The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Tuesday, Sept. 29, 1:12 p.m.

UM sex assaults underreported

“He pulled both mattresses onto the floor, ripped my clothes off and just had his way with me.”

This is the way an anonymous source described a sexual assault that took place on the University of Maine campus in October 2009. Unfortunately, all college students are vulnerable to potentially dangerous situations, often encountered in unexpected places. Many rape victims are attacked by someone they know and trust.

When Carey Nason, director of the University of Maine’s Safe Campus Project, was asked how many victims are assaulted on campus, she said, “It varies. We work with about 100 referrals a year.”

However, according to the 2009 Clery Safety and Security Report, there were only two forced sex offenses last year on the UMaine campus.

Sergeant Deborah Mitchell of the UMaine Police Department estimates “there are at least two sexual assaults on campus on a weekly basis.”

Mitchell said although the number of sexual assaults reported are correctly represented, the number of incidents that go unreported are far greater.

All universities are required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1998, commonly referred to as the Clery Act, to have all crime statistics posted on their official site in order to keep the public safety-conscious. The Clery Act was enacted in memory of Jeanne Clery, who was sexually assaulted and murdered in her Lehigh University dorm room in 1986.

Although the number of forced and nonforced sexual offenses has declined over the last three years, this is still an issue that seems to be overlooked.

Director of University Relations Joe Carr said the Clery reports listed on the official UMaine website are the most comprehensive reports of such incidents. Director of Student Affairs David Fiacco also explained, “The variation in the numbers is generally a result of being reported to a campus security authority for statistical purposes, but may not have been referred for campus disciplinary action.”

Mitchell, who responds to many of these incidents, is not satisfied with the numbers that are represented.

After speaking with a victim of a tragedy such as this, the statistics, research, reasoning and excuses amount to nothing.

“I gave him directions to campus, what dorm I was in, my room number — he came later that day. Unexpected,” the source said.

When her attacker was done, he proceeded to fall asleep holding her in his arms with such force that she could not move.

“I was too scared to get up and leave. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t know what to do. So I just stayed there. And he just held onto me all night,” she said.

Her attacker let himself out in the early hours of the next morning. Completely out of character, she kept distant from any social contact. She had no idea where to begin and wondered if this was her fault.

She said that as the day went on, she was forced to face the horror she had experienced the night before without knowing there was only more emotional pain to come.

“I just said to [my friends], last night was not mutual. I will never forget that exact statement,” she said.

Her first step to recovery was heading to Cutler Health Center in hopes of recovering any evidence by the use of a rape kit, but the university health facility did not have one on hand. Due to the lack of equipment and resources on campus, the victim was forced even further out of her comfort zone to be tested at Eastern Maine Medical Center.

“Getting probed and prodded, in much the same way as the night before, by someone else that you don’t know, it was horrifying,” she said.

After deeming herself strong enough to face the battle by taking the initial steps of getting medical attention, the emotional struggle set in. Many survivors never come forward, but for those who do, it is only the beginning of a long recovery.

“I didn’t fight back,” she said.

One of the most common reasons many survivors keep their attack private is guilt. Due to the fear instilled in many survivors because of embarrassment, retaliation, lost control, becoming publicly known and facing the reality of the situation, many incidents are never reported.

She truly started healing with the continued support of her friends and family.

“I can’t blame myself for his actions, but I can blame myself for giving him the opportunity,” she said. “But, there is no point in that either.

“You have got to stay strong,” she said, “or there won’t be anything left.”

The malicious details of this survivor’s story are real, and it happens more often than it seems. The Clery report statistics may seem satisfying, but the real issue at hand is the number of both forcible and nonforcible sexual assaults that go unreported on our campus. It takes an incredibly strong individual to transform one’s self from a victim to a survivor.

If you or anyone you know is in need of help, contact Carey Nason at the Women’s Resource Center at 581-1501.

UMaine offers a free women’s self defense program that starts in October. In order to get involved with this program, visit the UMPD website and sign up for Rape Aggression Defense.

For more information concerning this issue, please contact the UMPD at 581-4040.