Our Opinion: First year experience?

The Chart

The point of coming to college is to get an education, not just in the classroom, but in life.

How many of our students, though, are learning things the hard way?

We are in the third week of the fall semester, and already there have been two confirmed reports of sexual assault on campus — at least one in the residence halls — and unconfirmed reports of another assault off campus.

Last year, The Chart investigated a report of “forcible rape,” as well as other assaults.

At that time, Southern’s Public Safety Director Ken Kennedy said that the number of assaults, especially rape, that is reported is just the tip of the iceberg. He estimated that 95 percent of rapes are not reported to police.

We know that incidents of assault, sexual and otherwise, tend to go up when alcohol is involved, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that students often fuel their first fall semester away from home with drinking.

In fact, liquor and drug crimes make up the highest numbers reported on the annual Clery Act reports.

Students getting their first taste of life without the parents may mean they get a little carried away.

So it makes sense that the number of assaults would go up in the first few weeks of school, and that more of those assaults might affect freshmen on campus.

What can students learn from this?

Well, for one thing, they can learn how to behave responsibly and how to protect themselves.

Southern offers free counseling through ACTS, and students also have access to self-defense classes, safe sex kits and free health care. Local bars offer designated driver programs and lots of activities on campus that don’t include alcohol at all.

All good, healthy choices.

But perhaps the most important lesson for students to learn about behaving responsibly is to step up and be heard.

If you know of someone who is being abused, reach out to that person. File a Lion Alert to ACTS so professionals can offer help too.

Most importantly, if you are the victim of a crime, report it to the proper authorities. It’s tough, yes. No one wants to be recognized as a victim, and, especially with sex crimes, the victim is often stigmatized.

It’s hard to be the one who stands up and speaks out, but sometimes, the victim is the only one who can expose wrongdoing and maybe, just maybe, keep it from happening again.

Don’t be one of the silent 95 percent.

ACTS counselors are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. can be reached by phone at 417-625-9324.