Against Your Will is Against the Law

September 20, 2012

Did you know that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 males will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday? Would you be surprised to learn that 90% of all "date rapes" involve alcohol? Or that in the state of Pennsylvania it is illegal to consent to sex while under the influence of alcohol?

To help students understand the laws and how to protect themselves from sexual assault, Amber Pitten of the Crime Victims CouncilAmber Pitten of the Crime Victims Council of Lehigh Valley visited Main Campus on September 20.

Drug-facilitated sexual assault is increasingly becoming an issue in the Lehigh Valley, Pitten says as she describes how calls to the CVCLV about date rape drugs have increased.  "It's when someone slips you a drug that intoxicates you to the point that you are unable to consent," she explains.  Most all date rape drugs are colorless and odorless, making them very difficult to detect. They all have harmful and potentially fatal side effects.

To reduce the risk of drug-facilitated sexual assault, Pitten recommends:

• Do not accept drinks from anyone. If someone wants to make you a drink, watch them make the drink.

•Always watch your drink and keep it close to your body. Keep your hand over an open cup or place thumb over the opening of a bottle.

•Stay close to your friends and check in with them often.

• Never accept a drink from a punch bowl or open container.

•If you start to feel strange (dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea and/or drowsiness) find a friend and go to the emergency room immediately. If a friend is acting strangely, seek medical attention for them.  

"Sexual assault is not about desire, it is about power and control," Pitten says. "The weapon is sex."

Pitten asked students if they had ever heard statements blaming the victim for wearing a short skirt, drinking too much, or inviting someone to his or her bedroom.

"Bad judgment is never a rape-able offense," Pitten stressed. "It is not the victim's fault, no matter what."

Pitten also dispelled the myth of a rape occurring in a dark alley by a stranger in a ski mask. "70% of all rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, a boyfriend, girlfriend, neighbor, or family member."

The Red Zone period is when students are most vulnerable to experiencing unwanted sex. It takes place between the times when students arrive on campus in the fall extending to the Thanksgiving break. "It's a time when you are meeting new people, going to new places," she explains. In fact, 37% of sexual assault victims were first year students, and 50% were living in university housing.

If you have been assaulted, Pitten suggests to:

•Go to a safe place. People living in Northampton and Lehigh Counties can call the Crime Victims Council of Lehigh Valley's 24-hour hotline at 610-437-6611. Other PA resident can call 1-888-772-PCAR.

•Seek medical attention. Victims of sexual assault are at risk for sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, and may have internal injuries that cannot be seen.

•Do not shower, eat, drink, smoke, comb your hair, urinate or douche before going to the emergency room.

•Report the assault to the police. Pressing charges may help you feel empowered after the assault and may save someone else from being assaulted.

•Seek counseling. The Crime Victims Council offers free counseling.

If a person discloses a sexual assault to you:

•Stay calm.

•Believe the victim and make it clear that the assault was not his or her fault.

•Help the person decide what to do next. Do not take control of the situation. Rape is a crime of power and control and it's important for the victim to be able to gain control again by making his or her own decisions.

•Suggest seeking medical attention, especially within 72 hours of the assault because a rape exam can still be processed for evidence at this time.

•Keep whatever the victim tells you confidential. It's not your place to tell people.

•Encourage the victim to go to counseling by proving the hotline number for CVC or the local rape crisis center, but let the victim decide whether or not to go.

•Seek counseling for yourself at CVC or the local rape crisis center if you need to talk to someone about how you are feeling.

At the end of the presentation, Mitch Murtha, director of Judicial Affairs, encouraged students to turn to the Student Affairs and Counseling staff, the nurse or campus security with any questions or concerns. "There are a lot of people who care about you, who want to be there for you and help you through the process. We will maintain strict confidentiality.  We're here to help you in any way we can."

Contact information for NCC's Counseling Services Office can be found here. Visit the Crime Victims Council of Lehigh Valley's website for more information about the services they offer.






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