Victims of assault are never to blame

Published 11:11 pm Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Most students arrive at college with an abundance of excitement. For the first time, they’re out from underneath their parents’ watchful eye. Curfews and questions are replaced with late nights and exploration.

Most parents drop their children off at college with an abundance of dread. They can no longer make it their top goal each day to ensure their child’s safety. Monitoring social activities and lying in bed waiting for their child to return safely home are replaced with anxiety and a hopeful concern.

Stories in recent weeks about sexual assaults involving students at the University of Alabama serve as stark reminders to both students and parents. For the students, it is a reminder that the world can be cruel and admonishments for precautions are not to be dismissed. For the parents, it is an unwelcome reminder that those sermons on safety are warranted and that even with them, nightmares can come true.

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In mid-November, an 18-year-old female student told police she had been raped while unconscious after a night of drinking with a 19-year-old male student.

Hours after the end of the Iron Bowl game, shortly before 2 a.m., a 19-year-old female student was raped at gunpoint after walking home alone from the University Strip to her nearby apartment on Convent Street. Police are searching for the man who attacked her.

Both cases are horrific. And, unfortunately, these young women and their families are not alone in their struggle to overcome the crimes against them. So far this year, 105 sexual assaults have been reported in Tuscaloosa, with 27 of them reported by UA students. Last year, there were 135 reports, with 45 reported by UA students. And those numbers include only those assaults that were reported to police. There is no way to measure how many other victims didn’t come forward.

Some may question the judgment of a victim leading up to an attack, but we’d like to remind them that a victim is never the cause of a sexual assault. Drinking, walking alone, manner of dress, none of that is ever the cause of a rape. A rapist, and nothing else, is always to blame for a rape. It is a crime that can never be excused.

That said, there are some things people can do to lessen the chance of this happening. First off, all young men need to know there are boundaries and no always means no, and a heavily intoxicated person most often can’t give consent.

Young women aren’t the only ones who need to be mindful not to put themselves in a compromising position. False claims, unfortunately, do happen sometimes.

Situational awareness is important. Students shouldn’t walk alone. Doors should be locked. Drinking to excess isn’t a good idea. Alcohol even in moderate amounts can cloud judgment and make you easier prey for a predator.

But, even with all the precautions taken, always remember there are people amongst us capable of horrible things.

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