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Back to School: Four Myths about College Sexual Assault

It’s that time again! Thousands of Indiana students are heading to campus and a lot of nervous parents are going over safety tips. As more and more colleges and universities start to take sexual assault seriously it can seem overwhelming to separate fact from fiction. Here are four of the biggest myths about sexual assault and the facts that can help you stay safe.

Myth #1: Most rapists are strangers waiting in the bushes for people walking alone.

Fact: Among college-aged women, nine out of 10 knew their attacker. (NSVRC, 2015) While it’s still a good idea to walk with a friend and stay in well-lit areas, most sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. A friend from class, someone they hang out with, and even people with good reputations who are well-liked can be an attacker. Staying close to well-known friends at a party or just following your gut instinct if something doesn’t feel right can help lessen this risk.

Myth #2: Never leave your drink alone at a bar or party and you’ll be safe.

Fact: It’s a good idea to never drink anything that you didn’t watch the bartender make or a drink that has been left alone, but the number one substance used in rapes that are drug facilitated is alcohol. Sexual assaults are most likely to occur in September, October and November, on Friday or Saturday nights, and between the hours of midnight and 6:00 a.m. (CSA Study 2007) Responsible drinking habits such as knowing your own limits, knowing the type of alcohol you are consuming, and avoiding “party punch” can help limit this risk.

Myth #3: If you are sexually assaulted you have to tell the police to get help.

Fact: You can seek medical care and counseling without making a police report. Most large hospitals have a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who can complete an exam, provide medication to avoid STI’s and pregnancy, and help collect evidence for the authorities. These services are often offered at no cost or can be paid by the state’s victim compensation fund. You can have the exam or “rape kit” completed and decide to talk to the police later or not to report at all. An officer may come to ask you questions, but you are not obligated to report. Sexual assault victim advocates can help walk people through what services are available. Check for campus resources and program emergency numbers into your phone before you have a crisis.

Myth #4: Safety tips alone can end rape.

Fact: There is nothing that a victim does or does not do that makes rape his or her fault. Not drinking. Not walking alone. Not wearing something attractive. Not being alone with a person. Not getting a ride home. Nothing. To end rape we must change the culture in which rape is acceptable. We cannot ignore that men are raped, too. We cannot ignore consent and healthy relationship education. We cannot assume that following safety tips will keep you completely safe. Have a conversation with your kids before they leave for college, but please start the conversation about boundaries, safety, and consent long before that day comes.

For more information and ways to start conversations with your kids: