Women sexually assaulted on campus often know attacker

By Gus Bode

It’s something women don’t want and according to Dollean York-Anderson, can only be prevented by men.

Every three minutes, a woman is sexually assaulted and more than 80 percent of cases that occur on college campuses are committed by an acquaintance of the victim.

Last year, three sexual assaults occurred on SIUC campus, and all three of the victims knew their assailants.


Anderson, Women’s Services coordinator, said even though women cannot prevent sexual assault, there still are ways to lower the risk.

“The assumption of thinking ‘these things just won’t happen to me’ is completely wrong,” Anderson said. “It can and women need to learn to be aware of their surroundings and environment so it won’t happen.”

Theresa Mills, office manager of records and management for the Department of Public Safety, said the number of forcible sex offenses that occurred on campus in 2003 decreased from the previous year.

In 2002, eight such cases were reported to the department, but Anderson said it is not uncommon for sexual assault survivors to not report the incident.

“A lot of times, it is date or acquaintance rape where there is a group of friends. She’ll say it happened, and he’ll say it didn’t,” Anderson said. “It can divide a group and bring out victim blaming.”

She said if a sexual assault does occur, the woman does have the choice to report it or not. However, she said the victim of the assault should seek medical attention to make sure they are not injured and possibly be tested for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.

In addition to acquaintance rape, Anderson said alcohol could also be a factor in sexual assaults, especially those occurring on college campuses.


According to Mills, an 18-year-old female reported to campus police last October that she was alledgly assaulted by a 19-year-old male acquaintance in her dorm room in Mae Smith Hall.

In her report, it stated that both were under the influence of alcohol.

“You have to learn your limit of alcohol. It impairs your judgment,” Anderson said. “Not only that, but don’t take a drink from someone you don’t know.”

Anderson’s graduate assistant, Michelle Garber, who is also the campus safety representative, said taking drinks from someone you don’t know or not watching your drink can be extremely dangerous.

Garber said date rape drugs can be slipped into a woman’s drink without her noticing and can create a higher risk for a sexual assault to occur.

According to Anderson’s research, 74-percent of sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol.

She said being confident is important in attempting to prevent assaults from happening.

“You have to be clear in your communication. You can’t send mixed messages,” she said. “And when you say no, mean no.”

Garber also said being with a group of people and using the “buddy system” can lower the risk of being assaulted. Using lighted pathways and the Women’s Night Safety Transit service can also help, she said.

“It’s unfortunate that as women we have to do this,” Garber said.

Another attempted sexual assault near Campus Lake was reported in November to campus police. The victim told police the incident occurred while jogging around the lake at night.

In January, a 20-year-old female student also reported to the police an attempted sexual assault that reportedly took place in Lot 106, near the intersection of Wall and Park streets. The alleged attempt occurred between 3:15 a.m. and 4 a.m.

“You have to learn to be confident,” Garber said. “Self-defense classes are a great way to learn how to defend yourself.”

Anderson said a Wenlido self defense class would be offered through Women’s Services soon and not only provide the physical training, but mental as well.

She also said that the program would be offered to the differently disabled to allow those who cannot be physical, to learn to use their voice.

According to Anderson, learning to be supportive to friends dealing with a sexual assault can make it easier on the assault survivor. She said just listening could make a difference.

“You have to believe them, and know it’s not their fault,” she said. “And offer the safest, warmest, non-victim blaming support you can.”

Anderson, who is also a licensed clinical psychologist, said during counseling sessions, it is critical to let the woman know she is in charge.

“Their power was taken away, so you have to empower them,” she said.

Garber said there are still some issues within sexual assault that need to be addressed, especially the issue of getting men more involved.

“Sexual Assault is still viewed as a women’s issue, not an issue of the community,” she said.

Anderson said she hopes a concerned male group forms on campus and said she would be willing to provide training.

“It’s not just women who are getting raped. Men do, too. We just don’t hear about it.”