Sexual assault is a growing issue on college campuses, and even more alarming are the attitudes and misconceptions surrounding it.
According to Sarah Lawrence College, 1 in 4 women will be the victim of a sexual assault during her academic career. Moreover, 48.8 percent of those women that met the study’s definition of rape did not consider what happened to them rape.
It is important to note that both men and women are victims of sexual assault. The issue being raised by these statistics isn’t one of sex, but rather perception. What do college students consider rape, and how does this affect their likelihood to report it when it happens to them?
Based on a survey given to more than 30 students, both male and female, at Wilkes University, there are some disparities as to what qualifies as rape. Of the 33 students surveyed, six did not consider it rape if one person says no but flirts, sends naked photos, or leads the other person on beforehand.
The survey explicitly states that the victim said no, and yet because he or she showed some type of interest beforehand, 18 percent of students did not consider this to be rape.
Other questions that received mixed responses were whether or not it is considered rape if the victim said no but made the first move or was in a relationship with the offender.
These misconceptions are just one of the many reasons that victims of sexual assault may be reluctant to come forward, often times accompanied with embarrassment, fear, and not wanting to tell their stories again.
“I’m concerned that the students surveyed didn’t think that those questions equated to rape. If one person says “no” at any point during a sexual encounter, and the other person still forces it, it is rape,” said Dean Gretchen Yeninas.
“It doesn’t matter who initiated sex. It doesn’t matter how much flirting went on.”
Yeninas deals with these cases first hand, as she has been a board member for the Victims Resource Center for 16 years and recently became Dean of Student Affairs at Wilkes University.
The most recent Clery Report shows that there were four incidents of rape in 2014 at Wilkes University, and that is only accounting for those that were reported.
This issue is not without solution. Being informed is only the first step, but it is an important one.
“I want students to know that there is a team of people in Student Affairs that are here to help, no matter how a student chooses to proceed. Counselors are available, on and off camps, free of charge,” Yeninas said. “No one is going to judge a student or blame a student for what happened… No one should feel alone.”