Rape Survivor Speaks Out

by Wendy Davies, NOW Intern

Jane Smith* never wanted to be a statistic. She never asked to become one of the one in four women who are raped in her lifetime. She doesn't consider herself particularly naive, just a little too trusting.

"I wasn't very aware of the different kinds of people who were out there," she says, "especially as far as knowing about acquaintances doing such horrible things."

When Jane graduated from high school, she immediately went away to a state university where she shifted into what she calls "party mode." "I went totally wild my freshman year," she says. "Partying it up, living it up, boozing it up."

The next summer Jane joined her family for a five-day river-rafting trip. One night as the group settled into its camp, the captain of Jane's family's boat invited Jane to a party at a nearby camp. He even asked her father's permission first. When Jane and the guide reached the other camp, the only person there was a captain from another rafting group.

Initially, Jane was not concerned. The three drank a mixture of lemonade and vodka and talked. After a while, Jane began saying that they needed to return to her family's camp. No one listened to her. Finally, she demanded that they leave. Jane and her guide began walking back to her family's camp.

"He was kind of angry at me," Jane remembers. "He didn't respect my desire to get back to our camp."

On the trip back to her family's camp, the alcohol Jane had consumed caused the world to begin spinning. She sat down on the ground. The man sat beside her and tried to kiss her. After she had fended off his advances, he apologized profusely; she passed out.

Jane has no idea how much time passed, but she came to without her pants or underwear on, covered with semen. The man was sitting nearby. When she confronted him, he simply mumbled that he didn't remember what had happened because he had passed out, too.

When she returned home after the trip, Jane filed a police report but dropped it after being told by every lawyer she consulted that without physical evidence, there was no case.

She returned to campus in the fall, but was extremely miserable. She saw a counselor, but doesn't feel that he was able to help her. She spent hours crying in her room and rarely went out socially.

"I didn't let myself go out and drink alcohol, because I didn't trust myself or anyone else," Jane says.

She started taking drugs heavily her second semester back at school in an attempt to "numb" herself to the horrible experience.

"I was disgusted. I wanted to leave it behind me," Jane says. "I couldn't fit into the college party atmosphere. I had seen too much. I couldn't just go with the flow, because the flow wasn't right."

Jane doesn't want to be defined by this one event in her life. A passionate environmentalist, she says she would have become a feminist activist, too, even if she had not been raped.

Now Jane is doing her part to make sure other young women don't have to live their own version of her story. She is working full-time on NOW's Rally for Women's Lives and recently appeared on a major Canadian TV talk show to discuss date rape.

Unfortunately, Jane's story is not unusual. According to a survey released in 1992, 683,000 women are raped in this country every year. And according to Mary Koss, a researcher at the University of Arizona, "16 through 19 is the peak risk age for rape."

An article in the Idaho Falls Post Register estimated that 80 percent of college victims are acquainted with their attackers, with 47 percent of those raped on a date. A study by University of Illinois researchers Mary Pat Frintner, MSPH, and Laurna Rubinson, Ph.D. found that 55.3 percent of the women and 67.5 percent of the male offenders had been drinking at the time of the incident. The researchers also uncovered that 47.6 percent of the male perpetrators of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault were members of a fraternity, while 20.2 percent of the men were members of a sports team or sports club.

An article in The Ottawa Citizen quotes a national survey of 1,835 female university and college undergraduates which found that "four in five women have suffered some form of psychological, physical or sexual abuse in dating relationships."

All of these frightening statistics point to a horrible problem lurking on our college and university campuses.

According to former United States Representative Jim Ramstad, who sponsored a rape victim bill, in 1991 a woman was raped on a college campus every 21 hours, but only one out of 100 college rapists was prosecuted. One in four coeds are victims of rape or attempted rape, but 90 percent of rapes go unreported.

Colleges and universities are becoming increasingly concerned about this epidemic of crime and are fighting back. Although much has been done to combat this violence, there is still much more that needs to be done.

A 1993 survey by the National Association of Student Personnel (NASPA) accumulated information from institutions across the country concerning what is being done to stop sexual assaults. While 95 percent of the schools heard sexual assault cases, only 15 percent had specific penalties for sexual assault convictions. About half of the schools distributed a sexual assault brochure, and about the same number had at least one mandatory orientation program for students.

Increasing numbers of colleges and universities offer escort services, advocacy or counseling groups and services, outdoor emergency phones, security guards and awareness-raising programs.

Security on Campus, Inc. -- a national, non-profit organization geared to the prevention of campus violence and to assisting campus victims in the enforcement of their legal rights -- has been instrumental in the fight. The group's major accomplishments include over 20 federal and state laws, including the crucial Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act.

This 1990 law, according to a New York Times article, "requires all colleges and universities receiving Federal funds to publish and make readily available their security and crime-reporting policies and to make public the number of on-campus killings, assaults, sexual assaults, robberies, burglaries and other crimes."

According to Dorothy Siegel, vice-president of student services at Towson State University and executive director of the Campus Violence Prevention Center (CPVC), the crime-reporting law "validates the presence of crime."

"It's documentation that violence exists, so the consumer knows that no matter how beautiful the walls of ivy, we have the same problems that exist in society," Siegel said, in a Washington Times article.

Jane, who is still haunted by subconscious memories of her rape, doesn't feel that enough is being done.

"I went through an orientation program, but it wasn't enough," she says. "Young women are not adequately prepared to defend themselves in our culture. And they shouldn't have to. It's time to change our culture."

* The name used in this story has been changed at the request of the individual involved.

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