According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nationally 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men reported an instance of sexual violence
According to Dr. Heather Horton, Director of the Wellness Resource Center and Coordinator of Sexual Assault Response at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, sexual violence affects everyone. “Men get victimized in addition to women, [and] men also have mothers and sisters and friends that may be affected by these issues,” she explains. Perpetrators can be male or female, and sexual assaults happen in heterosexual and same-gender relationships.
Sexual violence can also occur within an intimate relationship. This is known as Intimate Partner Violence which is defined as behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including acts of physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours. (Heise & Garcia-Moreno (2002); Jewkes, Sen & Garcia-Moreno (2002)) This definition covers violence by both current and former spouses and partners.
What is sexual violence?
“Sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability. A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.”
Available support if you or someone you know has been assaulted
- Campus Police/Security: Officers can ensure immediate safety, conduct an investigation, and/or aid the local police department.
- Peer Advocates: Other students or trained community members can offer crisis intervention, accompany students to medical and judicial appointments, and provide advocacy and support.
- Office of Religious Life: Staff can offer spiritual counseling and support.
- Residential Life: Staff can provide support, referrals, and help with housing concerns.
- Dean of Students: Can oversee and administer the campus code of conduct and provide assistance with judicial processes.
- Department of Public Safety/Campus Security: Staff can offer referrals and advocacy. This department is also required to collect and report anonymous campus crime statistics and make sex offender registration information available.
If you would like to talk with someone not associated with your school, the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) offers the following:
National Sexual Assault Hotline
Free and confidential services are available 24/7.
There are effective violence prevention strategies, and it’s essential that both men and women get involved.
Jarrod Chin, a director of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, explains, “A lot of discussions around sexual assault are about women protecting themselves when they get to college: Cover your drink, use a buddy system when you go home, don’t dress too provocatively, etc. But at MVP, we put the onus on men holding other men accountable for their behavior. MVP tries to move the conversation away from victim blaming and focuses on how men can be allies to women, not adversaries.”
Learn more about the MVP program
Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP)The MVP program, started almost twenty years ago, is based on encouraging men and women to engage in bystander intervention for gender-based violence against women.
This is in contrast to other approaches that have seen men solely as perpetrators and women as only victims or survivors of violence.
MVP uses former collegiate and professional athletes as trainers to empower men and women to intervene when they witness gender-based violence. On many campuses, chapters of MVP facilitate men’s student leadership in violence prevention.
Learn more about the chapter of Mentors in Violence Prevention at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Though sexual violence cannot be prevented, there are actions that can be taken to protect yourself and lower your risk of sexual violence. Below is a list compiled by RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) to avoid dangerous situations.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where and who is around you can assist you in avoiding a dangerous situation
- Try to avoid isolated areas. It is difficult to seek help when there is no one around you.
- Walk with a purpose. Even if you do not know where you are heading, act as if you do.
- Trust your instincts. If a location or a situation feels uncomfortable or unsafe, leave.
- Try not to load yourself down with bags and other carrying items, as it causes you to appear more vulnerable
- Make sure your cell phone is with you and charged should you need to use it. Also if able carry some cash for emergencies (i.e. cab fare).
- Don’t allow yourself to be isolated with someone you don’t know or trust
- Avoid wearing headphones in both ears in order to be more aware of your surrounding and hear what is going on around you, especially if you are walking alone.
Stepping Up Is the Norm
A recent Student Health 101 survey found that more than 90 percent of respondents would intervene if they saw a situation that involved sexual pressure or potential sexual violence. Amy W.*, a senior at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, says, “I’ve stepped in many times when [people aren’t] acting right or pressuring. I say that I don’t like or tolerate that behavior.” Ashford staff are a great resource. If your safety is a concern, get help from a security officer or other trained professional. You can also call 9-1-1.
As a student, you have the power to prevent violence. Dr. Horton says, “Whatever the sexual culture is like on [your] campus, it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Think about your own ability to make cultural change.”
Learn more about sexual assault prevention programs
Want to Get Involved?Help spread awareness and learn more about sexual violence prevention strategies by joining (or starting!) a program on your community. Some common initiatives include:
* Name changed for privacy.
- Interrupt situations that could lead to sexual violence.
- Recruit friends to help you step in and help.
- Remember that only enthusiastic participation in sexual activity means “yes.” If you’re unsure how your partner feels, stop
- If you’re concerned about your own safety, get help from staff members or call campus security or 9-1-1.
Get help or find out more
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
Circle of 6 (Free app for iPhone & Android that offers an easy way to reach six people who can help in an emergency.)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Vassar College, Sexual Assault Violence Prevention, Bystander Intervention Mentors in Violence Prevention
White Ribbon Project
Take Back the Night
Men Can Stop Rape
Students Active for Ending Rape
Green Dot Strategy