This article includes discussion of domestic violence and sexual assault that may be challenging for some readers.
November 10, 2021
By Waneeza Mughees, Drexel University College of Medicine
In light of recent cases such as the violence and assault committed on a college student at the University of Delaware in October 2021, the topics of domestic violence and sexual assault are rising again. Rightfully so.
Students across University of Delaware campuses are marching in response to the kidnapping, assault and strangling of a fellow student and demanding direct response and action from the school. She was struck with blunt objects, sprayed in the eyes with spray paint, and threatened with death if she called the police. She was then strangled to unconsciousness and thrown down a flight of stairs.2 The student-led march and social media wave led to the administration finally releasing a statement addressing the incident, as well as expulsion of the offender from his fraternity. In the past decade, several movements have shed light on incidents of assault and lack of accountability from administrations.
It’s imperative to spread awareness of the regularity of these incidents as well as educate students on how to be an ally; 43% of college women who are dating have reported experiencing violence or abuse at the hands of their partner.3 An estimated 80% of sexual assaults on college students go unreported.4 Students in intimate partner violence situations commonly lack relationship experience as well as the understanding of red flags, ability to recognize abuse or awareness of disciplinary action that can be taken in response to suspected abuse. Universities commonly fail to be transparent about sexual assault statistics, and do not provide adequate resource education for students. Students are frequently not notified about sexual assault incidents. In the case of the University of Delaware, the school did not notify the student body because it was a “dating violence incident” that did not pose an imminent threat to campus students.5
There are several layers of barriers to a college student’s ability to report sexual assault. They are commonly treated with bias and scrutiny when opening up about sexual assault. Questions arise about the accuser’s integrity and honesty. Society wants to protect their institutions, colleges and even the future of the offenders. Victims are filled with fear of judgement and isolation from their friends, peers and family. Allies have difficulty interfering out of fear that it’ll worsen the situation, it’ll ruin their own friendship or relationship with the abuser, or they will experience retaliation.
In addition to the barriers in reporting, many universities lack specific safety protocols. Collegiate institutions should be pushed to have adequate policies in place to protect their students. While the U.S. Department of Education places Title IX protections for colleges and universities to investigate domestic violence among students and provide protection from abusers, this law does not require any legal trial, legal protective orders or jail time.6
Some ways to help survivors include creating a safe space of empowerment and support, as the initial response to a survivor disclosing their assault has been shown to play an enormous role in their ability to cope. Universities should be encouraged to organize college sexual assault prevention programs and track completion, especially for fraternities and sororities. Colleges should have an open line of communication and easily accessible resources for students who need help. It’s not often someone knows when they’re going to need these resources, so it’s important to have reporting and counseling accessible to all students. Having experienced counselors in place for students whether or not they choose to report to the authorities is also essential.
Anyone affected by sexual assault, whether it happened to you or someone you care about, can find support from the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
Drexel's Employee Assistance Program is available to help employees in need of support through confidential, 24/7 counseling at 888.628.4824. This is offered at no cost to benefits-eligible faculty and professional staff, their family members, and Drexel graduate students. More information is available on the Human Resources website. Students can reach out for support via Student Wellbeing.
1. Cherry A. UD students push for change after university’s prolonged silence following off-campus assault. WDEL 101.7FM. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://www.wdel.com/news/ud-students-push-for-change-after-universitys-prolonged-silence-following-off-campus-assault/article_e5b4f6aa-2dcb-11ec-b9ea-67a63e9dc8f8.html
2. University of Delaware student Brandon Freyre arrested for allegedly kidnapping, assaulting and strangling female classmate - CBS News. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/brandon-freyre-university-delaware-arrested-kidnapping-assaulting-strangling-woman/
3. Domestic Violence Statistics. The Hotline. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://www.thehotline.org/stakeholders/domestic-violence-statistics/
4. College Women Among Highest at Risk for Partner Violence. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://www.domesticshelters.org/articles/in-the-news/college-women-among-highest-at-risk-for-partner-violence#.Wckv39N97EZ
5. University of Delaware Students Use TikTok to Organize Campus Protests. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://www.insider.com/university-of-delaware-students-tiktok-campus-safety-protests-assault-2021-10
6. Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence on College Campuses – HAWC. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://hawcdv.org/the-truth-about-domestic-violence-on-college-campuses/
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