Colleges and universities are institutions for learning, growth, and somewhere, young people can take their next steps in their life journey. Yet, one in four female students at campuses across the U.S. report being the victim of some form of sexual assault.
A survey conducted by the Association of American Universities (AAU) questioned 181,752 students nationally about their on-campus experiences of sexual assault and found that 13% of students are victims of non-consensual sexual contact by force, or while unable to consent. A study by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) showed that a friend or someone the victim knows commits 38% of rapes.
Universities are adopting new policies and regulations, but there is still an urgent need for accessible information for students on how to prevent possible sexual assaults, and what to do if you are the victim of an assault.
Following these safety precautions can help reduce the likelihood of a sexual assault:
• Get a trusted escort: If you need to move around campus after dark, try and get a friend to accompany you or ask campus security to provide an escort.
• Check your social media settings: Many apps post your exact location, so if yours does this, turn it off.
• Stay aware of your surroundings: If you are moving around campus after dark, keep to well-lit areas.
• Use your phone: If you do have to move around alone, call a friend or family member until you are back in your room or dorm safely.
• Doublecheck your security measures: Keep your room or dorm secure; this includes keeping doors and windows locked.
• Stay in a group or travel in pairs: If you attend social events, do not go alone. Many assaults happen during or after events when the victim is alone or inebriated.
• Never leave a drink unattended: An unattended drink can quickly and easily be spiked.
• Don’t get too drunk: While being a student should be fun and carefree, be aware of your alcohol tolerance.
• Speed-dial help: Have campus security or the local police on speed dial on your phone.
• Look after your friends: If you see a friend in an uncomfortable situation, do not be afraid to step in and rescue him/her. Never leave a friend alone at a party or in an unfamiliar place.
What to Do if You Are Assaulted
Figures from RAINN say that a staggering 70% of sexual assaults go unreported. There are various reasons for not reporting, including embarrassment, self-blame, and a belief that no action will be taken. The only way to change these statistics is to report any assault as soon as possible. These are just some steps you can take if you are sexually assaulted:
• Immediately contact campus security, police, and medical professionals. You may need treatment for injuries, and crucial DNA evidence can be collected.
• Reporting the incident does not mean you have to pursue charges, but it does help the university be aware of the issues and put preventative policies in place.
• Do not wash, shower, or change clothes as vital evidence could be lost or compromised.
• Similarly, do not wash or dispose of any sheets or covers which may hold evidence.
• If you feel comfortable, contact a family member or close friend to be with you.
• Always consider some form of counseling after the incident.
As a victim of sexual assault, you have rights in the state of Louisiana. If the university does not properly investigate your attack, you may be entitled to compensation for their failures.
Due to the sometimes murky nature of sexual assault evidence and claims, conviction rates are low, and your best course of action may be to pursue a civil lawsuit. The statute of limitations for a civil lawsuit in Louisiana means you must act within one year after the date of the discovery of the abuse or one year after your 18th birthday – whichever period is longer.
You may also be eligible for compensation from the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Board, which can help pay medical bills, lost wages, and for counseling services.
Sexual assaults of any kind, no matter your gender or sexuality, are a harrowing experience. If you feel you need any legal advice regarding a sexual assault, contact us toll-free at (877) 249-6801 or on our local number at (504) 332-0284.