Whether you are a parent, professor, administrator, student, coworker, or friend—you can make a difference in someone’s life by noticing the warning signs of sexual assault and abusive relationships. Sexual violence, like many other crimes, can occur on college campuses and at locations frequented by college students.
In eight out of 10 cases of sexual assault, the perpetrator is someone the victim knows.1 This can make it more difficult for someone to be open about sexual assault, particularly if the perpetrator is part of a friend group, a classmate, or someone who is well liked by other peers. No matter who the alleged perpetrator is, the survivor deserves support and care.
Some of the warning signs for sexual assault in college-age adults may be caused by events that are unrelated, such as being away from home for the first time. It’s better to ask and be wrong than to let the person you care about struggle with the effects of sexual assault. You can ask questions that point to a specific person or time like, “Did something happen with the person you met at the party the other night?” You can also simply reaffirm that you will believe them when they are ready to come forward, and that it’s not their fault.
If you notice these warning signs in a college-age adult, it’s worth reaching out to them:
The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, such as a friend, family member, acquaintance, or partner.1 Often, abusive partners will try to cut the victim off from their support system. As someone outside of the relationship, you have the potential to notice warning signs that someone may be in an abusive relationship or at risk for sexual assault.
Some warning signs include:
College-age adults may also experience sexual harassment or other unwanted behaviors through technology and online interactions. Some people use technology—such as digital photos, videos, apps, and social media—to engage in harassing, unsolicited, or non-consensual sexual interactions. It can leave the person on the other end feeling manipulated, unsafe, and exposed, like when someone forwards a text, photo, or “sext” intended only for the original recipient. The laws pertaining to these situations vary from state to state and platform to platform, and they are evolving rapidly. Learn more about the ways people use technology to hurt others.
Remember, you are not alone. If you suspect sexual abuse you can talk to someone who is trained to help. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or if you’re in Shasta County, call our Crisis Hotline 530-244-0117.