Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Christal
September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM) and provides a reminder to students going back on campus to build their awareness around how to keep themselves, their friends, and their community safe. It would be too easy to let the headlines around date rape, sexual assault, and over partying at campus events put us in fear and angry silence. Rather, we can better equip ourselves with the knowledge that help is available and with tools such as having emergency contraception on hand. We can also contribute back to the community by helping prevent assault from happening or by providing help for those that need it.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), which is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, sexual assault is a crime of power and control where sexual contact or behavior occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include:
- Penetration of the victim’s body, also known as rape
- Attempted rape
- Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body
- Fondling or unwanted sexual touching
Rape is the “unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent” (thanks Merriam-Webster).
Based on numbers from NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. Even more frightening is that 9/10 college women who are victims of rape knew their offender! Rape is a sensitive word. Almost obscene. No one wants to talk about rape because it’s taboo. Rape doesn’t get reported because victims want to move forward from their experience. And some feel that the criminal justice system re-victimizes them in its process which is absolutely absurd to me! It makes me angry knowing that we live in a world where rape victims are blamed, resulting in them being too afraid to speak up and seek justice, let alone find closure.
Knowing this happens and being prepared to care for ourselves and our friends are important reminders.
- Realize that there are survivors out there and be ready to support survivors. Check to see if your university has a program or peer advising that is confidential. These types of organizations empower students to prevent violence before and after it occurs. If your school does not have it, start a program. Take the initiative to make a difference.
- Intervene when you see something. Research shows that one of the best tools to prevent violence on college campuses is bystander intervention – the idea that anyone can step in and stop a situation that may escalate into violence. [link to the NNEDV article instead of a long quote?] There is so much we can do as individuals and as a community to address campus violence. Students must take a stand and intervene when they have the opportunity to safely prevent violence.
- Just like a fire extinguisher, have a dose or two of Emergency Contraception on hand. This can help prevent you or your friend from getting pregnant after an assault. If your doctor writes you a prescription birth control already (such as the pill, patch, or ring), she or he can write you a prescription for emergency contraception (such as Ella) as well.(This is what we do for our patients that use our doctor consult service at Pandia). Many insurances will cover the cost of both medications.
1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
1-800-662-HELP for the SAMHSA National Helpline which helps with substance abuse and mental health issues.
An app that will help you call for help when you need it. It won a White House competition. http://www.circleof6app.com
The team at Pandia Health was affiliated with many campus programs when we went through college, and we wish you a safe and lively return back on campus this year!
The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.