Incoming freshmen are not only potential targets of sex crimes, but are inclined to be bystanders of it as well.
According to a 2015 winter report by Everfi, an education technology company based in Washington, D.C., after two months at college, students are less likely to intervene in sexual assault.
During the 2014-2015 academic year, the executive director of research for Everfi, Dan Zapp, and the Everfi team surveyed more than 280,000 students, once before college and again four to six weeks into the school year, according to the report.
“In general, we see agreement with healthy attitudes and behaviors tend to drop in a lot of students after they’ve gone on campus,” Zapp said in a statement.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as undergraduate students learn to navigate the college community, more than 80 percent of them will experiment with alcohol or a substance, which is often a tool of abuse for sexual predators.
“For many students, it’s the first time they’re experimenting with alcohol,” Zapp said. “They’re introducing themselves to new social scenes, and they’re not sure who they can trust.”
As heavy alcohol consumption continues to obscure on-campus sex crimes, researchers at Everfi found that 81 percent of the surveyed students believed a bystander would step in and stop sexual assault or relationship violence. After two months of college, a meager 55 percent of students held that same opinion.
Though incoming students are marginalized by the acts of sexual predators, Associate Dean of Students and Oswego State Title IX Coordinator Lisa Evaneski has incorporated the bystander prevention training programs, “Step Up!” and “It’sOnUs,” which help students to become proactive in serving others. Recently, Evaneski was involved in a SUNY-wide committee to enable systemic change on sexual assault policies.
“Bystander intervention is really important in preventing sexual violence,” Evaneski said. ”Often friends can intervene if they see someone going home with someone that might be intoxicated and step in to prevent that.”
Health Promotion Coordinator of the Lifestyles Center Michelle Sloan explained that the sexual assault prevention program “Step Up!” will help students engage in pro-social behaviors. Sloan added that bystanders have the ability to defend victims who would otherwise be taken advantage of.
“They can stop it from happening,” Sloan said. “Students should be empowered [by] bystanders to intervene on a variety of issues by standing up and speaking out. Just one caring person can make a huge difference—sometimes even save a life.”
While the bystander training initiative is beneficial to Oswego state students, junior and president of the Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority, Magnolia Almonte, explained that a lack of an intervention is often due to the legal obligations tied to the sex crime.
“Some people don’t want to deal with the hassle,” Almonte said.”If you do intervene in sexual assault then you have to be there for the court case. You have to put effort into support someone. People might not want to say anything because of that.”
John Dec, a junior at Oswego State said incoming students are objectified by acts of sexual violence because they are vulnerable and cease to have the familial support needed to protect themselves.
“Mom and dad aren’t there for them anymore,” Dec said. “They have to fend for themselves. They are all by themselves, and they are with strangers that they don’t know.”
Freshman and meteorology major Jacquelyn Drury explained that a social gathering last semester quickly became uncomfortable when her friend, who was lightly drinking at the time, was persistently harassed by a male student. As a proactive bystander in this situation, Drury defended her friend.
“I definitely didn’t appreciate it as a bystander, I can’t even imagine how she was feeling,” Drury said. ”I feel it’s really obnoxious that we had to intervene two to three times before he would actually listen. He wouldn’t even listen to her.”