Jade Wagner spoke out about her experience with sexual assault in the last issue of The Chanticleer. Julie Nix, Director of Counseling and Disability Support Services at Jacksonville State, wrote the following response.
Jade Wagner is a very courageous young woman. Her disclosure of what happened to her on June 6, 2012 provides an opportunity for men and women on our campus to have a discussion about the reality of sexual assault, and its devastating effects. I hope that Jade’s story will facilitate thoughtful examination and dialogue about sexual assault, consent, and the frequent complicity of drugs and alcohol in situations involving sexual assault.
The details of Jade’s story echo the stories of many other women on our campus and on college campuses around the nation. So many victims remain silent about what has happened, and many of them experience the feelings of shame and self-blame that Jade described.
Many victims believe that their actions contributed to the assault or that they should have been able to act in some way to prevent the assault. Dispelling such myths about rape must be part of the JSU dialogue about sexual assault.
In the U.S., 1 in 6 women will report a completed or attempted sexual assault during their lifetime (National Violence Against Women Survey, 2005, www.ncjrs.org). Look at six of your classmates or six of your closest friends and consider this alarming statistic.
Also, consider that almost 70% of all rapes are committed by someone the victim personally knows (Criminal Victimization, 2005, BJS www.ojp.usdoj.gov). Jade’s story illustrates this important fact and dispels the misconception that rape is most often perpetrated by a stranger. Perpetrators look like everyone else. They can appear nice, polite, clean cut, and normal. A rapist can be a professional, a student, a leader, an athlete, a musician, a husband, or a boyfriend. A rapist can be anyone.
We need to understand that rape is more than an “unwanted sexual experience” or “miscommunication” among individuals.
Rape does not occur because of what a person wears, what they drink, or where they go. There is the misconception that a victim could have fought back or somehow escaped or called for help, but the truth is every situation is unique and people respond differently when faced with the genuine fear of harm or death.
We also need to examine our role as bystanders in situations where sexual assault occurs or when there is the risk of sexual assault. We need to pay attention to our peers and to the behaviors of those around us, especially in social situations where there is the presence of drugs and/or alcohol.
Bystanders often feel uncomfortable saying something or feel that they may be misinterpreting the behaviors of those around them. They may feel that they should not interfere with the behaviors or activities of “adults.”
One can examine the events leading up to a sexual assault and can usually identify multiple missed opportunities for intervention. Bystanders have the power and unique opportunity to successfully act and prevent sexual assault from occurring, which is always preferable to dealing with the aftermath of sexual violence.
Many students may be unaware that JSU has a Sexual Misconduct Policy that states that members of the JSU community, including visitors and guests have the right to be free from sexual violence. JSU believes in a zero tolerance policy for gender-based misconduct. The policy also contains information about what constitutes sexual misconduct, sanctions, reporting, questions and answers, definitions, and rights of victims and accused individuals. The full policy as well as information about local resources can be located at http://www.jsu.edu/studentaffairs/sexual-misconduct/index.html.
Counseling is available through our office and there is no charge for those services. Students can request an appointment by calling (256)782-5475, submitting an online request, or walking into our office in 140 Daugette Hall.
In addition, we have a local advocacy organization that provides assistance to victims of sexual assault. Individuals can contact 2nd Chance, Inc. by calling the Crisis Line at (256)236-7233 or (256)236-7381.
If you would like to learn more about the issue of sexual violence, check out RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, at http://www.rainn.org/.
Let’s join Jade in her efforts to create awareness about sexual violence. Help break the silence about rape and the culture surrounding it.