Recently there has been a re-focus of student / campus sexual assault. It usually happens when there is a story that gets national attention. In January, the death of Madison Brooks sparked national attention and outrage.
Madison’s death was an incredibly tragic situation from every aspect. The reality is that her assault was made public as a result of her death, but sexual assault is perpetrated everyday. Everyday, predators exploit the vulnerability of someone in an impaired state. They sexually assault the impaired person. Then, these abusers go about their business as though it was a consensual encounter. That is rape.
More often than not, survivors won’t disclose their assault because they feel guilty or responsible in some way. Many students feel their behavior made them vulnerable in the first place and will be told that poor judgement and engaging in risky behavior was the reason they were assaulted. Students won’t disclose because they do not want to be the focus or subject of campus, greek life or dorm “buzz.” These feelings are exacerbated by peers, media, and pop culture that reinforces the impression of responsibility. More and more there is a lack of trust in campus police who all too often aren’t trained in trauma-informed methods to investigate an assault.
Statistics show less than 40 percent of survivors disclose sexual violence and fewer go on to formally report it. This trend in no way implies the absence of a crime or an admission of fault. Shaming, deflecting blame onto the victim, the chaos and difficulty our legal system poses, are just some factors that contribute to a survivor’s choice to NOT disclose or report. In a world where everyone wants the perpetrator held accountable, as a community our actions and attitudes actually work against that happening. In fact, current stats show less than three percent of perpetrators will be formally convicted for rape. This is among reported rapes.
It is the mission of LaFASA to change societal norms and attitudes surrounding this issue. Giving support to survivors, accurately removing blame from victims and holding perpetrators accountable will establish change. A shift in perspective can create a less hostile setting for survivors to come forward, and change norms around sexual violence. Madison’s case also reveals a lack of protected environments. The places where people work, live, and socialize, must be safe and secure and promote healthy interactions. Steps can and should be taken to minimize risks. These are reasonable expectations and must be ensured across the board by those in roles of responsibility, such as business owners and administrators.
Madison’s tragedy should not be misconstrued or forgotten. Let it serve as inspiration for communities to move towards an unambiguous understanding of how sexual assault can be prevented.
LaFASA offers a statewide helpline for anyone who has been sexually harmed or is affected because a loved one was sexually harmed.
WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO CONTACT THE HELPLINE IN THE MANNER THAT IS MOST COMFORTABLE AND WORKS BEST FOR YOU.
I would like to TEXT an advocate: 225-351-SAFE (7233)
7 days per week Mon-Th 12N-8PM & Fri-Sun 4PM-12AM.
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I would like to SPEAK with an advocate: 1-888-995-7273
(English & Spanish) 24 hrs/7days per week.