Local advocates and victims weigh in on issue of sexual assault

Posted at 9:51 AM, May 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-13 10:28:34-04

In Central Texas, you've seen the trials for college athletes accused of sexual assault, and campus candlelight vigils for the victims of rape.

The problem is not new, but it's not getting any better. While many universities have developed programs to combat rape, they aren't working.

Alcohol is involved in 75 percent of all campus sexual assault cases. It affects the reasoning skills of both the attacker and the victim.

"Alcohol itself does not cause someone to then rape someone or take advantage of them. It does cause you to not be as in control of your surroundings if you are one of the ones taking in the alcohol,” Sophia Strother said, a survivor and advocate of sexual assault.

While statistics show that alcohol is a major factor in cases reported, experts and victims News Channel 25 spoke to said it's not the only variable.

For Pam, a victim of sexual assault, she wasn't drinking when her assault happened. She said it happened at 7 a.m. while she was at work. It took her a couple of years to come forward because she was afraid of victim blaming.

"I felt like I have zero case because I've heard news stories, it's never in the woman's favor. It's always a question of what you were wearing, why you were there in the first place, and I just didn't want to drag myself through that,” Pam said.

While Pam did come forward eventually, 90 percent of sexual assaults are never reported.

In a study conducted by researchers the University of North Dakota, nearly one in three college men admitted they might rape a woman if they knew no one would find out, and they wouldn't face any consequences.

"Sexual assault is not about sex, it's about power and control. So when we have a society that's seeped in this culture of violence, sexual assault is just a natural bi-product of that," Rose Luna, Deputy Director at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, said.

Universities are beginning to feel the heat. A former student is suing Baylor University, claiming that it didn't do enough to address her case. Similar lawsuits have been filed against other universities including Tennessee, Harvard and Kansas State.

But experts say it's going to take more than pressure on colleges to stop the college rape culture. It starts at home, where parents need to educate their children - both boys and girls - on the issue of sexual assault before they send them off to school.

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