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The prevalence of sexual assault is all too common, but often unknown

Cole Moriarty, Columnist

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It is an unfortunate truth that even if you aren’t aware of the numbers and statistics of sexual assault, its commonness stares us in the face every time we see the progress made toward helping its victims. Every office that deals with sexual assault, every policy written to deal with it, every awareness campaign represents how ubiquitous it is. Consider the following, quoted from the webpage of the UIS Police Department dedicated to sexual assault:

“Individuals at UIS Police, UIS Counseling Center, the UIS Women’s Center, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Office, the Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault, and Sojourn Shelter and Services in Springfield are available to assist you with counseling, your decision to report the crime, help you find the resources you need, and respond to requests to change your academic or living situation because of the attack.”

Consider how severe and awful a problem is if it requires such a broad and diverse array of offices and places dedicated to combating it. Consider how terrible it is that the procedure for victims to follow is so clear, refined, and well defined, as that clarity, that refining, that definition is the result of countless cases that until relatively recently in our history were not investigated, reported, or spoken of aloud. 

The webpage of the UIS Counseling Center lists five medical offices and facilities that are prepared for victims, waiting for what they know will occur to someone. Consider the following from a paper dedicated to offering the results of multiple studies linked to from the UIS Counseling Center: “Although rape was assessed among men, fewer than 10 cases of rape per 100,000 males aged 12 or older were reported in the previous year. 

Among women, 2007 estimates indicate that 18 cases of forced unwanted sexual acts per 10,000 women were reported. A total of 248,000 cases of rape were projected to have occurred in the 2007 estimates.” (National Crime Victimization Survey) Consider the size of the population of America, nearly 320 million. Consider the size of Illinois, nearly thirteen million.

Consider another survey: “Prevalence of lifetime experience of rape was 12.65 percent,  meaning that 12.65 percent of women endorsed at least one of the four rape screening questions as having occurred at least once in their lifetime.” (National Women’s Study)The page dedicated to detailing the Title IX sexual misconduct policy has 13 sections and 14 appendices. Go to Google and type in “sexual as.” The top suggestion is “sexual assault on college campuses.” Search it.

You’ll find one of those Google answer boxes that comes up in response to a common question.

It reports thusly: “One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to police. Only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities. 

The prevalence of false reporting is between 2 and 10 percent.” (National Sexual Violence Resource Center.)

If it takes you more than five seconds to find any of these resources or data, you need to learn how to use a computer. There is a purpose in focusing on the UIS online presence of so many dedicated pages and resources, because it illustrates another terrible thing: going online is one of the most private and solitary things we tend to do, and the fact that all this material exists as published web pages, solely within our small campus is as clear a sign of prevalence as any number. 

It is so well understood that these pages will be frequently visited by victims that if you read them, it becomes quickly apparent that their purpose is to convince those visitors, a victim investigating in the most private and unobtrusive way, that they should reach out. We should be glad that these resources exist. 

We should be glad that there is so much literature and space devoted to detailing every aspect of this problem and how to seek help and take action in their aftermath. We should be horrified that there is too much information to be in a single page. We should be horrified that sexual assault requires such information be so easy to find at the click of a mouse because it was designed to be so accessible. 

We should be horrified that the need to understand and deal with sexual assault is so great. These pages are waiting to be found, constructed because we know that they will be. I cannot think of anything more disheartening.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
It happens here