While in high school, I was warned about all of the horror stories that come from college, mostly incidents involving sexual assault. I was warned by my peers, my family about the dangers of fraternity parties. I was also warned about watching my drink anywhere I go. I was given a heads up that I am a walking and talking potential victim of sexual assault, especially so because I was about to become a college student. Then, I actually attended my first college orientation at Webster, and sexual assault was not even in the welcome manual.
My friends at Mizzou, for example, say their orientation consisted of skits, discussions and films about sexual assault on campus. They were even given a specific number to call if they were too drunk to drive home from a party. At my orientation, there was one skit – but it was not required. Students who could not make it to the event did not get the information that was provided. And transfer students who could also fall victim to as- sault don’t even have to attend orientation to get this information.
At orientation, I made small talk with other awkward freshman while standing in a circle before making a pointless big ‘W’ in the quad – just for the photo to go up on the university web page to be used as one of their marketing tools. Webster spends millions of dollars in advertising, as stated in their public 990 tax forms.
That money should be spent to help ensure students are safe on this campus from sexual assault. It should be given to support groups for survivors or spe- cific safe spaces for students and making sure the orientation pamphlets have the school’s Title IX coordinator’s phone number. This isn’t something I feel is too much to ask considering these are things that affect our daily lives.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 50 percent of sexual assaults that occur on college
campuses happen within the first four months of the semester. Rape not only is more likely to happen during college, but it is more likely to happen at that crucial time of year – the time of year that orientation and information is being sent out left and right. The fact that I was not given this information right off the bat is despicable. Webster University should do more to make sure their students feel safe.
Last year, Webster’s Clery Act Report (the report they are required to publish every year listing the crimes occurred the year prior), reported one rape incident. One. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted on college campuses, the numbers seem like they don’t add up, but it is quite possible that they do.
More then 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault, according to the NSVRC. Given this, it is very likely only one reported sexual assault is accurate.
This is especially so if the university is a private college. It is not as easy for college journalists like myself to access information at private universities as it is for public universities. The fact that this information is not even available to those whose job it is to literally seek that information is very harmful to students, faculty and anybody who is subjected to be victimized by sexual assault – which is everybody.
As a female student of Webster University, it is not immediately obvious to me where I should go if I am raped on campus. Neither if there is a safe space on campus that allows me to discuss this information. The numbers to call are not available to me at all times. This often makes me feel unsafe.
Webster needs to make a greater effort to make this information more avail- able to students, or even just make a simple effort to talk about it. It is the school’s responsibility to ensure the safety of the students. Students need to be informed of the available resources from the very first day of classes. No one should feel unsafe in education institutions.