Survivors of sexual assault are not alone

By Haley Galvin

Every 92 seconds, a person experiences sexual assault, according to according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network statistics.

Sexual assault is more common than people realize, and it is even more prevalent on college campuses. Compared to 18 percent of non-LGBTQ+ women, and 4 percent of non-LGBTQ+ men, 21 percent of LGBTQ+ college students have been sexually assaulted. Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of women and 5.4 percent of men experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation, according to RAINN statistics.

This statistic, however, only includes the number of people who have reported sexual assault. This number would increase largely if every survivor reported.

Only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police, according to RAINN statistics. That means about 3 out of 4 go unreported.

Before judging people for not reporting, it is important to understand the reasons why so many people do not report. For each individual, the reason is different; however, many survivors share common reasons.

Advocacy services coordinator Shana Ware, works with students who have been identified as survivors or need assistance concerning sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence or stalking.

She said people often don’t report for the following reasons: They may not think what happened to them is sexual assault because it does not look the same as it does on TV; they may worry about ruining someone else’s life if they report, or they do not know how to report.

“For some people, reporting might be the right option for them, but for some, due to safety concerns or other things going on at the time, they might want to report but it might not be the right time then and there,” Ware said.

Everyone has a different experience and has unique barriers, but it is important for anyone who has been through any form of sexual assault to know they are not alone and they do have options.

“Talk to an advocate first and foremost,” Ware said. “Advocates are trained to sit down with them and help them understand what all their options are and to understand what barriers they might be facing.”

For students who are not sure how to report, they can visit the NIU Police Department to start, Ware said. They are a great place to start and to talk options through. They will be able to direct people and get them the specific help that need based on their individual situation.

Anyone struggling with the decision to report should not have to struggle with that alone, and NIU offers resources that can help aid in the decision so that students can decide what is best for them. Counseling services, NIU police and the Title IX office are all available to students. Safe Passage is also a resource within the DeKalb community that is available to everyone. Another important detail to keep in mind is that all off these resources are confidential.

Sexual assault is a hard topic for many people to talk about and could be even harder for those who have experienced it, but it needs to be addressed. Based on statistics, it is likely that everyone knows at least one or more people who have experienced it. This is why it is so important that everyone is aware of it and also that people understand how to help those around them or themselves if they need it.

No matter who you are or what you have experienced, you deserve to be heard, valued and helped in any way that you need.

“Regardless of how you identify, you still have rights and have access to resources,” Ware said.