Getting the word out about acquaintance rape

First, Bill Cosby, and now Brock Turner, former Oakwood athlete turned Stanford swimmer, have made headlines over accusations of rape. Since we’re innocent until proven guilty, this column isn’t about prematurely convicting the accused.

Rather, it’s about exposing the ongoing and often silent threat of acquaintance rape. Originally, this crime was commonly identified as “date rape,” but that terminology was too specific. In college rapes, the perpetrator is known to the victim 90 percent of the time, but not necessarily a dating partner.

Tragically, rape and sexual assault happen both to women and men, and can occur anywhere. Yet RAINN, the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network reports, “9 out of 10 rape victims were female in 2003.” So, for space, let’s talk about young women on college campuses only.

Alarmingly, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80 percent of sexual assaults of college females are likely to go unreported. “Most of the acquaintance rape … occurs with the use of alcohol, and many times students are either unsure of what to do or embarrassed to come forward,” said Sandy Hunt, director of the victim/witness division of the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office.

Campus sexual assault surveys indicate that about 1 in 5 female students will be a victim of sexual assault. Huffington Post columnist Tyler Kingkade said the point of these statistics is that victims are finally speaking up and saying that once they did report, their cases were handled poorly by campus hierachy.

Some universities are aggressively addressing this tragic phenomenon through preventive education. Yet this knowledge can come too late for acquaintance rape victims, since freshmen and sophomore students are at the highest risk of violation.

It’s paramount for parents to speak candidly with their college-bound kids. Tell your daughters not to go to a party alone but with other females, and never leave with a man they don’t know well. Tell them to guard their drinks and never drink from a punch bowl or open container. “Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assualt, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, etc.,” according to the RAINN Website.

Tell your sons that “No” means “No.” No matter how far the sexual activity has gone, and if a woman is incapicitated, her ability to legally consent is impaired.

Don’t assume that your child will not drink because a teenager’s newfound freedom can be a dangerous gift.

Lastly, don’t expect public high schools to be solely responsible for prevention. They are inundated with a multitude of issues like bullying, teen dating violence and prescription drug abuse.

If a sexual assault does occur, Sandy Hunt says that the Montgomery County prosecutor’s office offers assistance to victims. “We just don’t call ourselves the crisis center, but that would be us,” she said.

“We need to rebrand so people know that we are available to provide services to any victim of sexual violence, and it’s regardless of prosecution,” said Hunt, the director of the Victim Witness Division. “We always encourage … victims … to seek medical treatment … and … mental health counseling,” Hunt said. “We have a 24-hour-crisis hotline (937-225-5623) and 24-hour response.”

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Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist, who is a past two term board member for the Ohio Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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