Story by Madeline Meyer
Photo by Jeremy Leong
By the time you are finished reading this article, one person in the United States will be sexually assaulted. Every two minutes, a sexual assault occurs within the United States according to RAINN.org. While many deem the topic taboo, sexual assault is a common reality that Drake University students may not be completely aware of.
One of the most important things to know is that there is somewhere to go to for help. First-year Claire Steinbronn alluded to the problem of not having visibility or resources of knowing exactly where to begin if needing to report a sexual crime.
“I feel like I wouldn’t really know who to go to, I know you would go to a higher authority, I don’t really know of a specific person,” Steinbronn said. “I think maybe Student Senate or student-led areas could pair up and do things with them (sexual assault programs) so people know that Drake has those resources if people ever need them.”
Alysa Mozak, the coordinator for sexual violence response and healthy relationship promotion, is working with students to help make this reality widespread throughout campus. Mozak’s office is located in the lower level of Olmsted Center. Mozak came to Drake in September 2011 and has continued improve student awareness on sexual violence throughout campus.
“(Sexual assault) is such a silenced crime, and letting people talk about something and helping one to understand such an abstract topic is important,” Mozak said.
Mozak has reached out to student organizations such as the Student Activists for Gender Equality (SAGE), and fraternities and sororities on campus in order to raise awareness about the topic. Mozak’s goal is to reach not one group on campus, but to have a universal program that pertains to everyone, just as the threat of sexual assault is not limited to any demographic.
“(Sexual assault) is something that affects someone so intra-personally and intimately and is something that our society doesn’t shed light on a daily basis,” Mozak said. “We are such a hyper-sexualized society so I think that places a lot of influence as to why people don’t identify with (sexual assault).”
Mozak cites the “hookup culture” as blurring the lines between what is considered sexual assault and what isn’t. Junior Stacy Christensen is a member of SAGE and is an advocate for raising sexual assault awareness on campus alongside Alysa Mozak.
“Drake has a very unique ‘hook up culture’ because it is a relatively small college. However, this may cause even less awareness of sexual assault,” Christensen said in an email. “It is not easy for any individual to talk about sexual assault, but sadly it is embedded in our culture, especially at colleges with date rape and harassment.”
In Iowa, consenting to sexual activity while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is considered illegal. If a person is uncomfortable with his or her sexual decisions while intoxicated, they have the ability to press charges or report the incident.
In addition to raising awareness about the definition and true threat of sexual assault on campus, Mozak is determined to change the perspective on teaching about sexual assault. Instead of focusing on risk reduction, Mozak strives to focus on risk prevention.
Junior David Heineman is a sexual assault defense instructor on campus who has five years of experience in educating both men and women about defense and prevention techniques in response to sexual assault and rape. Heineman uses his 15 years of martial arts expertise to give people more confidence in dealing with such incidents.
“One thing to emphasize is that it’s never the victim’s fault. You can be intoxicated or drugged, but that doesn’t matter,” Heineman said. “It’s not your fault because you are never asking to be raped or assaulted. Consent is consent.”
Heineman said there are many different ways to help prevent sexual assault or rape. Heineman recommends appearing alert and carrying something in your hand that can be used as a weapon such as a purse or phone when walking alone. Attackers usually look for unconfident, downtrodden, emotional victims who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings.
“I mean there are a lot of myths what you wear has nothing to do with who you are targeted by,” Heineman said. “To an extent, people think if you are dressing trashy or the more exposed your body is the more you are going to be are targeted and that’s not necessarily true. The attackers actually look for loose clothing and clothing that will be easy to take off.”
Random assaults are rarely reported on Drake’s campus, but they have taken place. Two assaults happened Heineman’s first year which sparked his interest in starting a defense program here. Heineman offers defense courses through SAGE, yet recognizes that often times fear might make one person completely incapable of remembering any self-defense techniques.
“As hard as it may seem try and remain calm which is really difficult,” said Heineman. “It’s hard to tell you what to be prepared for.”