AUSTIN (KXAN) — There are 40,000 undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin. Of those, 20,681 are women.
University and government studies find that 1 in 5 students will be assaulted sometime during their college careers, and nationwide, 82 percent of all sexual assaults go unreported.
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, TAASA, works with about 80 rape crisis centers across the state. They cite numerous reports indicating that underclass women, particularly freshmen, are most vulnerable.
“New students may not have much experience with boisterous party environments, dealing with alcohol or other substances,” TAASA attorney Christopher Kaiser explained. “They might not have experience negotiating a party situation where there is pressure to get involved romantically or sexually, and predators know this.”
UT’s Counseling and Mental Center offers confidential counseling 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They will lay out your options for you but do not force victims to call the police.
“Survivors have had enough control taken away from them,” said association director Dr. Jane Morgan Bost. “The last thing they need is someone telling them what they should be doing. We want them to know we are there for them.”
Since 2001, UT has offered a proactive program called Voices Against Violence. Including a freshman orientation, students are warned about the signs of a predator, the rules of “saying no” and how to avoid violence in relationships. A Bystander Intervention program also encourages anyone who sees, hears, or senses something amiss to get involved.
Students KXAN spoke with said they would report an assault but believe others do not because of fear for their own reputation, fear of retribution and worry that nothing will come of it.
“People are just scared,” one student said. “They don’t want to rat someone out.”
Police say they encourage that call, but that ultimately it is a very personal decision for each student to make.