What are the biggest issues keeping college female students from speaking up when they are victims of sexual assault or rape?
In my professional experience, the reasons why college students may be hesitant or fearful to report they were raped or sexually assaulted usually fall somewhere along the following lines:
1. Fear of being blamed.
The number one reason I see college students hesitating before coming forward is they are worried that if they complain, the finger will be pointed squarely at them.
In both, incidents of acquaintance rape and stranger rape, students are fearful that the response from friends and officials will be that the victim is responsible – whether partly or entirely – for what happened.
Although we have presumably reached the point as a society that many understand that it is entirely irrelevant what it was she was wearing at the time, there certainly remains progress to be made.
Feelings of culpability hold many college girls back from speaking up about their rape. Self-questioning and regret can cause students to become trapped in thoughts of I shouldn’t have gone there, I should have known, I should have been more careful, I should have…
These thoughts cause many college victims to avoid discussing what happened.
Moreover, if the surrounding circumstances leading up to the incident were anything less than wholesome (which, come on – it’s college), a student may feel that telling any part of the story is not an option. What will my parents think of me?
3. Unsure whether what happened qualifies as “rape”
College girls may be unsure whether what happened to them was, in fact, sexual assault or rape.
While any college student knows what rape is as a theoretical proposition, the reality of college rape -in particular, acquaintance rape – can often feel much blurrier.
4. Thinking there are not many options
Once they become a victim, college girls are now faced with the pragmatic decision of what to do next.
In my experience, college students often engage in a practical weighing of their options and too often conclude that what happened is already in the past and nothing can be done about it now.
Students need to be educated as to the reality that much can be done after the fact.
And that doing something now may save another girl from experiencing the same.
5. Not wanting to ruin his life
Whether she knew him well or not, many college girls would rather take on the burden of suffering silently, than reporting him and “spreading the suffering.”
This stems in part from a strong sense of compassion, and in part from the faulty utilitarian thinking that since not much will ultimately result from reporting him, there’s no point in damaging in his reputation.
6. Worried they won’t be supported and/or that the matter will be publicized.
To many college girls, the idea of “everyone knowing” can be the most fearsome aspect of coming forward.
This fear that the matter will be made public, and that others will hate them, blame them, and judge them prevents many college victims from coming forward.
Students should know that the matter will be treated with the utmost confidentiality, on a need-to-know basis.
7. Thinking that maybe it wasn’t that big a deal.
College students often engage in a silent inner battle in which they debate whether what happened was that big a deal.
Am I just overreacting? Maybe I’m just being dramatic…
Even though they may feel disgusted, traumatized, or violated, they may nonetheless question the validity of their own feelings.
8. Thinking that they don’t have the strength or courage to fight.
College girls often have way more strength than they realize.