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Sexual assault problems are deeper than the surface

I’ve never been much of a numbers person. I like words, and math usually got the best of me. But even though I don’t like taking math classes or doing math problems, I find statistics fascinating, including those about sexual assault and rape.

According to a study done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in five college women say that they have been raped at some point. Furthermore, in an academic year, 3 percent of women report surviving rape or attempted rape.

The problem with these statistics? They imply that rape and sexual assault are always reported. On the surface, those appear to be halfway decent numbers. The numbers should say that no women have been raped or have been sexually assaulted, but without realizing the importance of reporting those instances, it appears that the numbers are still fairly acceptable.

The truth is that this is nowhere near acceptable, and some of the time, I feel like people still don’t take sexual assault as seriously as they should. We are in 2014, and we should not be having the argument about whether or not a woman was “asking for it” because of what she wore. A while ago, Buzzfeed reported a woman had asked her followers on Twitter what they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted and how old they were. The vast majority of responses showed that they were wearing ordinary clothing, nothing that could be considered “inappropriate” or “slutty,” so this goes to show that no matter what someone is wearing, she is never “asking for it.”

But honestly, I feel like this is more of a lack of understanding the facts than anything. Yes, some people — men and women alike — will still judge the ones who wear shorter dresses, but there are also just a lot of unknowns about rape and sexual assault. I personally think that sometimes, people seem ignorant on the subject because they just simply have no idea how often it happens, and not simply because of what someone was wearing.

The website for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that roughly every two minutes, an American is sexually assaulted over the age of 12 years old. This statistic comes from the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey. If there is a sexual assault that frequently, but the same survey states that only 30 percent of rape survivors report the incident, that is a huge disconnect between what is actually happening and what people think is happening as far as rape.

There are a number of reasons that the women who are attacked don’t report the crimes, but largely, they don’t report out of fear of their attacker and out of fear that they won’t be believed. They start blaming themselves, and from there, it can be hard to convince them otherwise, especially if people are unaware this even happened to their friend or sister or even girlfriend.

This is why Sexual Assault Awareness Month is so important. Even if you don’t know someone who has been sexually assaulted, chances are that someone actually has been, so you need to be aware of the facts and help anyone and everyone who asks you for it. In the even that someone reaches out to you, it’s important to get the victims the help they need.

College women are more likely to be sexually assaulted than anyone, which is definitely not a comforting statistic to hear. However, that is why this is so crucial. Spread awareness through participating in on-campus activities that try to get the message out, like The Vagina Monologues or the Friendly Faces program. No one should feel like she is alone after the fact, and getting people to recognize that it is a bigger problem than the numbers being reported is a step in that direction. Step up and help out this month, even if it’s just wearing the teal ribbon to show your support for victims.

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