On the 17th anniversary of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act – Sept. 13 – Vice President Joe Biden started “1 is 2 Many,” a campaign designed to raise awareness of sexual assault among women ages 16-24.
Women can turn to a number of resources on Eastern Michigan University’s campus to help prevent and cope with sexual assault.
Candace Dorsey, an EMU Public Safety officer and Rape Aggressive Defense class instructor, teaches a one-credit course to educate women in preventing and reacting to sexual assaults on EMU campus.
“We talk about behavior, conduct and when the situation is turning bad,” she said.
She said many of the on-campus sexual assault incidents are the result of alcohol use.
“There are a great number of assaults with alcohol use,” Dorsey said. “Monitor your drinking should you decide to drink.”
Other resources for EMU women who have been victims of sexual assault include the Women’s Resource Center. Jessica Klein, the Center’s Program Coordinator, said professionals at the center listen to victims as well as connect victims to the resources to help them cope.
“Nobody deserves to be in an abusive relationship,” Klein said. “Abuse is abuse no matter who it comes from, so we are able to provide resources.”
In a promotional video on the White House website, Biden said one in five women will be sexually assaulted in college.
“Every young woman going back to school has an absolute right to be free of sexual assault and rape,” Biden said. “But unfortunately, too many young women are being victimized by their dates or their classmates.”
According to Klein, sexual abuse is highest among women ages 18-24.
“A lot of the reason is because when you come to college for the first time you want to just get away, you might want to drink, you might want to go party, you might want to meet guys, but the problem is, we keep blaming women for being naive,” Klein said. “You should want to make friends. You should be able to trust the guy down the hall and you can’t keep blaming the woman for being naïve.”
The Women’s Center works to raise awareness of sexual assault through a number of events including “Take Back the Night,” the Women’s Center’s annual rally to speak out against violence against women.
“It’s awesome and it’s a chance for survivors to talk about their experience with sexual assault,” Klein said, “but it’s also a chance for supporters of survivors to listen to their stories and listen to what they have to say.”
One difficulty in dealing with sexual assault is determining whether a reported case of sexual abuse is true or not.
“Three percent of sexual assaults that are reported are false reports, and people like to think this number is a lot higher, but it’s not,” Klein said. “Do people lie about it sometimes? Unfortunately yes, but I think those people should be prosecuted.”
Suspicions about the women who might falsely report sexual assault can then make it difficult for women who report true incidences to receive help.
“We tend to keep on bringing up examples of the women who were lying instead of actually focusing on the women who were telling the truth, and that is a huge, huge, huge, problem,” Klein said.
She said if a woman under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol agrees to sexual activity even if she does not mean it, it does not excuse the man.
“When it comes to drinking, it is a gray area, but one thing we have to recognize is that alcohol is no excuse for someone making a choice to do that,” she said.
She explained victims coping with sexual violence go through a three-stage cycle: the honeymoon phase, the tension-building phase and the violence stage.
“First you have this honeymoon phase where everything’s OK,” Klein said. “You wouldn’t even think that abuse was a part of anything or that it was going to occur – everything’s really great between two people. And then you start the tension-building phase which is basically you hear some emotional abuse, or some putdowns, maybe some threats, and you can just feel this tension mounting. Eventually, it escalates to violence – actual physical violence or violence against children.”
Women who are assaulted by a husband or boyfriend and choose to leave them might find themselves without a place to stay. Shelters such as Safe House in Ypsilanti can be used by assault victims looking for a place to stay temporally.
“They’ll call Safe House and see if they can have a spot within their shelter,” Klein said. “They also have support groups for people who don’t go to EMU.”
Once women find a place in Safe House, advocates then work to help victims find permanent housing and support.
“You have to hopefully show that you have a plan to get out, and they have advocates working with you
to help you either find a job or look for housing or things like that and get back on your feet,” Klein said.
Of the different programs, the Women’s Center was first founded at Eastern as a student-run organization.
“We have a long unique history of being run strictly by students up until last year,” Klein said. “It took 20 years to do that, which is 20 years too long, but it’s here. And that’s all that matters.”