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One in Five College Women Sexually Assaulted, White House Addresses Issue

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TYLER (KYTX) -- Every two minutes in the U.S. an american is sexually assaulted, and one in every five college women will have it happen to her.

"I know it can happen, and I know people that it's happened to -- not specifically at this school, but at other schools, and friends from high school as well," UT Tyler student Paul Ross said.

In an effort to change that, the White House has declared April National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, hoping colleges nationwide will shine a spotlight on the issue and encourage more victims to speak out.

According to the Justice Department, fewer than five percent of college women who are victimized by rape and sexual assault actually report it themselves -- an alarming statistic considering just how many women are being victimized.

"What we really want to do is to get them to report more, because we can't service them, we can't get any help to them if we don't know what's happening," Samantha Dwight, Health Education Specialist at UT Tyler, said. 

Recently a Harvard student -- who claims she was violently assaulted on campus by another student who lives in her dorm -- has slammed the school's policies, saying she was ignored by college officials when she reported it.

It's stories like these, Dwight says, that discourage other students from speaking out.

"There's still a lot of stigma involved in reporting a sexual assault," she said. "In some ways the news coverage doesn't help. When you see other college campuses are handling it badly, you're going to assume your college campus is the same." 

A new White House task force has been created to help colleges prevent these assaults, and President  Barrack Obama is calling on men to get more involved in the effort.

"I definitely think if guys seeing it and even hearing about it -- if they would step up and speak out against it -- that would definitely help prevent that and help in future cases because that would go a long way in deterring other people from doing it," Ross said. 

One way UT Tyler is encouraging more victims to speak out is through anonymous surveys. According to those surveys, there were five cases of sexual assault on the campus between 2010 and 2012. Since a majority of sexual assaults go unreported, a lot of the data the Justice Department and other organizations use come from anonymous surveys like this one.

Students at UT Tyler can report sexual assaults anonymously on the school's website -- whether it happened to them or someone they know.

In the fall the school will roll out a new online program that will teach students how to stop a sexual assault before it happens, and how to confront the stigma associated with reporting it. 

 


 

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