RCASA’s Saturday Prevention: Campus Sexual Assault

In Advocacy, Outreach, Sexual Assault Awareness on August 14, 2010 at 8:00 am

Many college women say their experiences after being sexually assaulted — often in date rape situations — illustrate a culture of indifference and denial that results in one in five young women being assaulted during their college years.

Many students are away from home and in dating relationships for the first time. They are experimenting with new, sometimes risky behavior, such as drinking and drugs, as they test their independence. That activity, combined with lack of understanding about definitions of consent, makes them vulnerable to non-consensual sex.

Over fifty percent of sexual assaults involving college students  involve drugs or alcohol. This is yet another reason the prevalence of assaults continues to be high, and also partly why so few are ever successfully prosecuted.

There are about 40 drugs commonly associated with campus sexual assaults although alcohol is the number one date rape drug on campuses. Other drugs include benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Ativan, as well as party drugs, including Ecstasy, and pain medications, such as Vicodin. All of them can significantly impair a person’s ability to consent, especially when used, or given, in conjunction with alcohol. Anything that is synergistic with alcohol can lead to a drug-facilitated assault. Once a woman is impaired, she is legally incapable of consent, and someone who has sex with her can be charged with rape. And many college-age women may not understand they have a right to report it, or they’re afraid.

Campuses are not free from crime. Victims need to understand their rights, and need information about both the criminal justice system and student judicial system. The Campus Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights was passed in 1991. This law requires institutions of higher education to develop and publish policies regarding the prevention and awareness of sex offenses and procedures for responding after a sex offense occurs as part of their campus security report. A key point in the  statute is the responsibility of university officials to inform students of their rights and provide them with clear information about how to report sex offenses and about the assistance (medical, legal, and psychological) available for victims.

You have a right to safety on campus. Knowing your rights and the resources available to you should you need them is incredibly empowering. Contact Student Affairs on your campus for more information specific to your school.


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