Attempt to avoid the unthinkable

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 It happened again.

A student was sexually assaulted on campus late Saturday night.

Sadly, sexual assaults occur on an all too frequent basis on college campuses across the country, including Western Illinois University.

The U.S. Department of Justice reported in 2005 that one in four women will be sexually assaulted on university campuses.

Attending college is supposed to be a time to enjoy new independence, expand learning and mature as an adult in a safe environment. Unfortunately, life-threatening dangers such as sexual predators can’t be eliminated from any campus environment.

Female first year students stand the greatest risk of being sexually assaulted during the first months of the school year. According to a Campus Outreach Services report in 2003, freshmen are at highest risk for sexual or physical assault from the day they arrive on campus until Thanksgiving Break.

Although the cause of sexual assaults lay outside of a student’s control, here on some ways to avoid situations that may make you more vulnerable to an attack.

Never walk alone

Always try to walk with a group of friends if it’s dark or get a ride from a good friend. If those options are not available, OPS offers an escort service for students on campus to avoid walking alone late at night. The office may be reached at 298-1949.

Use the emergency call boxes

There are 50 blue light call boxes located all over campus, and each one of them is programmed to alert an OPS officer.

Be aware of your surroundings

This might seem obvious, but too frequently students don’t pay attention to their surroundings, especially when they are intoxicated. Also, try to avoid shady areas and alleys that might isolate you from a group of people, and never wear headphones if you’re walking in the dark.

Stay on guard

Make sure your dorm room, apartment or house is locked securely at all times. Also, use your door’s peephole when somebody arrives at your entrance, especially if you’re by yourself. Furthermore, never let any stranger enter your house if you are home alone and never give the stranger the impression there’s nobody else but you there, and if you come home and find an open door or forced signs of entry, do not enter.

Take defense classes

Defense classes serve as a good way to fend off a sexual predator if such an event should occur. Classes are available at the Campus Recreation Center every fall and spring semester.

Although these tips may help to prevent some instances of assault, the occurrence of any violent act is never the fault of the victim. Although it may be one of the most difficult things you will ever do, it is essential to report the crime to the authorities. Seeking medical attention may not only help you, but tests done by medical professionals may help the assailant be brought to justice. 

The second most important thing is to seek the support you need. The wounds of sexual assault are not merely physical; don’t hesitate to use the University’s Counseling Center on the first floor of Memorial Hall to cope and move forward from the tragic event. Healing will take time, but never hesistate to reach out for any support you may need.

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