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Nearly 1 in 5 college-age women experience sexual violence

Posted on 11.20.2013

Sexual assault is an issue that affects many college-age women. According to data on the website of the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, nearly 1 in 5 women ages 18-24 report experiencing a forced sexual encounter.

The data also indicate that 61 percent of those surveyed responded that they were forced to have sex by words and actions rather than threats. Many things can be done to prevent an assault or seek help if one occurs.

Chris Edwards, a detective with the sex crimes division of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (not the detective consulted in the Tripp case),  said that students can do a few things to guard against predators.

He said that it is important for friends to look out for each other when going out. According to Edwards, women especially should not go off with strangers and should guard their drinks if they are out on the town.

“We always tell girls going out, you need to look out for each other. Go in a group, stay together,” he said. “Don’t let your friend wander off with some guy she met at the bar.”

However, according to Edwards, in almost 90 percent of cases, people are sexually assaulted by someone they know. He also said that most of the sexual assaults in the United States are never reported.

“On average across the country,  only 20 percent of sexual assaults are ever reported. So 80 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police. And that is for a number of reasons—embarrassment, saying no one will believe you,” he said. “… The best thing you can do is report right away.”

According to Edwards, detectives must collect physical evidence within a few days of the event or else it is lost. He said that all victims respond in different ways, but it is important for them to try to call the police, even if they are in shock.

Edwards said that a female detective and a female sexual assault nurse from IMPD host an annual sexual assault seminar at Butler University that gives students in-depth information. He also said that it is a good idea for every college to have a seminar, and IMPD is always willing to help.

One free resource on campus that can help victims of sexual assault is the Student Health and Counseling Center. Kelly Miller, director and staff psychologist at the Counseling Center, said that the center offers individual and group counseling for many mental health issues.

“If a person comes to the counseling center and identifies that he or she has experienced a sexual assault, our most important role is to empower and support the student in determining what he or she needs to do in the immediate situation,” she said. “As appropriate, we also make individuals aware of other resources available on- or off-campus, such as law enforcement, social services and medical or health clinics.”

Like Edwards, Miller also said that victims of sexual assault react in many different ways. She added that not all victims need to have long-term therapy, but the Counseling Center will help as long as the student desires.

“While it is different for everyone, some common emotions an individual might experience after a sexual assault include shame, feelings of self-blame, confusion, anxiety, a sense of violation, safety concerns and anger,”  she said. “A few common behavior changes might include withdrawal, isolation, support-seeking and decreased concentration.”

Miller said that students who have been the victims of a sexual assault should visit the Health and Counseling Center located in Room 210 in the Schwitzer Student Center or schedule an appointment by calling 317-788-3437.

She also said that students should look out for and support their friends, because they might be the person who first finds out about an assault. She said it is important for everyone to know about the resources on campus, so they can refer someone who is in need.

“As a friend, you are often the first ally in keeping others safe. Friends can notice distress, show concern and offer non-judgmental listening,” she said. “If you do notice a friend experiencing some of the emotions or behaviors above, or any other changes in personality, do not be afraid to check in with him or her.”


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