One in four women is a victim of rape or attempted rape during her college years, according to the Women's Center at N.C. State University. In the Triangle, where thousands of college women live, that's a chilling and disturbing statistic.
So where can you go if you or someone you love is a victim of rape in the Triangle? While there's no Law and Order: RDU Sunday marathon to provide a succinct, scripted conclusion, local rape crisis centers and university-sponsored resources are set up to counsel, support and refer victims of sexual assault to legal and law enforcement agencies.
University police officers are often the first to respond to reports of rape on campus, and some schools, such as NCSU, provide full-time investigators who are specially trained to work with rape and sexual assault victims.
The Campus Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights, enacted by Congress in 1992, requires that all public and private universities participating in federal student aid programs provide sexual assault victims with five basic rights: Accuser and accused must have the opportunity to have others present at disciplinary proceedings; both parties must be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary actions; survivors must be informed of their options to notify law enforcement; survivors must be notified of available counseling services; and survivors must be notified of options for changing academic and living situations.
Campus crime statistics are also required to be released to the public each year, but Peter Jeffries of Duke Campus Police is unsure how many victims actually come forward.
"I know it [rape] is one of the most unreported crimes we have on campus, from what I've heard from the counseling services," says Jeffries. "That makes it very difficult to compare numbers from year to year. For example, so far this year we've had one report, so if you were to extrapolate, that'd only make it two for the whole year—but it doesn't really work like that."
At Duke, Jeffries says there are two categories for sexual assault that most, but not all, universities follow. "Forcible assault" includes date rape, sodomy, forced sex with an object and forcible fondling. According to Jeffries, the majority of sexual assault reported on Duke's campus falls into this category. "Non-forcible assault," of which Jeffries says there are "virtually no reports," includes incest and statutory rape.
Jeffries notes that the number of reports hovers around the same number each year. According to Duke's Web site, there were six reports of sexual assault at the school in 2005 and four reports in 2006.
At NCSU and UNC-Chapel Hill, the numbers for reported sexual assaults are similar to those at Duke. NCSU's campus police reported five in 2005 and one in 2006, while UNC reported one in 2005, accounting for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of its reported total crime on campus.
The only confidential domestic violence service in Wake County, a program called Interact, is attempting to educate Triangle residents about the dangers of sexual violence.
Interact's newest education program is targeted at students and aims to decrease the number of sexual assaults on college campuses. With the help of its rape prevention education coordinator, the program is reaching out to schools and student groups across the Triangle.
"Our rape prevention education service is really aimed to provide college students with an increased awareness about domestic violence and sexual assault," says Damita Chambers, communications outreach specialist for Interact. "Right now, we're going out to Shaw University and St. Augustine, as well as the Boys and Girls Clubs in Raleigh."
Prevention is also the main goal at Interact's off-campus rape crisis centers.
"Being able to communicate and get information out to the public is our main goal," Chambers says. "Our philosophy here is to provide Wake County residents with information, not tell them what to do. We want them to make good choices."
Rape crisis hotlines and resources