Sexual assault is a pervasive problem on American college campuses. Sexual assault survivors are sometimes afraid to come forward or feel like they won’t receive support in spite of their efforts. Victims can be left dealing with mental health issues stemming from the incident, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims might also experience academic problems or consider leaving school altogether. In the last few years, more national attention has been given to the amount of sexual assault incidents happening on school campuses and how to prevent them from happening. Here are some things you should know about campus sexual assault in Oregon.
Campus Sexual Assault Statistics
College-age adults (between age 18 and 24) are at high risk for sexual violence. Here are some statistics about sexual assault happening to college-age adults:
- 13% of students will experience sexual assault;
- One out of every four female undergraduate students experiences sexual assault;
- Male students are almost 80% more likely than male non-students to be sexual assault victims, while the opposite is true of female students;
- More than one out of five students who identify as transgender, queer, or non-conforming experience sexual assault;
Most female victims do not report the incident to law enforcement. Here are a few of the top reasons:
- The assault was a personal matter (~25%);
- They were scared the attacker would take revenge (20%);
- It was not important enough (~15%); and
- They believed the police could not or would not do anything about it (10%).
Of college-aged females that suffered a sexual assault, only 20% of students reported the incident to law enforcement.
Campus Sexual Assault in Oregon
Sexual assault includes all types of sexually related violence. Sexual misconduct rules on Oregon campuses also include sexual harassment. Oregon law defines sexual hassment on campus as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” that interferes with a student’s work or academics, or creates a hostile environment.
You can go the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website for easy-to-understand summaries of sex crimes under Oregon law. The Oregon statutes themselves are contained in Chapter 163—Offenses Against Person—from 163.305 through 163.479. The Oregon Attorney General created the Sexual Assault Task Force Campus Subcommittee to promote sexual violence prevention and a victim-centered sexual assault response on Oregon’s campuses. The website has many resources for Oregon schools, including recommendations on how to prevent and respond to sexual violence.
Title IX Changes
Title IX is a section of the federal civil rights law that prohibits sexual discrimination in education programs. In 2020, the US Department of Education released new Title IX rules changing how schools must treat sexual misconduct. The law requires that each school implement its own anti-sexual discrimination policy and Title IX procedures. Here are some changes under the new Title IX rules:
- Schools no longer have to complete an investigation within a certain amount of time, but the investigation must be “prompt”;
- Schools must accommodate victims through reasonably supportive measures such as housing or class schedule changes;
- New “rape shield” protections mean that past sexual history cannot be included in the process unless it proves that someone else was responsible for the violence;
- Schools must offer an appeals process;
- Schools may decide whether to respond to incidents that happen outside of educational programs (however Oregon state law mandates that schools respond to all reports);
- Schools must act only when they have “actual notice,” meaning a report made to the Title IX coordinator or the school’s employee designated to receive such reports (Oregon law states that the school must also act if the designated employee should have known that possible violence occurred); and
- Victims can work with victim services advocates to seek support and confidential care.
Oregon schools might have two different sexual misconduct policies—one under Title IX and one that follows state law. Students have a right to choose not to participate in the Title IX process free from retaliation or pressure from the school.
Campus Sexual Assault Prevention
It is not always possible to prevent sexual assault because you cannot control other people. The attacker’s behavior is their own fault and your responsibility. However, there are steps you can take to try to be safer on campus:
- Be careful about whom you trust. Get to know someone before being alone with them, and do not rely too much on new friends to keep you safe.
- Meet new people or dates in public places. Restaurants and coffee shops are great options.
- Pay attention to your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable with someone or in a situation for any reason, do not ignore it. Do not sacrifice your safety because you are afraid of seeming impolite.
- Be careful when drinking or using recreational drugs. Keep an eye on your drink at all times, and try not to use these substances to the point where you do not have control over your circumstances.
- Always be prepared. Keep your phone charged, and have a backup credit card or extra cash in case you get stranded somewhere.
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Try to avoid distractions when walking alone, such as texting or listening to music. At night, try to go places with other people, or stay in well-lit areas.
Your college should have a campus police department or campus security. You should know where these buildings are located, and put their emergency phone numbers in your cell phone.
What to Do If You Were Sexually Assaulted
If you are a victim of sexual assault, your first priority should be to get to safety and then get medical attention. Medical treatment is necessary not only for your own health and wellbeing but also to collect evidence. Reporting the incident is the next most important step. Your campus will have a process in place for you to do so, and you can also make a report to the local city police. Filing a report ensures that you receive the medical treatment you need and gives you access to confidential, professional counseling and advocacy from people trained to help sexual assault victims. You may choose to pursue the incident through your school’s sexual misconduct process as well as through the criminal justice system. Regardless of where or how you choose to report, there are many resources available to you for support. Your campus likely has counseling services available. There are also many organizations that provide support and other resources for sexual assault survivors, including:
- The Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force;
- The Sexual Assault Resource Center of Oregon; and
- The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.
The most important thing for you to know is that you are not alone and there are people ready to help.
Contact D’Amore Law Group
At D’Amore Law Group, we are committed to advocating for victims of sexual abuse or assault. We are compassionate and empathetic to our clients that have survived these ordeals, and we understand that confronting the person that attacked you can be as traumatizing as the attack itself. We have years of experience in this sensitive area of litigation and offer caring advocacy for our clients to seek justice. Contact our lawyers to discuss your situation and to discover what legal options may be available to you.