Healthful Hints: Sexual Misconduct: An informative response to the recent Safety Alert on campus

Posted by Zoe Silver

We were all a little alarmed earlier this week when we received a notification that there had been an acquaintance rape on the Skidmore campus. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, but we do not hear about it very often, because victims tend not to report incidents. This week, I'd like to provide my readers with some information on what to do if they are involved in an incident involving sexual miconduct and some steps they can take to protect themselves.

Although it is reasonable to fear incidents such as rape or other incidents of sexual misconduct, do not let this fear get in the way of having a good time. Take the necessary steps to stay safe.

These steps include awareness; you are probably a good judge of character, so trust your instincts and avoid people and situations where you feel uncomfortable. Before you go out, make a plan with your friends so that they know where you are and whom you are with. Maybe set up a few check-points throughout the night where you will promise to contact one another, or at least make it a point to stay in touch by sending a text every couple of hours. Try not to venture out alone. Take a buddy, preferably two, with you to parties or wherever you are going. This way, if one of your friends decides to go elsewhere, you will not be alone.

If all of your precautions fail and you are involved in an incident, there are many resources on and off campus equipped to help you. First, go to a safe place, and ask a trusted support person to stay with you. Know that it wasn't your fault, and that you should now do what is best for you. Also realize that if you had an erection, if you ejaculated or had an orgasm, it does not mean that you gave consent or desired it: these are natural responses to sexual stimulation.

Consider reporting the incident to campus safety. They can preserve the evidence, making a record of the event incase you decide to sue. Campus safety can also find you immediate medical attention which could help reduce any physical harm to your body. If you are having evidence collected, do not shower until you have done so. Campus safety will probably take you to Saratoga Hospital for this process. The more these incidents are reported, the more aware the entire campus will be and the likelihood of them occurring should decrease.

Also consider going to the counseling center, which is a wonderful resource on campus to talk about the incident and work through any emotions you are experiencing as a result. You can also talk to your Peer Health Educator (PHE), Resident Assistant (RA), a trusted Professor, or someone off-campus. A PHE is required to report the incident to campus safety but will do so anonymously (just for statistical reasons). Your RA is required to give names by contract. The counseling center is completely confidential and is not required to report to campus safety.

You can also call 1-800-799-SAFE (the National Domestic Violence Hotline), visit Saratoga Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services in Saratoga or a number of other off-campus resources. If you are worried that you might have contracted an STI and/or, for effected women, gotten pregnant, Health Services at Skidmore provides pregnancy tests and a wide variety of STI tests. The staff there is very friendly and will make you feel as comfortable as possible during the testing, so do not be embarrassed.

I recognize that this topic is difficult to think and talk about, but given recent events, it is clearly an important one. Until next time: stay safe, remain alert, and continue to enjoy your college experience!

Learn more ways to stay healthy in Zoe Silver's bi-weekly column Healthful Hints. 

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