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Sexual assault cases in colleges on the rise

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Rape is rife in India/File
Rape is rife in India/File

This is probably a heavy subject, something we rarely discuss in our society but with the rising cases of sexual abuse and assault across Kenya and indeed the globe, it is an issue that cannot be ignored anymore. According to a report by the UN, 250,000 cases of rape are reported to the police every year in 65 countries. Human rights organizations are in agreement that the actual cases of rape – excluding sexual harassment – are at least 3 times higher than reported cases.

While most victims are either too afraid to report the cases or the complaints are ignored by relevant authorities. Female college students are particularly vulnerable mainly because of the environment in campus. In the US, a study by Crisis Connection revealed that rape in campuses happens every 21 hour in American colleges.

Although reliable stats are hard to come by for Kenyan colleges, a report by Heraf – an NGO – reveals there were 3,200 reported cases of rape in 2010, up from 2,800 from in 2009. Again, most cases go unreported.

But a few brave students come forward and report incidences of sexual assault. Gladys Adhiambo caused a stir at the University of Nairobi when she accused David Osano, a student in the same institution, of raping her.

The case is still in court but the incident emboldened six female student leaders to rally behind her plight, and that of many other students caught up in the vicious cycle. Through #Justice4Gladys on Twitter, Glady’s case became widely publicized and spurred a debate on whether authorities are doing enough to curtail rape in colleges.

This crime has become prevalent in schools and universities as young people within the society may not necessarily be well educated when it comes to sex. It has also significantly risen because of the pervasion prevalent on mass media which may unconsciously affect the psyche of young individuals in regards to their sexual expectations.

Sexual assault and harassment goes beyond our borders. It’s a raging debate in the US, Asia and Europe, with education specialists having to discuss and redefine ‘sexual harassment’. A report released last week at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed a sixth of female students in the Institute have experienced sexual assault, but many do not realize what they went through was a violation.

“The survey found that 17 percent of female undergrads, as well as 5 percent of male undergraduates, report having experienced specific unwanted sexual behaviors involving use of force, physical threat or incapacitation,” reports HuffPost.

While rape is almost universally unacceptable, sexual harassment is contextual and more often ignored by recipients of inappropriate behavior across the genders.  Parties are particularly notorious venues for sexual harassment. Here are a few points to note for female students to keep safe:

  1. Always watch your drink.

When you are at a party you can never be too sure the people around you. Despite the fact that you may be seeking to enjoy yourself and make merry with friends, others may have other motives. Always be aware of the happenings around you. Someone could easy slip something into your drink unsuspectingly. Some common date rape drugs like Rohypnol “rophies”, ecstasy and even excess alcohol easily inhibits one’s judgment. One of the most lethal date rape drugs is Ketamine in the form of a white powder or a liquid and has a horrible, strong bitter flavor. It only takes a few seconds to take effect and can leave someone unconscious for hours. Because of how potent these drugs can be, it is important that one stays vigilant.

  1. Always go with a group of close friends

Women are known for travelling in groups and this is with good reason. Having a trusted friend as you go out can help ensure you stay out of harm’s way, since you have someone you can rely on in case of any mishap.

  1. Always appoint a designated “Mother Hen”

On a night out, sometimes things can get a bit wild. Having a “Mother Hen” in your crew will help keep sexual predators away. She can also be the designated driver ensuring all members of the group get home safe. However it is important to be mindful of how much alcohol one consumes as it impairs one’s judgment. According to BMC Public Health study the relationship between alcohol and sexual abuse appears to be stronger in females under the influence of alcohol compared to sober counterparts.

  1. Always do your research.

Before attending a party it is wise to do get some background info on what kind of party you are going to. Dress code, venue, the kind of crowd expected to attend the party, transport to and from the venue are all pertinent especially when deciding whether to attend. Of course you can’t get all the info, but its advisable to at least know where you are going. Be mindful of the cabs you use and if possible, share a cab with someone you know. Never walk alone at night because this makes you easy prey.

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