Sexual Assault Stigma, Prevalence on College Campuses, and more

I was recently asked by an old friend whom now attends Mizzou if I would be willing to do an interview for a project she had on sexual assault. Of course I agreed to do so. The questions that she asked me really got me thinking about things I have never really given much thought. I figured these things were important for others to consider as well, so naturally, I decided to write a blog post about it.

The first question was, “Do you feel Mizzou is a safe campus?”

My answer was no.

I personally do not feel that Mizzou is safe. During the day, when people are out and about, sure I feel fine by myself. However, at night, it is a different story. I cannot stress enough how deeply I believe that no one should walk alone at night, male or female. I found some statistics online from titleix.missouri.edu that says that 5.9% of male undergrads reported sexual assault upon entering MU, and 27.2% of female undergrads reported sexual assault since entering MU. Keep in mind that these are just the assaults that were reported.

She then asked me if I felt that Mizzou adequately prepared students for the reality of sexual assault on campuses.

I do not feel that Mizzou adequately prepares students for the reality of sexual assault on campuses. It is not something that is commonly talked about in a safe, professional setting. I think (not quite sure if I am remembering this correctly or not) that during Summer Welcome, there is a skit about sexual assault. If there was, then it was clearly not super memorable to me and I usually remember these kinds of things; and seeing as I came to Mizzou already a survivor of a sexual assault crime, I think it should stick out to me more. When I came to Mizzou and first started hearing about these crimes, I was not prepared for how it would affect me. It is a real issue and I do not think this university stresses it enough or talks about it enough.

She went on to ask me if there was anything I would change about Mizzou to make it friendlier for survivors.

I think people need to understand that this is a prevalent issue and many victims are not open to talking about it with everyone. Students need to realize that joking about rape and date rape drugs are not funny and the situation should never be talked about too lightly. If someone comes to you and tells you that they were assaulted, do not pry them for information, just listen and they will talk and give details when they are ready. Also, do not ever say anything about it being the victim’s fault. This makes it so much harder for people to open up about it. You have no idea who has gone through something like this, so I think students should just be careful about what they say. The crime is not just going to stop occurring any time soon, so if people could show compassion and understanding, I think that would be beneficial to survivors.

The next thing we discussed was the topic of ~ stigma ~

There are so many stigmas I have felt over the past three and a half years as a survivor of sexual assault. I felt ashamed, I blamed myself, I felt depressed and had anxiety, and people thought I was lying when I tried to tell them my story. The night that it happened, I just felt so dirty and gross and all I wanted was to take a shower, but even the shower could not wash off the shame that I felt. There were a few people I was close with that made me feel ashamed and like it was my fault, they reiterated my already prevalent thought that perhaps I should not have drank that much. I overcame this stigma mostly with time and more positive confidants than negative. I read about other survivors online and realized that it was not my fault and he should be the one feeling ashamed and guilty, not me. Once I came to accept that, it felt like a boulder was lifted off of my shoulders. I also felt really depressed for about a year after it happened and my anxiety got worse. To cope with this, I took antidepressants and, for some reason, refused to talk to a counselor, even though that was suggested a plethora of times. The antidepressants helped a little bit but I was on a low dose and wasn’t completely honest with how bad I was really feeling. Time was the main factor of how I overcame the depression. When I would try to talk to some people about it, they thought that I was lying and making it up for attention. Of course since I was only in high school when this happened, rumors spread like wildfire and half the school was calling me an attention whore for “making up” such a traumatic story. To overcome that, I just had to wait it out. Rumors always die down and people eventually forget about it. Time is the main coping mechanism when you go through something traumatic like sexual assault.

Finally, we talked about how being a survivor has changed my outlook on sexual assault and how it has changed my experience as a college student.

Being a survivor has definitely changed my outlook on sexual assault in many ways. Before it happened to me, it was one of those things that I thought was only in movies and would never happen to me. I didn’t know anyone else who had experienced anything like what I had experienced. I can now identify with other women (and men) that have gone through something similar; people that understand how awful this crime is. It is now something that I am passionate about preventing and informing people on. Before it happened to me, I did not pay much attention or take anything on this topic seriously. If I would have never been a victim, I would probably be one of the thousand college students that jokes about rape at frat parties or about girls getting drugged at the bar. And I would think nothing of it, I would not consider the fact that perhaps someone in the same room as me had actually been a survivor of sexual assault, or how that person felt. I try to really look at the positives in what I had to experience. For example, now as a college student, I am sure my college experience has been different than others. Like I mentioned earlier, I came to Mizzou already being a survivor of sexual assault. I am extremely cautious when I drink; I am usually the “mom” of the group, taking care of all of my friends. I keep a close eye on everyone and make sure that no one takes a stray drink or accepts a drink that they did not at least see being made. I prefer that we all make our own drinks at house parties/fraternity parties, but that is not always what happens. I know the signs of someone that has been drugged and I think I would take the proper steps in helping someone if I was ever put into the situation. I never want any other person to have to go through what I went through. Even if someone is not my friend, if I see them in bad shape, I will go out of my way to make sure that they are okay. This is not something that I think a lot of people do and I do not think that many people know the signs to look for of someone that is in danger of becoming a victim. That’s why I think my college experience has been pretty different from the average college student’s.

There are many campus resources you can turn to if you or someone you know is a victim of a sexual assault crime. I know at Mizzou there is the RSVP Center, the Counseling Center, and the Title IX Office. Every campus should have similar resources, though. Personally, I have never been to seek help because I still refuse counseling, even though it is still suggested. Maybe one day. However, I have been to the Title IX Office in regards to another issue and they were extremely helpful and willing to work with me through the problem. They are more the legal side of the crime and not the coping side. They’ll discuss all of your options for your individual case and be understanding if you do not want to press charges. I would recommend going there if you want to find justice. I have also heard that the Counseling and RSVP Centers are great to utilize, but I cannot vouch for that seeing as I have never gone.

Mizzou students: What do YOU think the administration could do differently to inform students about the issue of sexual assault? How do you think they could make campus safer?

On a final note, I recognize that not all of my readers go to Mizzou. I hope this post sparked your thoughts as well. Do you feel safe on your campus? What do you think the administration could do differently to inform students about the prevalence of sexual assault? These are not rhetorical questions, I genuinely would love to have a conversation about these important topics with you. Plus who knows, your ideas could be put into action to help make campuses safer across the nation.

Thank you for reading! I truly appreciate it. Of course feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions/comments/concerns. I am extremely open about all of this, clearly. Have a great day friends!

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