Hello July! For Support Within Reach, that means we are heading into what we call the “red zone.” It refers to August, September, October and November, which is known as the most dangerous period for college campus sexual violence. So this month we will focus on the scope of the problem, prevention and what we do here at Bemidji State University and surrounding colleges.
Because these months are the most dangerous for students entering and returning to college, let’s talk about the scope of the problem. Roughly 11% of college student experience some form of sexual violence through force or incapacitation, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). Those two tactics, separate or together, can be highly dangerous for any college-aged person. In the sexual violence world, force is defined as physically taking what is not theirs to take or have. The person hurting another by force is taking away someone’s ability to freely choose to participate in the act. Incapacitation is defined as “a person who lacks the ability to voluntarily agree to sexual activity because the person is asleep, unconscious, under the influence of an anesthetizing or intoxicating substance such that the person does not have control over his/her body, and is otherwise unaware that sexual activity is occurring.” By knowing these definitions, you can see just how dangerous these forms of sexual violence are.
Among incoming and undergraduate students, “23% of females and 5.4% of males, and 21% of LGBTQ+ individuals experience sexual assault or rape with the use of force and incapacitation,” RAINN reports. Sexual violence does not discriminate against sex, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any form of personal identification. The scary part about these numbers is that many victims do not report their assaults and perpetrators of sexual violence are still roaming campus. Can you imagine having a class with your perpetrator? Walking down the hall and seeing your perpetrator every day? How about living in the same housing unit as your perpetrator? These are all very scary realizations that students may face if they are assaulted on campus.
Sadly, only 20% of female students reported their assault to law enforcement, according to RAINN. When asked why they don’t report, students stated that many believed the assault was a personal matter, the assault wasn’t important enough, they didn’t want to get the perpetrator in trouble, they believed police wouldn’t help, or they reported elsewhere.
The reasoning behind not reporting is something we hear at Support Within Reach all too often. So what can be done about this? Well, training for everyone, including college staff and law enforcement should be enforced. Additionally, there should be an emphasis on awareness and prevention to reduce the stigma surrounding sexual violence within the community. Every fall we provide training to BSU Resident Assistants and Public Safety on how to react, respond and refer when a victim/survivor reports on campus.
We are excited to finally be on Oak Hills Chrisian College campus this fall to conduct the same trainings. However, the community stigma reduction needs to be continuously happening, along with law enforcement training, to better aid our college-aged victim/survivors. Start by believing, educating yourself, reaching out to Support Within Reach for training (online training available), and becoming an up-stander. An up-stander is a person who sees any type of discrimination, harassment, or assault happening and stands up to say “stop” or “enough is enough.”
As we head into the “red zone” at Support Within Reach and organizations across the U.S., we are prepared for what is to come. Bemidji State University, when able to return in-person, will have an advocate on campus. Until then, if you’re a victim or survivor of sexual violence while on campus, please reach out to us. The Bemidji office number is (218) 444-9524. We can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you are a professor, community member, or are in some way affiliated with the college and want training, please reach out to us.
Kori Nelson is Development and Volunteer Coordinator for Support Within Reach.