UA police, counselors warn about campus rape
Lily Santiago was introduced to the issue of rape at the age of nine.
"My sister was raped and I was the first person to know," said Santiago, a family studies and communication health education junior. "She went out on a date and was raped by a friend."
Eleven years later, Santiago is the new director of the University of Arizona's Campus Acquaintance Rape Educator program (CARE).
CARE teaches students how to educate others on sexual and relationship assault issues.
"Most people involved know people who have been assaulted," Santiago said.
Santiago said that on a personal level, CARE has helped her become more aware of the trauma her older sister went through. She said her sister lost her self-esteem after the incident but is more comfortable talking about it now.
"She has actually been more open to talk about it because I'm more open," Santiago said.
While Santiago came to terms with her sister's experience, statistics show that many victims of rape continue to live without justice, never seeking legal assistance.
Though the university police department has recorded only one sexual assault this calendar year, the Oasis Center, the University of Arizona's rape crisis center, recorded about 60 within the past six months.
UAPD Sgt. Michael Smith said a lot of students might be hesitant to report sexual assaults because they are afraid their experience might be publicized.
Oasis Director Irene Anderson said more students feel comfortable reporting sexual assaults to her program because it's confidential.
Oasis Assistant Director Matt Sanders said victims come to the program for medical attention, legal advice or just to talk about their situation.
"If the human body is not ready for sex, it can be brutal," Sanders said. "It's like getting beat up on the inside."
Anderson said the majority of sexual assault victims know their attacker.
"The stereotype of rape used to be a stranger jumping out of a bush when in actuality, 87 percent is acquaintance rape," Anderson said.
Anderson said 95 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses involve alcohol.
Acquaintance rape can happen when students get involved with new dating situations, and certain expectations might arise, Sanders said.
Smith had a variety of safety tips for students to help them avoid assaults and other dangerous situations that could occur on campus.
Students need to be aware of the blue emergency phones that have a direct line to police, Smith said.
If a person feels like they are being followed, he or she should utilize the blue phones or they should go to a public place where a lot of people are around, Smith said. "Utilize your buddy system, don't leave friends alone, and designate someone to stay sober. It makes a more inviting target if a person is walking alone by themselves at night, with little or no people around."
Smith also said students should keep track of the beverages they consume from the time the drinks are poured until they are finished.
"You don't know if someone slipped something into your drink," he said.
The department has dealt with many cases involving suspected Rohypnol use. The drug - commonly known as "roofies" - can cause a person to experience a total loss of memory for an extended period of time.
"It's safe to say more cases happen than are reported to police," Smith said.
Sanders said Oasis has had reports of people who have blanked out for hours at a time but it was unclear if any drugs were involved.
"There are risks, but not as common as the media portrays," he added.
Sanders said students need to look out for each other.
"We never stop to think that the person might be poisoned or that they might need medical attention," Sanders said.
Next week is Sexual Assault Awareness week. Oasis, Tucson Rape Crisis Center and the Women's Resource Center are among many groups that will be out on the mall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., handing out pamphlets on women's issues.