Alex, a University of Memphis student who asked to only be identified by her first name, was having a normal New Year’s Eve where she was enjoying the last night of 2012. It was her sophomore year in college, she was with her friends, and she was at a fraternity party where knew most of the members.
Around 9 p.m., a guy she was sitting near leaned over and said, “Do you want some drugs?”
She knew the guy’s name from a conversation the two were having, but that was about all she knew about him. She told him that she didn’t want his drugs and continued to drink her drink.
“People kept coming up to me afterwards and telling me how crazy I was that night,” Alex said. “I only had one drink, but I don’t remember anything that they were saying. They told me I was kissing all over them and leaving lipstick marks on their cheeks, but I don’t even remember having lipstick on.”
While she may not ever know what happened that night or who did it to her, she knows that someone put something in her drink by the one memory she can recall.
“Someone had me pinned up against a wall trying to kiss me,” she said. “But the worst thing about it was that people would walk in, see us, and walk right back out.”
One in five college-aged women will be sexually assaulted during their collegiate years, according to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
The same poll found that while the majority of students tell someone the situation occurred, only around 12 percent of the students questioned told campus officials or an authority figure about the assault. According to research by the United States Department of Justice, for every sexual assault case that is reported, around 20 percent or more go without ever being reported.
“We regularly have more people see therapists for assault than report to police,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Rosie Bingham during a panel after a campus screening of The Hunting Ground.
On the University of Memphis campus, the counseling center in Wilder Tower offers support in the form of individual therapy to deal with the trauma and can be a support through the process if someone decides to report the case. If there is an incident on campus, the center will send out a therapist to the scene if the victim so chooses.
Sexual assault is a traumatic event that the body processes as trauma and perceives as a life or death issue, according to Dr. Lisa Winborn, a staff psychologist at the counseling center. For those reasons, she says it is important for victims of sexual assault to receive help.
Winborn says the combination of students being away from home for first time, being able to drink without limitations for the first time and wanting to be accepted and it fit into a new crowd make sexual assaults so prevalent on college campuses.
Alex, who fights to forget certain aspects from that night, didn’t report her incident because she felt as though she didn’t have enough proof that something happened.
“There aren’t many people who know what happened to me,” she said. “I haven’t even told my parents because I don’t want them to think less of me.”
Thoughts like these are common among college aged sexual assault victims as reported in a 2014 Time magazine online article. In addition to not being believed and not wanting others to know about the incident, many victims do not report their assaults because their universities discourage them from doing so.