Sexual assault numbers rise on campus - Tucson News Now

Sexual assault numbers rise on campus

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

It's often called a silent crime.  Many sexual assault victims don't come forward out of shame and fear.

We asked University of Arizona campus police if sexual assault is a growing problem among students, and numbers show the number of reports jumped from one school year to the next.  This could mean two things: either more sexual assault is happening among students, or more victims have the courage to report the crimes.

One survivor and explains why she got help, and why it wasn't easy.

"I couldn't move.  I couldn't function like I was awake consciously, I couldn't open my eyes.  And someone was kissing me," she says.  She didn't know who it was or why it was happening.

She asked us to protect her identity.

She was a University of Arizona student when she had fallen asleep on a friend's couch after a night on the town.   She woke up to someone touching her.

"I felt a hand lift up my dress, and I was kicking with my feet telling him to stop.   I finally opened my eyes and it was the kid's dad."

She drifted in and out of consciousness and when she came to, the man she says attacked her tried to convince her it was someone else.

"It was almost like he had done it before and had been through this conversation before, like he knew how to respond."

She drove home and called a friend who works at a crisis center.

She isn't alone.  Reports of sexual assault are up.  During the 2011/2012 school year, campus police officers took three reports of sexual assault and forcible rape.  This last school year there were 11 reports.

"People who are young can be vulnerable, that can be one thing that increases someone's vulnerability," says Kathleen Young with the OASIS program against sexual assault.  It's located right on campus and offers support services and counseling for survivors.

With all of the changes college life can bring such as meeting new people and drinking, Young says students can fall into a risk group.

"We do know that alcohol use or intoxication and sexual assault often occur together."

Young says the latest numbers may be a good thing.  They may be indicating that more women are willing to take a stand against their attackers rather than blame themselves and suffer in silence.  She says in the first few days of school, OASIS trains residence hall assistants who live in the dorms so they know what to do when a peer tells them they have been assaulted. 

Campus police say they, too, train campus leaders on how to handle these incidents.

The survivor we spoke to says she experienced a feeling of shame.

"I felt like whether something was put in my drink or not, that it was my fault for drinking in the first place, and it was my fault that this happened."

She did call police.  She says she understands why so many women do not.

"It was like an interrogation, and like I was a suspect."

Because her attacker refused to speak with police, the investigation reached a dead end.  She does not regret reaching out to police.  She says now her attacker's name is on file for when another victim comes forward.  She says she wants other survivors to be brave and make a report, and then take care of themselves.

"It's not your fault.  I don't care what you say, you're going to learn it's not your fault.  If you can deal with it, the sooner the better, because you can put that in the past and live the rest of the years after that."

If you are a victim of sexual assault and a University of Arizona student, the OASIS program can be reached at (520) 626-2051.  The office is located in Campus Health at 1224 E. Lowell Street, Bldg 95.

Services for students and non-students are offered by the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault.  They can be reached at their main office (520) 327-2992.  They also have a 24-hour crisis line (520) 327-7273 or (800) 400-1001.

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