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RIT takes new approach to protect women on campus

Posted at: 03/19/2013 6:02 PM
Updated at: 03/19/2013 8:33 PM

A student attacked on a local college campus and experts say they're taking a new approach to protect women on campuses.

Police say they are still searching for the suspect in this case.  Investigators also say the young woman was sexually assaulted during a party on campus Friday.

News10NBC found out one in every four female students are sexually assaulted during their college years. Experts say more than 90% of those victims never report the crime.

That's why advocates say they're taking a different approach. They say stop asking what victims and potential victims can do to protect themselves. Start asking, why did the perpetrators do it in the first place?

The sheriff's office says the sexual assault happened at a party inside an on-campus apartment at RIT. The university says it was reported the next day. And statistically, that is unusual.

Darci Lane-Williams, Director of the Center for Women and Gender at RIT, said, “We've created a victim blaming environment.”

Darci Lane-Williams is the Director of the Center for Women and Gender at RIT. She's the one who told us about the statistics. One in four college women assaulted. Only one in 10 are reported.

Lane-Williams said, “That's why victims don’t' report. They think, 'What didn't I do?' It is so easy for a victim to say, 'I shouldn't have gone to that party, I shouldn't have been drinking, I should have known this person would do this to me.' And then they're not going to report because they're thinking, 'I played a part in this happening to me.'”

Instead, Lane-Williams says the questions, the focus should be on the attacker. What did they do?

When the university learned about the assault, it sent an email to every student telling them about the reported assault and the investigation.

Lydia Billings, RIT senior, said, “I was actually relieved, a little happy to read it. In the past, I don't remember getting emails from RIT about sexually assault or rape and I'm excited that the message center is including such issues because I think it's important for the students and faculty to know about it.”

The university's Center for Women and Gender says victims are more likely to come forward if they know they're not going to get blamed and get questions like , 'What were you doing? Or Were you drunk or high?'”

Experts say most sexual assaults on college campuses are by committed by individuals known to the victim, not by strangers.

What can you do to prevent something from happening to you? Walk in well lit areas, use the buddy system going to and from events like parties and if you see a problem developing with one of your friends, say something.