War of words

Sexual assault is a dire issue in our society, but students’ varied responses raise some concerns


Claire Grunewald

The responses above are from a survey conducted by The Patriot that 174 students responded to. Students were asked what exactly sexual assault is to them. These comments represent both supportive and perhaps shocking responses to questions about what sexual assault is, how they respond to it, and how big of an issue they feel it is in the local community.

“I was afraid to scream for help because I was hoping I could fix the situation myself without anyone knowing. A lot of people at the party knew I was in a relationship and knew my boyfriend personally and I didn’t want them to tell him that someone had tried to rape me so I just kept trying to get him off of myself,” Vicky Tompkins said.

Vicky Tompkins is a pseudonym to protect the identity of someone who was sexually assaulted.


“I still haven’t told my family because I don’t want them to be worried about me but I did tell my friends so that they wouldn’t invite him anywhere anymore,” Tompkins said

Tompkins isn’t the only survivor of a sexual assault that keeps her story mostly to herself.


According to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, there are about 293,000 sexual assault victims each year. However, that’s just the number of rapes that were reported. It’s estimated by the National Victim Center that only 16 percent of rapes get reported.

Sexual assault victims often feel blamed for their experiences. Pandora’s Project, a website on resources for sexual assault survivors, says that victims often think back to the experience and say, “I was drunk, I walked alone in the dark, I wore that mini-skirt, I shouldn’t have let him come upstairs, and so on…”

What makes it even harder for rape victims to come forward with their story and stop blaming themselves is the lack of interest and support from their community and peers. The Patriot conducted a survey and asked students what they consider to be sexual assault and if there were any experiences they were willing to share. The results were horrifying, degrading and shameful: We found 33 of the respondents didn’t care about the subject or brushed it off as if it never happens in our society.

It’s comments from JC students that say “[sexual assault] is not letting me lick jelly off of her breasts” or rape is considered “penis poking,” that make victims never want to share what happened to them. According to the Rape Treatment Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, comments like these are evidence that people don’t take rape victims seriously enough

A member of the community reached out to The Patriot via the survey and shared with us that she was a victim of sexual assault. She shared her thoughts and comments on people who make jokes or treat the subject less than seriously. “The effect that rude or hurtful comments have are that they could make someone who has experienced sexual assault feel guilty or like it’s their fault. Even if the person hasn’t experienced sexual assault, I think that the comments could still make them uncomfortable or even angry,” she said.

In addition to peers not taking the issue of sexual assault seriously, college campuses have struggled with the issue of having limited success in making a difference for the victims.

At Brigham Young University in Utah, students have been protesting the school’s decision to stop looking into a sexual assault case. The school eventually decided to penalize the victim because she was drinking on campus, a violation of the university’s school code.

On the positive end, sexual assault victims do receive help from people who sympathize with their traumatic experiences.

There are hundreds of national organizations and sexual assault recovery hotlines that make themselves available to survivors. What matters is victims being able to come forward and feel safe in knowing they will get the help they need.

“People do recover, the time depends on the situation, sometimes old wounds reopen but they [victims] shouldn’t blame themselves,” Gayle Reed from TurnAround Inc, said. TurnAround Inc, is a domestic violence and sexual assault center located in Baltimore.
Azanae Barrow is a Community Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.