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Sexual assault is defined by the U.S. Department of Justice asany type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Sexual assault is an issue that can happen to anyone at anytime. And lately it seems sexual assault is happening more and more on colleges across the nation. So I am here to tell you how to cope with, prevent and report sexual assault on and off campus.

For starters, think about your own safety and the safety of your peers in everything you do. Consider taking a self-defense class and carry a concealed long range can of mace on your key ring so you are prepared to defend yourself. A 1998 study revealed at least 50 percent of sexual assault cases involving college students involved alcohol, and at least 80 percent of assaults are acquaintances of the victim. Furthermore, almost 50 percent of women whose cases fit the definition of sexual assault did not consider themselves a rape victim. Know the programs your institution has in place to ensure your safety first. Ask your orientation leaders, professors, student ambassadors, etc. about safety on campus when you tour your school.

In the event that you or someone you know becomes a victim of sexual assault, the most important thing to do is speak. Do not keep silent. Your courage to tell the truth could be the difference between one more person falling victim to the same perpetrator. Find a place marked with a Safe Harbor (or your institutional equivalent) sign on campus. These usually note a professor or staff member who has been trained to assist assault victims as well as find you resources to adequately report your incident to the proper officials.

More importantly, you should talk to someone. Find a counseling center on campus, call a hotline, join a support group, talk to your pastor ­– anything that gets you started healing.

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