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September 29, 2023

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BG24 Newscast
September 29, 2023

Sexual assaults occur most from person victim knows, inside home

One night at a party in college, Becky Tirabassi woke up from a blackout screaming.

She had been drinking all night and was now being sexually assaulted by a group of men.

“I woke up and screamed for my friends,” Tirabassi said.

It was 1974 and Tirabassi was a University student. She frequently drank to the point of blackout.

Luckily, Tirabassi’s friends came to her rescue, but for one in four other college women, sexual assault in college is a reality.

There may be a lot of pressures around sexual behavior in college and it’s a place where there is a high concentration of people in one age group, said Mary Krueger, director of the University Women’s Center.

But these aren’t excuses for why rape and sexual assault happen more often in college, she said.

“You can choose not to do this,” Krueger said. “You are people with free will and we can decide what we do and don’t do.”

The majority of the time, sexual assaults are committed by men and are against people the perpetrator knows.

Tirabassi’s sexual assault was at a party by acquaintances, but sexual assault and rape can also happen in romantic relationships.

“There’s absolutely no circumstance that should happen with an acquaintance or a boyfriend or girlfriend,” said Ashley, a public relations supervisor at the SAAFE Center, Wood County’s rape crisis center. “Consent is the largest problem when rape happens; people don’t know how to give it or receive it.”

Consent has to be sober, verbal, prompt, unthreatened and consistent for each sexual act, said Faith Yingling, director of Wellness.

“Understanding all of those things and putting them all together, that’s sometimes a hard thing to do,” she said. “I think that more and more I’m seeing a misunderstanding among women as well.”

In roughly 50 percent of rape or sexual assault situations Ashley has seen, there was alcohol involved, she said.

This may be because, as Krueger said, “alcohol is its own ‘date rape drug.’”

“It’s most often used when the victim has ingested that on her own by choice,” Krueger said. “Rapists don’t need to use a date rape drug; she’s drugged herself.”

Even if he or she is intoxicated, it’s not the victim’s fault.

“Intoxication makes you vulnerable, but the people around you could choose not to exploit your vulnerability,” Krueger said. “Rape doesn’t happen because you’re vulnerable; rape happens only if people exploit your vulnerability.”

This past year, there were nine forcible sex offenses on campus, according to the campus crime report.

College students may not report because of the “shame and guilt they feel,” Yingling said. If they were drinking, they may “think it’s their fault.”

They may ask “what were they doing wrong? Why did they put themselves in that position?” Yingling said.

Yingling advises people to be aware of their drinks when going out. She said to know what’s in the drink and don’t set it down anywhere.

It’s also wise to have a plan before going out, she said.

As rape isn’t a crime that is often done by strangers, Krueger said “the most common place rape occurs is the home of the victim.”

“It most often happens in a home you’ve chosen to be in with a person you’ve chosen to be with,” she said. “It’s not [usually] the creep in the bushes.”

The least-reported rapes are committed by people the victim knows, Krueger said.

“It’s harder for that victim to [report someone they care about],” she said.

Yingling said she thinks it’s easier for the perpetrator to commit a rape if they know the victim.

“It’s much harder for someone off the street to just grab you … than when someone feels like they can trust you,” she said. “Sexual assault is really about power and control.”

One myth about rape is that there are many rapists, when, in reality, there aren’t that many, Krueger said.

There are “repeat offenders,” Krueger said, who do it “because they can, because they want to, because they feel like they’re entitled to.”

“It’s the ‘I’m going to get laid no matter what’ mentality,” she said.

Though there are campaigns and organizations in the world to help women “prevent” rape, Krueger said rape may be something only men can stop.

Men who assault women don’t “care what women think, but they’re deeply invested in what other men think,” Krueger said.

“The silent majority of non-rapist men are not using the power over peers they could,” she said. “There are a lot of silent men out there who know their friends are doing this and don’t challenge them because it would violate the ‘bro code.’”

Tirabassi’s friends prevented her sexual assault from going farther, but that doesn’t always happen.

The day after her sexual assault happened, Tirabassi left the University and didn’t come back until she re-enrolled in the University in online classes in 2005 and graduated in 2009. Tirabassi is an author and speaker in California. For 30 years, she’s spoken about her experiences and given advice to students and others.

“Just get to a counselor on your campus, don’t be afraid to tell your story and get help,” she said.

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