Refrain from telling other people of the incident without the victim’s permission.
Be mindful of any red flags such as suicidal and destructive behavior, changes in eating, and significantly changed sleeping habits. If they exhibit any of these, seek professional help right away.
One other way to help a friend or loved one who has fallen victim to sexual assault is to direct them towards legal help.
One of California’s premier law firms, Hogue & Belong and its team of top sexual harassment lawyers can help victims file cases against perpetrators of sexual assault which can go some way to providing at least a small sense of closure for the victim.