About one of every four women will be sexually assaulted during college, according to a study by the National College Women Sexual Victimization.
First semester freshmen have the greatest risk of being sexually assaulted, yet many new students still carry misconceptions surrounding the idea of rape, said Amy Jersild, assistant coordinator at SACE.
“I think it would be a stranger coming on campus,” freshman sports and recreational management major Kate Wells said when asked to describe her idea of a rapist. “I just think if you know someone well enough that it [rape] wouldn’t happen.”
Freshman advertising major Christie Porter said she felt the same way.
“I think rape would occur by a stranger and off campus,” Porter said. “I would hope Temple is a safe campus.”
These are common myths about the relationship between an offender and a victim of rape.
It is more likely that a female rape victim will know her offender than not, according to a 2005 national study by the U.S. Department of Justice. The study stated that only about 35 percent of rape cases involve strangers.
In an effort to dispel common rape myths, groups like the “One In Four RV Tour” travel to various colleges and universities targeting men using all-male peer education. The goal of the 1 in 4 RV Tour is to approach men as potential helpers, not as potential rapists.
For the third consecutive year, the tour will stop at Temple. The program will be held at the Kiva Auditorium today at 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Ten forcible sex offenses were documented on Temple’s Main and Center City campuses in 2006, according to Campus Safety Service’s annual security report. However, it is estimated that only 20 percent of rape cases are actually reported, said Patricia Roussel, a sexual assault nurse examiner at Episcopal Hospital.
Asked why such a small percentage report the crime, Michael Hanowitz, coordinator of the SACE program, said “there are usually feelings of embarrassment, shame, feelings of responsibility [and] fear of stigmas.”
Hanowitz said there are usually more complex socio-emotional issues that can prevent victims of “acquaintance rape” – incidents where the victim knows the offender – from coming forward, while “stranger rape” victims rarely have feelings of guilt and responsibility.
“Stranger rape is very seldom on campus,” said Amy Jersild, assistant coordinator of Sexual Assault Counseling and Education (SACE). “We see a trend of sexual assaults happening the first semester of the first year…usually involving alcohol or drugs use.”
Philadelphia has two centers where forensic exams are performed rape victims. Episcopal Hospital in North Philadelphia services rape victims ages 13 and older , while Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Center City accepts patients of all ages.
The location of the crime and age of the victim determines which one of these facilities can offer services, but most Temple University Main Campus students are taken to Episcopal Hospital, Roussel said. However, consent cannot be honored when someone is impaired by mind-altering substances such as drugs or alcohol, Roussel added.
“We’ve seen a lot of gray rape cases recently,” Roussel said. “These are cases where the victim isn’t sure if they were assaulted because a lot of drugs or alcohol was involved.”
In Philadelphia, certain programs and organizations like Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), are specifically designed to help survivors of sexual assault.
WOAR, which provides support while patients are at Episcopal or Jefferson, functions as a support mechanism to sexual assault victims.
“Our role is the longest lasting relationship with the victim,” said Carole Johnson, executive director of WOAR. “We may provide support for a survivor anywhere from weeks to years if needed.”
Johnson said hospitals contact WOAR and, in most cases, a counselor arrives at the hospital for on-site counseling, which may require emotional support for the victim. Emotional support could involve talking, listening or arranging shelter options for the patient, if needed.
Johnson, who has worked for WOAR for over 16 years, said and the organization’s function is to ensure that victims of sexual violence receive fair and adequate treatment.
She said the transformation between the treatment of rape victims in Philadelphia 16 years ago compared to now has been “night and day”.
But she said she notices some room for improvement.
“We need to improve formal college programs to educate students about sexual violence…an orientation program that talks to them about acquaintance rape.”
Courtney Makeupson can be reached at Courtney.Makupson@temple.edu