Campus is no stranger to sexual assaults

Campus is no stranger to sexual assaults

12 such offenses reported in 2012

URBANA — College age is a vulnerable age for rape, and local numbers show how much.

"Fifteen percent of our clients and crisis contacts identify as college age," said Stephanie Ames, an advocate for Rape Advocacy, Counseling & Education Services, the community-based rape crisis center that serves Champaign, Douglas, Ford and Piatt counties. "That's the latest information I have from last year."

Nationally, one in five women have been sexually assaulted at college, says a new White House report, "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action."

With the report, President Barack Obama is launching an initiative that will include a task force with 90 days to come up with recommendations to fight sexual assaults on college campuses.

There were 35 forcible sex offenses in a University of Illinois police annual report for 2010-2012.

A dozen of those offenses took place in 2012 — 10 of them on campus and eight in residence facilities, the report says. UI Police Lt. Tony Brown said the numbers may not include incidents that took place in Campustown or in privately owned campus-area apartments.

Ames said her organization, which also runs a 24-hour rape crisis hotline, works with groups on campus to offer outreach, education and support.

Having the White House acknowledge that sexual assault on campuses is a problem and that it will be involved in the fight is a great step in the right direction, she said.

"I guess we'll see what it means, but I hope it will be something positive," Ames adds.

Molly McLay, assistant director of the UI Women's Resources Center, is also encouraged.

The UI has a lot of units working on reducing the risk of sexual assault, she said — among them a mandatory campus rape education workshop for first-year and transfer students — but, "I feel this initiative will just bolster the program even more."

Both she and Ames say alcohol is a large factor in sexual assaults on campuses.

McLay said alcohol is a factor in 75 percent of assaults occurring on college campuses, and Ames says it's the No. 1 weapon used in date rape.

Some tips Ames offers to reduce sexual assault risk or help others reduce risk:

— If you are concerned about a friend who has consumed alcohol being at risk, don't be afraid to step in, say "don't be afraid, let's talk" or offer her a place to stay.

— Trust your gut. If you are uncomfortable in a situation, don't be afraid to say no or voice your concern.

— Consider taking a class in self-defense. The UI Department of Public Safety offers R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) classes for women, men and children.