Sexual Assault Aug29

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Sexual Assault

• Sexual Assault on Campus •

Keeping our kids safe is a top priority of all parents. Sexual assault on campus is a very important, albeit scary, issue that concerns our daughters and sons. Lately, this issue has been highlighted in the news amid claims that certain universities are underreporting incidents or imposing inadequate punishments, and the initiation of statewide audits and changes in sexual assault policies at some universities. (Yale, USC, CU-Boulder, Swarthmore, Duke, UC Berkeley.) It is important, as parents, to stay informed and talk about this issue with our kids.

Here is an article written by one of our readers, Tracy Ambrico, a certified crime prevention specialist and sexual assault investigator. Tracy recently retired after 30 years in law enforcement, much of it in a major public university system, where she supervised the Detective Bureau.

Tracy photo 2Sexual Assault on Campus by Tracy Ambrico

According to one study, over 80% of women have never experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the single highest risk-age for being a victim of sexual assault is between 18 and 24 years. Of the 18% of people who experience sexual assault, 37% reported the assault took place during the years people are most likely to be attending college. And it happens to both women and men.  (

Let’s get back to the good news. It is highly unlikely that your child will be the victim of sexual assault while in college. They are even less likely to encounter an assault from a stranger. Colleges and universities have taken the lessons of years past to heart. Most universities build security systems and safety options that, over all, offer a far safer environment for students than the environment outside the school’s reach. Additionally, nearly every campus has safe ride and escort programs in place 365 days a years, offering safe alternatives to walking alone or with just one other friend.

Dorm security continues to integrate modern technology to make the odds of a stranger entering residential areas very small. Rarely does an intruder make it past the access control points, and staff are trained to challenge and report suspicious persons.

So why are college-aged people the most likely demographic to be victims of sexual assault? In my opinion, it’s because we are all conditioned to guard against the dangerous behavior of strangers. Unfortunately, victims of sexual assault usually know their attacker, if only slightly.

In 21 years of investigating sexual assault at a major university, the vast majority of incidents we handled involved parties and alcohol. A common scenario would include a group of girls going to a party, either at a fraternity or an off-campus apartment. Most of the girls in the group would drink, with some getting seriously intoxicated. One or two of the drunk girls would become separated from her friends by a would-be suitor at the party.

The guy isn’t necessarily a student, and he offers to walk her home or let her stay at the house because “she’s too drunk to walk.” He convinces her that he is looking out for her safety. She wakes up the next morning either in her room or in the strange house and has disjointed memories of what happened. She was with someone she felt comfortable around. He seemed like a friend, but then he didn’t listen when she said “no.”

It is normal for a young girl to blame herself. She will be reluctant to tell anyone about it. Hopefully, she will confide in a friend, who will get her to the hospital for STD testing and counseling. Rape treatment centers are required to let the police know when they have a victim, but she isn’t required to make a report and frequently is too embarrassed to do so.

How can you help your kid avoid this fate? Party safety measures include:

  • Travel in a crowd. Do not attend a party without having a couple of friends and an exit strategy that includes at least one trusted companion that isn’t drinking.
  • Never leave a friend behind with someone they just met. Never. Seriously.
  • Don’t drink the fruit punch! It’s common practice to use flavored alcohol to create a concoction that tastes non-alcoholic. It’s frequently the most potent poison in the place.

And, just as important: if you have a son, make sure he understands that a drunk girl is unable to give legal consent to sexual activities and if she reports what happened, he could find himself facing charges that can end his academic career and derail his professional plans.

If you can’t have a frank discussion with your son or daughter about sex, alcohol and the parties they may attend while in college, at least try to steer them towards the information they need. Most schools have resource centers on campus that provide safe party tips and training. Encourage your child to access these resources. And forward this article to them.

Here is some additional information:



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