During a night out in Center City two years ago while she was a freshman, Sarah said she was raped at knifepoint by a man whom she had never met. Sarah never reported the incident to police.
“I almost dropped out last semester. I have post-traumatic stress disorder, I can’t have sex and enjoy it, I haven’t been as close with my friends, I don’t go to clubs, I don’t go to parties, I avoid anything that has to do with that,” said the female student, who The Temple News is referring to as Sarah to protect her identity.
Reports of sexual assaults such as Sarah’s have increased in 2013, with 17 reported incidents through Oct. 10. Thirteen were reported during the same time period in the university’s catchment area in 2012
Sexual assaults as reported by Campus Safety Services can range from unwanted sexual contact to rape.
The increase of sexual crime at the university has caused CSS to place special attention upon the issue.
Acting Executive Director of CSS Charlie Leone said a large amount of these incidents occur in party settings.
“You think everybody is great and most people are, but you have a few people out there whose intentions from the beginning aren’t good,” Leone said. “You get to the point where you’re both intoxicated and thinking is not as logical.”
Sarah said her rape, like those Leone described, occurred during a night out.
“I had just broken up with my boyfriend so I was dancing with this guy,” Sarah said. “I wasn’t planning on doing anything and he suddenly pulled me back behind the stage.”
Leone said while it is not the victim’s fault if they are assaulted while intoxicated, he said risky behaviors carry the potential of resulting in unwanted sexual contact.
“Just be really mindful of what you’re doing at the party situation,” Leone said.
Sarah said students should not only be aware of their own actions, but aware of their company as well.
“It happened to me by a stranger but it can happen from your friends and I know people who have had that happen to them,” she said. “Just be cautious. Always make sure you are out with good friends.”
Leone said in the case of sexual crime at Temple, about 70-75 percent of the perpetrators cited are non-university students. He said this phenomenon is due to the university’s developing reputation as a location where others can come in search of weekend festivities.
“There’s that anonymity,” Leone said. “‘I am at another place they don’t know me. I met this woman, we are both drinking. You know, I can do something that maybe I wouldn’t do in another setting.’”
Despite the increase in reported sexual assaults this semester, only one incident has led to an arrest. Leone said many victims chose not to pursue criminal charges, thus leaving police with little room to act.
“It does get a little frustrating sometimes because, you know, we want to do the right thing, but we help them as best we can.” Leone said
Sarah said she is one of those victims who decided not to pursue criminal charges, a decision she said she made out of a desire to forget. She has since expressed regret in her choice.
“I would have told people so I wouldn’t have had so many problems afterward and my college experience would have been not so horrible,” she said. “Not that it’s horrible, but it’s hard.”
CSS has scheduled an interdepartmental meeting in the coming weeks to derive the root of the issue and attempt to find avenues to combat it.
Sarah now seeks comfort from her sessions at the Women Organized Against Rape facility on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
“It’s really good,” Sarah said. “Everyone’s well trained, people there know how to communicate with people like me and they don’t make me feel uncomfortable or scary.”
The Wellness Resource Center and Tuttleman Counseling Services also provide aid to students who are victims of a sexually-based crime.
“TCS has two counselors who are members of the sexual assault counseling and education unit who were specifically hired to provide these services to students,” John DiMino, the director of TCS said in an e-mail.
Kate Schaeffer, program coordinator for alcohol & other drugs, interpersonal violence, and mental health with the Wellness Resource Center, said the WRC is more of a first step for victims.
“We can help a student to understand the options and find outside supports and resources as needed,” Schaeffer said.
Cindy Stansbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.