Challenging the Silence

By Fallon Coster

The rate of rape on college campuses is high. An estimated 20-25% of college women in the United States experience attempted or completed rape during their college career (National Institute of Justice, 2000). In the United States, 1 in 33 men report experiencing an attempted or completed rape at some time in their lives (NIJ, 2000). Research on college men who have experienced rape is limited, but existing studies indicate that men are also at risk for sexual assault on campuses. Most people know the person who assaulted them. 90% of female college students who had beenraped knew the person who assaulted them. These included boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, classmates, friends, acquaintances and co-workers. We are all affected by sexual violence. We can all do something about it. Find out what you can do...

The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center has collaborated with several colleges in the Boston area to raise student awareness about rape and sexual assault prevention. Lasell College’s Lauren Tousignant and I will be working as Campus Outreach Coordinators with BARCC’s Special Projects Coordinator, Shelley Yen-Ewert, as the voices against sexual abuse and rape on the Lasell College campus. We are working together to educate and empower students so that we can fight the battle of sexual violence together. BARCC’s Shelley Yen-Ewert will be informing us about what rape is and why BARCC and the campus outreach program are so important.

Q: First of all, what is the exact technical definition of rape?

A: The Massachusetts legal definition of rape is penetration of the vagina, mouth or anus by another body part and/or object against the person’s will or without her/his consent. Consent cannot legally be given if a person is under the age of 16, mentally disabled, or incapacitated (intoxicated, drugged, unconscious, or asleep).

There are also many forms of sexual violence which
do not fit the definition of rape. These include acts such as unwanted sexual touching, sexual harassment, forcing someone to look at sexually explicit material, and others. All forms of sexual violence impact survivors, their friends and family members, and communities as a whole.

Q: Why do you feel that it is so important to educate young people about rape?

A: It is important to educate young people about rape because young people can create change in their communities. Friends or family members are usually the first people whom a survivor of sexual assault tells; therefore, young people can contribute to their friend’s healing process by learning to provide empowering support and resources. In addition, young people have the potential to influence their peers’ behaviors and attitudes and thus are important in the work towards creating healthy,
non-violent communities.

Q: What do the people at BARCC do/ provide?

A: BARCC’s mission is to end sexual violence through healing and social change. Our services include a 24-hour hotline, 24-hour medical advocacy, individual and group counseling, and legal advocacy. These services are available for survivors of all genders and their family and friends. We also provide outreach, education, and prevention services through partnerships and training with organizations and communities. All of our services are free and confidential.

Q: What is the Campus Outreach Coordinator Internship?

A: The Campus Outreach Coordinator Internship
is an important part of the partnership between BARCC and college campuses. Through this internship, college students develop and coordinate an outreach plan for their campus in order to increase awareness of issues of sexual violence and work towards ending and preventing sexual violence on their campus.

Q: What do you hope to achieve through this new program on college campuses?

A: Our hope is that this program will ultimately help foster healthy, safe, respectful, non-violent communities at participating college campuses. This can be achieved through creating environments where survivors feel safe disclosing assaults, attitudes leading to sexual violence and perpetrator’s actions are not tolerated, and positive attitudes and relationships are promoted.

Q: Why have you chosen to work with college campuses in particular?

A: One of the reasons we are working with college campuses is because of the prevalence and impact of sexual violence on campuses. The National College Women Sexual Victimization Study (1999) determined that an average of 35 incidents of rape occurs per 1,000 students on U.S. College campuses each year. Survivors of sexual violence may experience emotional distress, a decline in physical health, and difficulty concentrating in school.

Also, college campuses are often places where students actively develop new relationships, and explore and formulate new ideas. On some campuses, students live in close community with each other. This makes colleges a good place for education and prevention work.

Q: How many and which colleges are involved? Why is this significant?

A: Five colleges are involved. In addition to Lasell, they are Newbury College, Pine Manor College, MassBay Community College, and Babson College. All of the involved colleges are located close to each other and have a smaller student population; the largest, MassBay Community College, having approximately 5,500 students. We believe that the smaller size of these schools may facilitate community building and thus be conducive to this type of internship.

Q: Lastly, what do you feel is the most important thing that needs to change or be done in order to decrease the amount of sex crimes on campuses and in society?

A: I think we need to recognize that sexual violence is an issue that impacts all of us and that we all have a role to play in ending it. Some of the ways you can help end sexual violence are:learn the facts about sexual violencebelieve your classmats or friend who tells you they’ve been assaultedengage your classmates in discussion about the issue of sexual assaultrecognize and challenge attitudes that contribute to sexual violence, and promote healthy sexuality and relationships on your campus.

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