Editorial: One in Four
By Andrew Sheeler
Sun Star Editor-in-Chief
One in four women reading this editorial will have likely been the victim of rape or attempted rape. “Almost 25 percent of college women have been the victim of rape or attempted rape since the age of 14,” according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Last year there were eight “forcible sex offenses”, eight rapes, reported on the UAF campus or residences. UAF Police Chief Sean McGee knows that the true number of rapes is probably a lot closer to the one-in-four statistic cited by the DOJ.
“When you start to think about it, that big number out there is really scary,” McGee said. McGee said that he would like to think of UAF as being special, as being somehow removed from that horrifying one-in-four statistic. The fact is, McGee said, he knows too many women who have been raped for that to be true.
The awfulness of that statistic is only compounded by the sad reality that the longer a rape goes unreported, the less likely it is to be successfully prosecuted and the rapist will do jail-time. Don Foley, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Life, said that is was “frustrating” when students come forwards weeks or even months later and say they’ve been raped. By then, Foley said, most evidence for the rapes will have disappeared. As the Dean of Students, Foley is the person many students talk to after they have been raped. Foley calls rape a “limiting term” and stresses to students that, “If you have a concern of how you have been physically treated, talk to someone.”
That mirrors the advice offered by Chief McGee. McGee urges any woman who has been raped to immediately seek safety. Once safe, the victim should seek counsel from trusted friends, family, professional counselors, or advocacy groups to decide how to proceed forward. McGee said that for a lot of rape victims, pressing charges is terrifying as it brings with it the confrontation of their rapist. If and when the victim is ready, McGee said that they should “absolutely” contact the police. A victim of rape can also pursue action from the University of Alaska. Foley said that his office works to provide counseling and therapy to women who need it, as well as pursuing an investigation of the rape that can lead to suspension, criminal trespass and even expulsion of the rapist. Foley said that for many women though, there is a fear of retaliation from the rapist.
It cannot be stressed enough that a woman who has been raped is never, ever at fault. There are steps, though, that can be taken to help protect yourself from becoming a victim. “The one prevailing theme is alcohol,” McGee said. Alcohol can limit a rape victim’s ability to be aware of their surroundings. This doesn’t even begin to factor in to usage of date rape drugs. Another step that can be taken is to realize that a rapist is almost never “a man jumping out of the bushes,” McGee said. According to McGee, all of the rapes last year were “acquaintance-related.” A woman’s rapist will almost certainly be somebody she knows.
One in four women reading this editorial will likely have been the victim of rape. This last part is for you: call the 24-hour crisis hotline at 907-452-4357 or talk to a UAF police officer. You are not a statistic and you are not alone.