In the two months since classes began, five sexual assaults have been reported on campus — three in dorms and two in fraternity houses.
The most recent report was a sexual assault that occurred in Stockard Hall. The assault was reported at 3:32 a.m. Saturday.
“This crime is always concerning,” Jeff McCutchen, Oxford Police Department major of operations, said. “As a father and a police officer, you never want anyone to have to be a victim of this crime.”
During the first few months of school, students are at an increased risk of being sexually assaulted. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), more than 50 percent of college sexual assaults occur between August and November.
According to RAINN, sexual violence has decreased in the last 20 years, but this statistic may not accurately represent the problem that is occurring, because most sexual assaults are never reported.
“Most data states that more are happening that are not being reported, and I believe that to be true,” McCutchen said.
Rebels Against Sexual Assault member Colleen Fay said while reports are always concerning, she is not shocked at the number of reports that have happened in the past two months.
“I know that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men will experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their time in college, so it’s likely that the number of sexual assaults that have been reported in the last year is just a fraction of the number that have actually happened,” Fay said.
According to RAINN statistics, 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and this number is higher for college-age people. Fifty-four percent of reported rapes are of survivors age 18 to 34.
Millions of men in the U.S. are sexual assault survivors as well. Since 1998, 2.78 million men in America have been victims of attempted or completed rape.
Male college students aged 18-24 are 5 times more likely than their non-student counterparts of the same age to be victims or rape or sexual assault.
“RASA makes a point to educate people that men or people that do not identify with a gender can also be survivors of sexual assault,” Fay said. “These groups of people seem to experience more obstacles when sharing or reporting their experiences.”
Those who have been sexually assaulted often face long-term effects. More than 90 percent of women who are raped experience some form of post-traumatic stress disorder two weeks following the attack. As many as 30 percent of survivors have reported symptoms of PTSD up to nine months following the attack.
For those who find themselves in the position where they see someone who might become a victim of sexual assault, RAINN press secretary Sara McGovern says there are several things you can do to potentially prevent an attack, including a method referred to as “bystander intervention.”
“The key to keeping your friends safe is learning how to intervene in a way that fits the situation and your comfort level,” McGovern said. “Having this knowledge on hand can give you the confidence to step in when something isn’t right.”
She said that while it is important to step in when a person might be in danger, it should never put one’s own safety at risk. Instead, she advised people to use simple methods to get a person out of harm’s way.
“You can create a distraction, such as suggesting a new activity, like going to get pizza or playing a game. You can talk directly to the person who might be in trouble. Ask them who they came with or if they’d like you to stay with them, or you can go to a neutral party like an RA, a security guard or a bartender,” McGovern said.
Some people believe the state’s lack of sexual education has led to people not fully understanding consensual, healthy sexual relationships. Antonia Eliason, assistant professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law, said an “abstinence-only” style of sex education is not effective in combatting sexual assault.
“Rather than teach teenagers about safe, consensual sex, our approach is to pretend that sex doesn’t happen and to stigmatize it,” Eliason said. “Instead of portraying sex as a healthy and natural part of adulthood, based on mutual respect and agreement, teenagers are left to figure things out for themselves.”
She said that not only does abstinence-only sex education lead to a high rate of teenage pregnancy, but it also results in victims of sexual assault being less willing to report their attacks because students are left with a stigma about sex.
Eliason said while schools should better educate students on sex and sexual assault, consent is something that should be taught and enforced at a young age.
“I have a 3-year-old son, and watching ‘Sleeping Beauty’ with him, I found myself explaining that this is a fairy tale and that, in real life, you shouldn’t go kissing people who are asleep without their consent,” Eliason said. “Lack of agency, particularly for women, is everywhere in our cultural narratives.”
Student organizations, like RASA, work to fight sexual assault on college campuses through year-round events that educate students on consent and sexual assault.
“The goal of RASA is to spread awareness of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and educate about affirmative consent and bystander intervention,” Fay said.
McCutchen said while these recent reports are concerning to police, he believes Oxford is a safe town because of its amazing citizens and hard-working law enforcement.
“We continue to work with the university to better protect our students and citizens,” McCutchen said. “The most important thing is that we all continue to work together to address these issues.”