Sexual assault awareness during April

The Aurora Center stated that one in five women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

When Tory Bowen went to the University of Nebraska, she was more afraid of a cattle stampede than rape, she said. But the crime found her.

Since then she has spoken on college campuses nationwide to spread awareness about the frequency of sexual assault and put a face to the group of mostly unidentified victims.

April is sexual assault awareness month. The University’s Aurora Center will host events throughout April to increase awareness of the staggering statistics associated with the underreported crime that carries a powerful stigma.

From 2004 to 2006, the University reported more on-campus sexual assaults than all but four Big Ten universities, according to Clery Act data.

The Clery Act is a federal law requiring all universities that participate in federal student aid programs to collect and report crime statistics every year. It is named after Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University residence hall in 1986.

During the three-year period, the University had 34 reported sexual assaults. Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin were the only universities with more reported assaults.

However, Clery Act data doesn’t provide a complete representation of sexual assaults on campuses because only reported crimes are recorded and not all universities keep proper records, Roberta Gibbons, associate director of the Aurora Center, said.

Sexual assaults are often unreported. Around 66 percent of victims don’t report sexual assaults, according to a Boynton Health Services 2007 Personal Safety and Financial Health survey.

Thirty-seven percent of post-secondary institutions don’t report all data in the manner required by the Clery Act, according to a report by the National Institute of Justice.

At Minnesota colleges and universities, about one in five women will encounter sexual assault during their lives, according to Boynton’s survey.

The same survey reported that about five percent of students experienced sexual assault in the past 12 months.

Nine out of 10 victims know their attacker, according to a different National Institute of Justice report.

“One of the big fallacies is that a lot of people think rape is an issue that is done with knife in hand, in the bushes, with the guys wearing ski mask,” Bowen said.

Faces behind statistics

The Aurora Center’s Clothesline Project on April 16 and 23 hopes to personify and tell the story behind sexual assaults, event coordinator Kelly Wysong, a psychology and family social sciences junior, said.

The project will present about 15 student-made T-shirts in Coffman Union, with each representing the story behind a victim of sexual assault.

“It’s a kind of visual of people’s stories,” Wysong said. “Just for being able to walk around and see the different representations of people’s lives and the things that have happened to them and how it’s affected them.”

In recent years the project featured hundreds of T-shirts hanging in the Great Hall of Coffman Union. This year, the event will move to a table and present about 15 shirts, Wysong said.

Bowen said personifying and spreading awareness about the frequency of sexual assault can help diminish the stigma associated with the crime.

“For people to be so silent about it, and with so many people being impacted, we need to start shouting about it and not just talking about,” she said.

Bowen said it is difficult for people to relate and realize the magnitude of sexual assaults when names are never released, adding it’s important to realize sexual assault can happen to anyone.

“Nothing merited what happened to me,” Bowen said.