Sitting comfortably in a large brown leather chair, Lindsey Woelker, a graduate student at Loyola University, is talking about her experience with sexual assault.
“I had an experience when I was an undergrad and it wasn’t like a rape situation, but I felt assaulted in the situation,” Woelker said.
Woelker isn’t alone. One in four women are sexually assaulted as undergraduates, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. At the time Woelker was assaulted, she had no idea who to turn to or where to go. She felt alone, confused, and helpless.
“I would have coped better with it had I known about the resources that were offered at my college,” Woelker said.
Woelker’s lack of knowledge about sexual assault resources during her undergraduate years helped fuel her involvement with the issue during her graduate studies at Loyola University. She became an advocate for sexual assault awareness at the university and is now helping college women stay safe, and have a place to turn to if they are sexually assaulted.
One of the main ways that a student can stay safe from sexual assault while at college is by simple awareness, said Woelker.
“There is a lot happening, and students when they’re in a university setting, might feel, you know, ‘I’m on campus I’m safe,’” Woelker explains. “Then you might carry that mentality when you go out into the city and other places, so I think just being aware of your surroundings is really important.”
According to Woelker, the power lies in yourself and your ability to let you and your thoughts be heard.
“It is important to not be afraid to say no and knowing that the power of your voice is big,” she said.
Susan Campbell, Loyola University director of the Coordinated Community Response Team, agrees that a sexual assault advocacy program is important.
“If you want something, say you want it, but if you don’t want it, say you don’t want it, and that is the biggest way you can help to stay in tune with yourself and your sexual experiences and to let your partner know,” Campbell said.
Campbell advises that students look out for each other. While many girls may already be used to watching out for their girlfriends, Campbell believes students should extend their concern for people’s safety from only their friends to anybody on campus.
“As a community we can step in when we see violent behaviors happening,” Campbell said. “So if you see someone who is at risk of being assaulted, you know they are very intoxicated or they’re sleeping or being lead into a room at a party, then step in and say something to let the perpetrator or potential perpetrator know that you see what they are doing and you are not going to let it happen.”
Other tips that both Campbell and Woelker advised college women to do to protect themselves are not to walk alone at night, and if you do walk home with someone make sure the person you are walking with is someone you trust.
“Ninety percent of women who are sexually assaulted know their attacker so when you choose to walk around at night, it is not just enough to have someone with you, they need to be someone you trust not just someone you are acquainted with,” Campbell said.