Campus Rape: A WGEM News In-Depth Report - Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Campus Rape: A WGEM News In-Depth Report

Students walking on the WIU campus in Macomb. Students walking on the WIU campus in Macomb.
RAINN says only 20% of female student victims, age 18-24, report to law enforcement. RAINN says only 20% of female student victims, age 18-24, report to law enforcement.
Students attend the Take Back the Night event in Macomb. Students attend the Take Back the Night event in Macomb.
Student on the WIU campus in Macomb. Student on the WIU campus in Macomb.

Take Back the Night at Western Illinois University is an annual event where hundreds of students walk the streets fighting against sexual assault. 

Graduate student Candace Wilson helped organize this year's march. 

"It's everyone's responsibility to play an active role in trying to solve this problem because it's very serious and does affect a lot of people, especially on college campuses," Wilson said.

Wilson said she knows society's image of a rapist isn't a true representation.

"We think it's some scary person jumping out of the bushes," Wilson explained. "Sometimes it is like the Brock Turner, but most of the time it's someone you meet at a party or you went on a date with." 

A speaker at the event told the crowd about how she plans to live fearless, something the large crowd agreed with. Despite big turnouts for events like this, dealing with sexual assault still has a long way to go, if you ask Diane Mayfield.

"If we're talking about professionals on college campuses and in my line of work, it's taken seriously," Mayfield said. "If you're talking about the general public, I'd say no."

Mayfield works at the Western Illinois Regional Council. She works closely with WIU to help sexual assault victims.

There are some individuals who say well you'll never know what I've gone through. I just look at them and say 'yes I do.'

She knows because Mayfield herself is a survivor of sexual assault. She explained it happened in her early 20s by a close friend.

"I didn't tell anybody," Mayfield said.

That's not uncommon according to Scott Harris, Director of Public Safety at Western Illinois University. WIU stats show seven sexual assault cases on campus in 2015 and as well as in 2014.

Harris knows those stats don't show the real story.

"For somebody to say we only had x amount last year, no you're wrong," Harris said. "You had more than that. You just had x amount that was reported to you."

Mayfield adds falling victim to the crime could be something many college students share, but don't want to discuss.

"Most of those individuals who choose to sexually violate another person don't do it with just one person," Mayfield explained. "They are serial rapists."

A 2014 U.S. Senate survey found that 40 percent of colleges didn't investigate a single sexual assault case. That's why Illinois lawmakers passed a campus rape law starting this school year. It requires responses from colleges within 12 hours of a filed complaint and training for police officers on how to respond to these traumatic events.

We can always do more. We can always do better.

Also part of the new state law, colleges are required to have confidential advisers for students to speak with off campus. WIU partnered with Mayfield's agency to make that happen.

"We know who they could go to that's going to get things taken care of rather than them kind of stumbling around," Mayfield explained. 

Harris hopes the public discussions on sexual assault will get students, both male and female, to report those acts and get help.

"I would ask them to not suffer in silence," Harris said. "Reach out to someone whether it's on campus or off campus., to get those resources you may need."

Mayfield knows the scars this crime can leave, but also knows there's life after it.

"You can move from being a victim to a survivor and, like I've said, a thriver," Mayfield added.

Quincy University Director of Safety and Security Sam Lathrop released the following statement on efforts to prevent sexual assault at QU:

Quincy University takes quite seriously it's responsibility to maintain a safe environment for students, staff, and faculty. This includes a robust educational approach to sexual assault prevention and the University's duties under Title IX requirements.

While our statistics in these areas over the past several years are nearly non-existent, this only strengthens our resolve to continue our peaceful and safe environment. We stand ready with significant resources to investigate and intervene on behalf of any victim of sexual assault on campus.

Candace Wilson, a graduate student at WIU, notes that conversations usually center around what the woman can do to stay safe, like walking in pairs at night, but feels it shouldn't be the only problem discussed.

"It is personal responsibility to keep yourself safe as well, but I think an even more important question to ask is why is this happening," she said. "We're teaching women how can you stay safe versus teaching perpetrators how can you not rape or sexually assault someone."

You can find more statistics and other information on sexual assault at The National Sexual Assault Hotline number is 800-656-HOPE.

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