Ten things about sexual assault students should know

Here’s a sneak peek (with permission) at an article that will be published in our upcoming Nov/Dec issue. Subscribe now and you’ll still be in time to get the full issue.

By Vanessa Eisses

  1. Most sexual assaults are done by someone the survivor knows. They occur at any time of day, in any place.
  2. You didn’t cause it, so you can’t protect against it. This is scary, but it does mean no one can be blamed for being sexually assaulted (there’s no statistical evidence that anything a person does can cause them to be assaulted). It may be encouraging to note that women who go to university are less likely to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime than women who don’t. However, sexual assaults do occur more often in three situations – a female alone with a man or men, first two months of university/college, and situations involving alcohol.
  3. It’s a lie that we won’t get assaulted because we’re Christian/modest/studious. We tell ourselves such lies to distance ourselves from the reality that one in four women and one in six men in North America are sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

  1. When a sexual assault occurs, the body goes into shock and will begin its involuntary fight, flight or freeze response, so don’t blame yourself for not reacting the way you think you should have. That being said, if you’re a bystander, you may be able to save someone by speaking up if you see something.
  2.  Don’t fear new opportunities. They’re the best part of university. But if you’re feeling unsafe, get out right away. And if you’re feeling too good, be cautious. You don’t want to say yes to something in the heat of the moment you’ll regret.
  3. You do not have to participate in hookup culture to fit in or make friends. Never substitute who you are for someone else’s approval.
  4. Guard your heart. This doesn’t mean you have to fear loving others, but it does mean you should value yourself because God values you. Many reported sexual assaults are not done violently. They’re done through manipulation. If you begin to notice signs of manipulation in a relationship, know you are worth more than empty words of flattery or others’ expectations for you.
  5. Don’t make it awkward. Have the boundaries talk. If you’re having any sort of physical contact (from kissing to intercourse) with another person, having the boundaries talk is the only way you can know how to respect them and how they can respect you.
  6. Consent means you have the right to say no at any time. If your partner doesn’t respect that, then you deserve better.
  7. But what if something does happen? Schools should have a sexual assault representative to help students through how to get help and consider options for reporting. Other options include contacting hotlines (here’s a 24/7 nationwide crisis line for women: 1-866-863-0511), police services or local abuse support institutions that can be found online. Most importantly, know God does not love you any less and He is 100 per cent the one to lean on in this situation, as He always is.

Read part one of this article Is your daughter safer at a Christian college? about some new research by James Vanderwoerd, a professor at Redeemer University College.

Vanessa Eisses is a fourth year psychology major at Redeemer University College who helped create its sexual assault policy as well as establish a Sexual Assault Awareness Week. For more information she recommends www.SexAssault.ca/MythsFacts.htm.

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