Sexual assault awareness and prevention talk on the rise at KSU

By GABRIELLE SMITH

KENNESAW, Ga. — Kennesaw State University officers report there is not a rise in sexual assaults on campus, but there is a rise in reporting.

KSU police officers Tanya Smith and Trudi Vaughn provide an answer to the much sought after question: Are sexual assaults on college campuses on the rise? According to Vaughn and Smith, there has been no rise in criminal activity regarding sexual encounters. They agree that women are starting to report incidents more than in past years. A new wave of awareness and community support has led to the empowerment of women to stand up for themselves

Sexual assault on college campuses is a topic that seems to be in headlines across the country, some media outlets cite as many as one in four women will become a victim of sexual assault during their college experience.  At a time when parents are packing up their recent high school graduates to send off to college, this public safety problem with far-reaching implications is causing concern of whether or not their child is safe on a university campus.

This week, KSU published the latest Annual Safety and Security report, which details crime information and statistics for incidents occurring on campus and off campus for the past three years, defines crimes listed in the report, and provides information on where to report crimes.  According to the annual report, the number of sexual assaults has increased dramatically over the past three years; two reports in 2012, eight reports in 2013, and 11 reports in 2014.

It should be noted, the years 2013 and 2014 include the new Marietta campus while the 2012 report only lists the Kennesaw.  However, the increase is still alarming and for some parents this increase signifies their child is at risk of becoming a statistic.

According to Tanya Smith, Director of KSU’s Office of Victim Services, the new crime statistics only show that more victims are coming forward.

Tanya Smith, Director of Office of Victim Services
Tanya Smith, Director of Office of Victim Services

“Sexual assault is a chronically under-reported crime, and those assaults that are reported and investigated are often difficult to prosecute,” she said.

In fact, Smith quoted national statistics released earlier this year from RANN (Rape Abuse & Incest National Network) stating only 32 percent of survivors report their assault.  Smith said she believes the increase is the result of heightened awareness, education, and additional reporting options,.

“I believe as individuals are educated of their rights and options and empowered by the support of the campus community, more survivors will come forward to report their assault,” she said.

Trudi Vaughan, assistant chief of police at KSU Department of Public Safety, echoed Smith’s words.

“I don’t believe there is an increase in incidents but I do believe there is an increase in reporting.  I believe survivors are finding the strength to come forward and tell their story more so than in past years,” she said.

Trudi Vaughn, Major at KSU Police Department
Trudi Vaughn, Major at KSU Police Department

The low percentage of reporting in previous years was due to a mixture of the perpetrator being an acquaintance, or “friend”, of the victim or these victims weren’t sure if what happened to them constituted as a crime. Vaughn said it is important that students are made aware of the statistics and what they can do to protect themselves. She has taught self-defense classes for women at KSU.

“KSU holds RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) classes, provides students with awareness and prevention material during orientation, holds many events throughout the year to educate the campus community,” Vaugh said.

Through social media outlets and more awareness on campuses, people are banning together for support and coming forward.  The stigma associated with sexual assaults on campus is being lifted and a new wave of empowerment is on the rise.

Smith had sound advice for students everywhere.

“Again, anyone is at risk for a sexual assault so the advice I give is gender and age neutral:  stay with your friends and watch out for each other, set up a code word to alert your friends when a situation is uncomfortable, don’t accept drinks from persons you don’t know or don’t trust, and trust your instincts.”

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