The infamous campus crime security alerts have already begun as the semester barely reaches half way. In September alone, the student body received notification of two assaults on campus; both incidents involved female victims with the perpetrator known to them. It is truly heartbreaking that, as students, we have become accustomed to receiving emails like these during the first couple months of school. However, it is not an uncommon occurrence, specifically when the semester first begins. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), over 50% of sexual assaults occur between the months of August and November; because of this high rate of sexual assaults within such a short time period, the first six weeks of the semester are referred to as the “red zone.”
Sexual violence is incredibly common on college campuses, with 23.1% of undergraduate females and 5.4% of undergraduate males experiencing such violence. Since these statistics are shockingly high, one would assume that there are a high percent of assaults reported. Unfortunately, this is not the case, only about 20% of female students report their assault to the police. It can be easy to shrug off the email notifications we receive, thinking to ourselves well, it wasn’t me, but it could very well be you, or a friend, or a classmate; the statistics work against us in this situation.
In this day and age, considering the amount of those who don’t report their assaults, it is incredibly important to support victims of sexual violence. On our campus specifically, we have a few different outlets and outreach programs designed to support victims throughout recovery. The Sexual Violence Advocacy and Support Center (SVAS center), directed by Christy Osborne, is located in the Outreach Center in Weygand Hall (room 1048), offering many different programs to aid survivors. Every Thursday night, the center holds a Sexual Assault Survivors Support Group as an outlet that’s available to all students. Along with this service, they also provide more personalized counseling sessions for survivors as well as their significant others. The center also has staff who will accompany the person to the hospital or police department, as this can be a very stressful step in reporting sexual assaults.
Bridgewater State University as a whole can also offer more support to survivors in terms of protective measures. We have a Title IX Coordinator on campus who is able to intervene and restrict the access to campus that the alleged perpetrator may have. The Bridgewater State Police can also assist in issuing a court order against the alleged perpetrator. It is also possible to contact the offices of these two organizations and file a complaint. The Sexual Violence Advocacy and Support Center offers support throughout this entire process by offering advocates to attend meetings with the survivor.
Currently, on campus, there are small red flags scattered around with signs promoting the “Red Flag Campaign.” This is another advocacy project that the SVAS Center takes part in to support victims of dating violence. This project, originally created by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, addresses the issues of dating violence and how bystanders can act in support of those in violent dating situations, as well as sexual assault survivors and those affected by stalking on campus. The idea is that bystanders can stand up and say something if they notice “red flags” in certain situations, since a lot of people keep to themselves and avoid inserting themselves into situations that don’t necessarily involve them directly. In actuality, this can be very harmful, and it is important for those to say something if they notice problematic behaviors. The Red Flag Campaign is just one of the many events that the SVAS Center participates in to promote advocacy on campus.
Sexual violence on college campuses is a concept that has become normalized throughout the past few years. As a community, we must come together to offer love and support to those who may be recovering from such violence. If it’s not you, it may be someone you know. Advocacy promotes the changes we see in society; it’s a step in the right direction.
Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX Coordinator, Boyden Hall, Room 206 (508) 531-2744
Sexual Violence Advocacy and Support Center, Weygand Hall, Room 1048, 508-531-2048
BSU Wellness Center, Weygand Hall, 351 Great Hill Drive, 508-531-1252
Bridgewater State University Police Department, 200 Great Hill Drive, 508-531-1212