Imagine waking up, unconscious of your whereabouts from the night before, feeling pain and confusion. In the back of your mind you know something wrong has happened, and you are unsure whom to turn to and what people will say or think. You keep your distance from others, trying to forget about what happened by avoiding people or situations that remind you of the unthinkable.
These thoughts are not uncommon for victims of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault tend not to report their assaults to campus security officers or to the police, according to a nine-month investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.
Sexual assault is present on college campuses across the nation. The Rape Treatment Center (RTC) at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center states that one out of six women reported being a victim of sexual assault. Roughly 30 percent of the women surveyed were between the ages of 18 and 24 during the time of the assault. RTC also claims that most of these incidents occur by the victim knowing their assaulter.
Between 2005 and 2007, four reported and confirmed forcible sex offenses happened to students at Cabrini College. Statistics are low, and one of the reasons may be that students do not come forward to report sexual assault.
“It [sexual assault] is the most unreported incident that will ever happen on campus, and it’s the most unreported crime. If it is reported, we encourage the victim to go to the hospital and we’ll guide them towards services if they refuse to go to the hospital,” Diana Pohl, captain and assistant director of Public Safety, said.
Students and officials say that sexual assault is the most under-reported crime. Only if victims come forward and report the assault can action begin to be taken against the perpetrator.
“The sad part is we sometimes will never know, it all depends on the victim,” Lil Burroughs, director of Public Safety, said.
With the victims feeling anxiety along with psychological trauma, most cases of sexual assault amongst college campuses are put in the dark, without being discussed or reported.
“They [victims] won’t report sexual assault for a couple of reasons,” Ransom Cozzillio, sophomore communication major, said. “One would be embarrassment and they would feel very vulnerable. Second, they may feel as though they may get in trouble.”
“It seems that when it does happen, young girls are sensitive to come forward to report sexual assult,” Justin Ferkler, Public Safety officer, said.
For a year that Ferkler has been an officer at Cabrini, no one has come forward to him. Ferkler says there have been a few scares, but no actual reports have gone through in the past year.
In order to go from a report to a crime, Public Safety works in cooperation with local police departments. “When a crime is committed, we have to alert the authorities and bring enough information from the assault as possible. However, most investigating is done by the police,” Ferkler said.
“We see these kids day in and day out. We just want the students to feel comfortable enough to talk to us,” Ferkler said.
RTC states that reporting the crime can help the victim regain a sense of personal power and control. This can also help to ensure the safety of other victims. If not reported, the assault will step in with the victims’ ability to live up to academic responsibilities and decrease their participation in social activities.
The Counseling and Psychological Services at Cabrini created a public service announcement titled “What you can do to prevent sexual assault” that will be aired on WYBF “The Burn.” The PSA presents tips and facts to bring awareness to sexual assault. This PSA includes eight steps to stop acts of sexual assault before it happens.
Dr. Sara Maggitti, director of counseling services, along with Public Safety, agrees that there is help and assistance provided for victims. The victim has a choice to press charges through the local police department or through Public Safety. Regardless, Maggitti encourages the victim to seek support for this trauma.
“It is important for the student who has been sexually assaulted to regain a sense of safety and control in their world,” Maggitti said. “It is possible for them to resume normalcy in their lives through reliance on their support systems and/or seeking mental health treatment from a qualified provider.”
Both Public Safety and the Counseling and Psychological Services hope that if any incident of sexual assault occurs, students will come forward knowing that their information is safe and confidential. If you or a friend have been assaulted, there is on and off-campus assistance. Talking about the assault can help relieve some of the control it has over the victim to start the process of recovery.