CU raises sex crime awareness

By Erin Kelley

One in four women will be sexually assaulted during her life, according to a Department of Justice study on the sexual victimization of college women.

One in six men will be sexually assaulted during his life, said Kova Brown, a prevention educator at Rape Crisis Services.

April is filled with a variety of programs to make the public aware of sexual assault.

“The main goal is to reach a lot of different communities,” Brown said. “In the past, different groups did not attend because they did not feel the subjects (of the programs) pertained to them.”

The programs offered during Sexual Assault Awareness Month are targeted toward specific groups or ethnicities, while other events are for everyone.

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“The individual programs touch individual people in different ways,” said Ruth McCauley, associate dean of students and a member of the Rape Awareness and Prevention Program.

The program brings together various organizations, including police, hospital staff, the University and other groups.

“The program is to make sure there is a coordinated response to sexual assault, as well as a coordinated way to educate the community about sexual assault,” McCauley said.

Michael Metzler, criminal investigation division commander of the Urbana police, said the police take every chance they get to talk to people to protect them. Metzler said very few rapes are “stranger on stranger,” but people should always be aware of their surroundings.

People should plan what they are doing, make sure to walk with someone or use Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, Safe Rides or a taxi. Trust your instincts, and cross the street if there is a stranger and the situation does not feel right, he said.

However, about 75 to 85 percent of sexual assaults involve two parties who know each other, said Patty Metzler, interpersonal domestic violence prevention coordinator and sexual assault nurse examiner.

More than 75 percent of the assaults on campus involve alcohol as well, said Gary Spear, crime analyst for the Champaign Police Department. Assaults usually happen when students have consumed alcohol to the point where they lose control. Spear said a number of women tell officers they “thought they were raped.”

“We find that a significant number of reports begin with consensual sex,” Michael said.

Then one person sobers up or feels guilty for having sex and says no, he said.

With most sexual assaults being “acquaintance rapes,” Spear said the police department cannot change their patrol tactics to prevent the assaults because they are generally indoor crimes.

“The most effective is education – educating both males and females,” he said.

Michael said police encourage the victim to get a sexual assault forensics exam. The examination does not mean the victim has to prosecute, but it can be helpful for a future reference.

During an examination, the sexual assault nurse examiner completes a head to toe physical and forensic assessment. After looking for physical injury, the nurse has the person undress on white paper to make sure all fibers from the offender or surroundings make it to the crime lab. The nurse combs body hair, swabs the mouth, checks underneath fingernails and draws blood for the lab. Lastly, a vaginal/penile examination is performed and an anal swab is taken.

Anything the victim does not want performed will not be, and the kit stays with the nurse at all times, Patty said. The examination is difficult for patients because they have to relive the most traumatic experience of their life, but the nurses do all they can to make people feel safe, she said.

Because many victims know the offender, they feel as though they did something to cause the situation.

“When you say no, (consent) ends right there,” Patty said. “This is an issue of power and control.”

John Powell, a clinical counselor at Student Services, said many victims also feel as though they have lost all control because the assault is an experience of being out of control of one’s body.

“Rape is a real loss,” said Powell. “There is a lot of sadness because there is a loss of control, friendship, trust and trust of oneself. … But what I hope they get to is anger because that is the emotion that fuels action.”

There are four major components which Powell believes are essential during counseling sessions. People need to re-establish a sense of safety and of personal power before they can go to work, school or friends’ houses and feel in control. During sessions, victims should also have the opportunity to express themselves and the ability to reconnect with people that are nurturing them.

“Life is never the same,” Powell said. “It is not ‘When am I going to get my life back on track?’ but ‘When will I begin to function in a way more consistent with who I am?'”