Professors discuss major sexual assault issue

Brenden Williams

After politicians spoke out in January about the unfairness regarding sexual assault on campus, the biggest problem with sexual assault, according to experts, did not turn out to be false accusations, but that of victims not reporting it.

According to Jericho Hockett, professor of psychology, confidentiality is the glaring reason as to why victims don’t come forward.

“There’s been some research done on this topic,” said Hockett. “One of the biggest concerns reported by individuals for not reporting is mainly focused on confidentiality. A lot of people don’t report because it’ll be found out that they reported, and then the perpetrator may retaliate. They may not report simply because they’re worried rumors being spread about them. Maybe they just don’t want other people to see them differently.”

Sharon Sullivan, professor of women’s and gender studies, said victim blaming is a major reason as well as the fear of retaliation.

“I think people are ashamed that they’ve been victimized,” said Sullivan. “They don’t want to tell anyone this awful thing happened. I think they’re afraid they won’t be believed.”

Health can be affected by not reporting, both mentally and physically. Trauma and stress on both the body and the mind can be dangerous for those not seeking the recourses to help them cope with the situation.

“I think one of the things reporting does is access help,” Sullivan said. “I think that when we keep secrets, it affects us. I think everybody needs to hear that it wasn’t their fault, so when you don’t get that help, it can kind of take over your life.”

“The less that people report,” Hockett said, “the less likely they are to access recourses to deal with the trauma, both physical trauma, like STDs, as well as the psychological trauma. So if they don’t tell anybody, the people who know who those resources are and how to access them, they’re less likely to use them.”

Hockett and Sullivan both had a message to those who are victims of sexual assault and are not reporting the crime.

“You’re not alone,” Hockett said. “The stats suggest that one in four college women are likely to be raped and one in six college men are likely to be sexually assaulted. You’re friends aren’t jerks; they’re going be there to support you and care about you regardless of what happened to you. They may not always know the best thing to say, but they’re still there and the resources are available.”

“I believe you, it’s not your fault, and there are people who want to help you,”  Sullivan said. “It doesn’t matter if you were drinking or wearing a short skirt or if you were flirting–nobody has any right to your body but you. I want our students to know that we are there to help them if their perpetrator is another student. There are resources on campus so they don’t have to see the person who assaulted them every day. I want to give them back control.”