Eyes wide open

On Sept. 16, with a gun tucked into his waistband, an unidentified male allegedly approached a woman’s car stopped at a red light.

After ordering her to drive to a parking lot on South College Street she was allegedly forced into the back seat and sexually assaulted.

“I didn’t think it could happen to me,” is what many victims of sexual assault tell Julie Broadwell, Program Manager of Victims Services at Wood County Behavioral Connections.

Ten sexual offenses were reported on campus in 2006, according to Jim Weigand, chief of campus police.

“I think if there was more recognition of how prevalent the crime is, it might help reduce it,” Broadwell said.

With University programs dedicated to sexual assault education, including Sexual Assault Information Network and Men Educating Men on the Prevention of Sexual Assault, awareness is possible.

University senior Nikolette Barnes, a peer educator for SAIN, said she believes breaking down society’s sex roles can help work toward prevention.

“A lot of times, sexual assault is a reflection of people feeling like they don’t fit into these roles,” Barnes said.

Mary Krueger, director of the Women’s Center, believes education does a lot but still does not prevent sexual assault.

“When I talk to women I talk about rape awareness, but only men can prevent rape,” Krueger said.

With prevention out of victims’ hands, it’s important to take the steps that may lead to safety.

“In terms of risk-reduction for potential victims, I think the primary thing is to be aware of how often it occurs and be aware of risky situations,” Broadwell said.

Lt. Tony Hetrick of the Bowling Green Police Division advises students to avoid walking the streets alone at night and to stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

“No one is going to criticize someone for asking for assistance when they don’t feel comfortable,” Hetrick said.

Since the most prevalent offenders of sexual assault are acquaintances of the victims, Hetrick stresses the terrible catalyst alcohol can be in these situations. He believes avoiding drinking excessively can help prevent uncomfortable circumstances.

Weigand suggests walking quickly and with confidence, using highly-traveled routes. Whenever possible, he said use the campus shuttle or escort service.

But Bowling Green and Wood County offer many options for those who cannot avoid a predator.

The Wood County Sexual Assault Protocol is also available to victims.

“The idea is we want victims to get the same information, the same services, no matter who they call,” Krueger said. “Wherever you want to enter the system, you can do it.”

According to Broadwell, the Victims Center offers a 24/7 advocacy service. If a victim calls day or night, an advocate will be there for emotional support and to help sort out the options available.

“Your physical and mental well-being needs to be attended to first,” Hetrick said.