Violence is constantly in our consciousness as we go about our daily activities. Acts of violence include assault, homicide (murder), sexual assault, domestic violence, suicide, and various forms of abuse. Each year in the United States, intentional injuries account for 50,000 deaths and more than 2 million nonfatal injuries. All these events have the potential to touch the lives of the college student regardless of the school, gender, or ethnicity. This section deals with one aspect of violence-personal and sexual assault.
Safety at the Automated Teller Machine
An increasing number of people are using automated teller machines (ATMs) to carry out various banking transactions. These machines serve as a convenient way to make deposits or withdrawals in a variety of locations and when banks are closed, during holidays, evenings, and weekends. Unfortunately, over the last few years many violent crimes have been committed at ATM sites. If a transaction is necessary, the following rules should be kept in mind at all times:
Use the ATM during daylight hours whenever possible. If you must use an ATM at night, take someone with you and use only a machine in a well-lighted area.
Before using the machine, check to make sure no one is acting suspiciously or hanging around the area. Trust your instincts if you feel uneasy. Seek a machine in another area if you sense something is not right.
Make sure no one attempts to crowd you while using the ATM, and take all receipts with you. Do not discard your receipt in a nearby trash can.
Do not write down your personal identification number (PIN) or carry it in your billfold or purse.
If you drive to the ATM, park in a highly visible location and under a light at night. Always lock your car and hold your keys.
Do not assume that a drive-up ATM is free of assault potential. Always be alert to the surroundings.
Date or Acquaintance Rape
The terms acquaintance and date rape have been brought to the national consciousness over the last decade. Acquaintance rape is forced sexual intercourse between persons who know one another well. Date rape is a form of acquaintance rape that involves forced sexual intercourse between people who are in a dating situation. Statistics indicate that 50% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows or is dating. 2 ,3 Researchers have found that 24% of college women reported that they were victims of attempted rape, and 17% had been forced to have sex against their will.
In the college setting, poor communication is associated with behavior that results in attempts at seduction. One survey of 600 college men and women found there was substantial agreement among both genders that aggression and coercion usually occurred when one partner felt “led on” and the other did not make it clear “how far” she or he was willing to go. Obviously, one solution is for couples to learn that “no” really means “no” regardless of the tone or hesitancy with which it is stated.
Researchers also point to a special problem on some college campuses in which there are strong fraternity or sorority organizations. This certainly isn’t an attempt to ostracize any campus groups because athletes and other campus groups have allowed inappropriate actions on the part of their group members. The concept, however, is the “house party.” With its drinking, intimacy, sexual teasing, and competitiveness, the house party may provide a social setting that encourages aggressive sexual behavior. Today many sorority and fraternity organizations have classes that educate members in an effort to improve mutual understanding and avoid date coercion or rape.
When a traumatic experience occurs, such as acquaintance or date rape, the victim usually experiences a great amount of enduring and substantial psychological damage. Date rape victims are particularly vulnerable because they are the victims of misplaced trust. Once the trust in a relationship is broken because of forced sex, developing new relationships becomes much more difficult for the victim.
Regardless of how psychologically strong a rape victim is, most are likely to experience shock, anxiety, depression, shame, and a host of other psychosomatic symptoms. The psychological reactions following a rape are referred to as rape trauma syndrome. The syndrome is characterized by fear, night mares, fatigue, crying spells, and digestive upset. Sexual function and desire may be impaired. The victim of violent sex may want her partner to be warm, tender, affectionate, and understanding, but she may not desire sexual intercourse for a long time after the rape. Sometimes lengthy counseling is necessary to help the rape victim reestablish a trusting attitude toward her relationships and sexuality.
Another common problem facing rape victims is self-blame (the victim blames herself for what occurred). The victim tends to go over every single aspect of the attack to understand what she could have done differently to have prevented the rape. Although most victims are blameless, self-accusation also is quite common. Self-blame is particularly prevalent in the case of acquaintance or date rape because the victim believes the event occurred because she created the situation that allowed the sexual coercion. The frustration is enhanced because the victim tends to view her friends as being successful in the dating situation and believes she has failed. The rape victim tends to perceive herself as having permitted a social occasion to turn into a painful event. Here again the victim will need the understanding of friends, family, significant others, and possibly professional counselors to understand and work through these feelings.
The best protection against date or acquaintance rape is preparation and remaining aware that the potential always exists for unwanted sexual advances and potentially traumatic sexual experiences. Planning what to do if faced with unwanted advances and acting assertively can prevent or terminate many potentially devastating situations before leading to the rape situation.