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Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Matthew Wulbrecht

University of Rhode Island

Abstract
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In the state of Rhode Island, sexual assault, especially for women on college campuses, is

a huge problem that needs much more attention. One in every five women are sexually assaulted

in their time in college, a number that is far to high. This research project focuses on the areas

that must be improved in order to lower this number, and combat this horrible problem. In order

to do this, education on college campuses must be improved, attackers must be caught and

punished, prevention must be increased, and society must change its thinking when it comes to

providing a comfortable platform for victims to share their stories. By increasing funding and

resources on college campuses, and coming together to achieve a common goal, this can be

become a reality in the state of Rhode Island.

Background
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Sexual assault is a major issue in today’s society, especially on college campuses.

Research says that one in every five women in college will be sexually assaulted, and that

doesn’t even included the cases that go unreported. In fact, three out of every four cases go

unreported, which is a staggering amount considering how many already are reported. This is a

huge problem, and the lack of education and how to prevent it are a big reasons why. Most

people don’t even know what defines sexual assault, or how to be an active bystander. This used

to be me, uneducated and blind to the pure facts. In order to combat this problem, everyone

needs to stand together, and work together to become advocates and raise awareness. We also

need to stand together when victims are brave enough to speak out of their experiences and

report the horrible crimes that were commited. Less than 1% of rapes lead to felony charges,

which leads to a lack of accountability and justice. Victims are even often seen as the ones who

could have prevented it, and are said to have been asking for it, or are believed to have been able

to do more to stop it. With this mindset, attackers will continue to feast on victims over, and

over, and over again. In fact, all rapes and sexual assaults are committed by just 10% of all men,

which speaks to the epidemic of repeat offenders who are not seeing justice. Sexual assault is a

major problem, and society must change its mindset, and focus on catching attackers, and

become active bystanders and advocates. If this happens, paired with increased education, and

difference can be made in helping stop sexual assault.

Methods
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When first thinking about how to further understand the issues surrounding sexual

assault, and how to prevent it, the director of the Women’s Center at URI, Penny Rosenthal, was

approached. Due to her work surrounding Sexual Assault on campus, a series of questions was

asked which included; What do you think the biggest issue is surrounding sexual assault on

college campuses? Here at URI? What resources do the Women’s Center provide sexual assault

victims? What programs are there here at URI that educate students on sexual assault? What are

your feelings on sexual assault, and the programs we have in place, here at URI? Do you feel a

sexual assault class or sexual assault program implemented within URI 101 would be beneficial?

Do you feel URI does enough to help and support sexual assault victims? What do you hope to

see done going forward regarding this topic? And more. Based on these important questions,

URI clearly does not have enough staff or resources to tackle the issue of sexual assault. In the

Women’s Center alone, there are only two staff members, one of which is a sexual assault

advocate, and the other being Ms. Rosenthal. For a campus of URI’s size, there should be at least

four advocated according to Ms.Rosenthal. Because of this, women seeking help may have to

wait up to a week before being able to talk to an advocate. This is just one of the major problems

surrounding sexual assault on URI, and worldwide. It was important to keep an open mind and

always incorporate the social change model(Appendix D) when asking these questions. By

understanding our citizenship and the responsibility that comes with it, working together towards

a common purpose, and staying committed, it made the interview and project much more

successful. As a result of meeting with Ms.Rosenthal, her insight was incorporated into the

project to better serve victims of sexual assault.

Results
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In addition to a lack of staff and resources, URI would would greatly benefit from

increased education and prevention. In order for this to happen, the purpose of this

project/proposal/study is to create a course at URI that would be on the topic of sexual assault.

This course would teach students what constitutes sexual assault as well as the different level of

severities, how to prevent it, how to be an active bystander, what to do if you have been sexually

assaulted or know someone who has, and how the legal process surrounding it works.

Ms.Rosenthal actually taught a course on sexual assault at the University of Iowa. Based on

Ms.Rosenthal’s recommendations, this course should be taught once a week for two hours and

forty five minutes. A class that met two or three times a week for a shorter period of time would

be much tougher because students wouldn’t benefit from the extra time to get engaged and ask

questions. This class should also be taught by one male, and one female in order to sustain

credibility among all students. In addition, the class would be extremely interactive rather than

lecture based, that way students feel comfortable and open. The education value of this class

would be eye-opening, and if it were to fulfill general education outcomes, students may feel

excited at the prospect of a class like this.

Discussion
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Being an advocate and a social change agent for any group takes time, effort, and hard

work, but everyone is capable of making change. This project incorporated the design

thinking(Appendix C) lense by coming from an empathetic point of view, properly defining roles

and objectives, takes into consideration all ideas, creates a prototype, and tests it going forward.

In order to advocate for a group, it is important to understand their feelings in order to act upon

them. From here, a plan of action is put into place to accomplish a specific goal, while assigning

roles in order to delegate responsibility and work towards a common purpose. Next, once

resources are gathered and findings are clear, a prototype can be created, and tested in order to

become successful. By using this design thinking lense, this project was successful in

understanding the issues regarding sexual assault, and implementing an idea to help combat it.

There were both strengths and shortcomings for this project, especially when it comes to

the shortcomings of this university. Some strengths included the findings/results of the project,

which are very clear, and present many opportunities to improve going forward. On the opposite

side, shortcomings, included very little staffing at URI, making it hard to properly connect with

the proper resources. Upon meeting with these resources, it was clear that there was a lot that

needs to be done. Sexual assault among college aged females is extremely relevant and all too

common in today's society, which is very unfortunate. Penny Rosenthal, Director of the

Women’s Center, relayed that URI has lots of room to improve when it comes to helping prevent

and educate students on sexual assault. Education is one of, if not the most important steps in

stopping sexual assault, and URI would greatly benefit from more of it. With change like this on

this campus, the process of preventing sexual assault on all college campuses can begin.

Appendix A

Contact Cards:
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Contact 1:

Name: Penny Rosenthal

Name of Organization: URI Women’s Center

Position in the Organization: Director

Appendix B

Interview Questions:

1. What do you think the biggest issue is surrounding sexual assault on college
campuses? Here at URI?
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2. Who do you feel is most at risk of sexual assault on college campuses? At URI?

3. What resources do the Women’s Center provide sexual assault victims?

4. What programs are there here at URI that educate students on sexual assault?

5. What are your feelings on sexual assault, and the programs we have in place, here at
URI?

6. Do you feel a sexual assault class or sexual assault program implemented within URI
101 would be beneficial?

7. Do you feel URI does an adequate job at preventing sexual assault?

8. Do you feel URI does enough to help and support sexual assault victims?

9. What do you hope to see done going forward regarding this topic?

Appendix C
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Appendix D
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References

Strengthening Sexual Assault Victims' Right to Privacy. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2018,

from https://www.ovc.gov/publications/infores/VictimsRightToPrivacy/pfv.html
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Patterson, D., & Tringali, B. (2015, July). Understanding How Advocates Can Affect Sexual

Assault Victim Engagement in the Criminal Justice Process. Retrieved September 15, 2018, from

https://uri-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-

explore/fulldisplay?vid=01URI&search_scope=Books_More&tab=default_tab&docid=TN_sage

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e&query=any,contains,How to advocate for sexual assault victims&sortby=rank&offset=0