New Campuses, New Dangers: Colleges and Sexual Assault

By Shay Reynolds
High school students are often encouraged early on in their junior year to start the grueling college application process, told to look for things like scholarships, grants, financial aid, an appealing campus life, campus jobs, special classes or programs specific to their study: the list goes on.
One thing that is never taught by teachers and parents to be considered before applying or moving onto a campus is sexual assault and rape reports.
According to BHS graduate and MSU freshman, Brittany Autry, “I don’t think I need to look into it because it’s going to happen no matter where you go, you just need to be aware of your surroundings.”
Montana’s very own University of Montana-Missoula was declared the “Rape Capital” by the press back in 2012, but was found by a TIME article that year to be ranking average on the scale of campus sexual assault and rape cases, reported or not. In fact, new statistics on sexual assault and rape done by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) on campuses, showed that more than 90% of sexual assault victims on campuses do not report their assaults.
The campus soon had guest facilitators to help the administration and students learn how to address these issues, and the once-named “Rape Capital” became more of an example on how to deal with sexual assault and rape cases on campuses.
A recent graduate from BHS and current freshman at U of M, Hannah Breen, admitted she knew the history of sexual assault and rape at the university, but didn’t let that bother her: “It’s important to know about it, but sexual assault is a huge problem. I think knowing what the university is doing to prevent it is more important than knowing the history.”
It would seem that the school’s efforts to make students and administration aware, and prevent it have had positive results as well. Breen positively added that she is comforted by the steps the university has taken to prevent sexual assault and rape. She went on to explain one of the university’s programs, “Griz Walk” in the U of M Office of Public Safety, where students can send for a fellow peer or golf cart to go with them to their destination if they feel unsafe walking alone.
All colleges, and even just college towns in general, have services like Griz Walk to help prevent sexual assault. MSU even has a branch off its Student Health Services: the VOICE Center.
The VOICE Center’s mission is to “Identify and reduce the existence of sexual and domestic violence at Montana State University, and provide education and information to all members of the Montana State University community on issues of sexual assault and relationship violence.”
Services such as these as well as security patrolling, blue emergency phones, and her pepper spray she carries with her, is what makes Autry, who is 5’4” and of a light physique, feel safe on her campus.
There is not a doubt that sexual assault and rape do occur on campuses: one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, says the NSVRC.
Autry went on to explain that the real responsibility is on students to be aware, saying “if you can fill out an application to be accepted, you are more than capable to look up details regarding sexual assault.”

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