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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Sophomore LHP Shane Sdao (38) reacts after a strikeout during Texas A&Ms game against Texas at Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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The Northgate district right adjacent to the Texas A&M campus houses a street of bars and other restaurants.  
Programs look to combat drunk driving
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Junior Mary Stoiana reacts during Texas A&M’s match against Oklahoma at the NCAA Women’s Tennis Regional at Mitchell Tennis Center on Sunday, May 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
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Roman Arteaga, Sports Writer • May 17, 2024

No. 13 Texas A&M women’s tennis met Virginia in the quarterfinal of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, May 17 at the Greenwood Tennis Center...

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Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The Battalion May 4, 2024

UNSPEAKABLE

 
 

Editor’s note: The Battalion does not publish the names or identifying information of rape and sexual assault victims. The names of victims and assailants included in this article were altered to protect the subjects’ identities.
An hour later, shes curled up in a ball in the corner of her shower, surrounded by curtains of steam as scalding hot water pours down from above. Her clothes, ripped and torn, lay in a soggy pile in the showers opposite corner. She reaches for a washcloth and begins scrubbing her bare skin, rubbing her flesh raw until traces of blood swirl around the drain.
The shakes begin next first just her hands, but soon her entire body is trembling. As the trauma-induced haze begins to clear, there is only one question on her mind.
What happened?
This must stop.
Young women being raped is no new thing at A&M, said Beth, Class of 2009. When I attended A&M, I knew more girls who had been raped or sexually assaulted than girls who had not been harmed. This must stop.
According to a 2010 investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five female college students will be a victim of a rape or an attempted rape by the time she graduates. However, less than 5 percent of rapes or attempted rapes that occur during college are reported to police.
In October 2004, Beth was introduced to James, also an A&M student, through some of her coworkers at a local restaurant. One evening, Beth and a group of her friends went to James house for drinks and to watch movies. As the evening progressed, the partygoers began leaving until only James and Beth remained. Alone in the house, they sat on the couch in the living room and began watching a movie.
It was about 20 minutes into the movie when James made his first move, Beth said. I was attracted to him, so I went with it.
Beth soon realized that James was far from sober. She told him she was not comfortable with any touching below the belt. James, however, grew more aggressive.
He kept trying to force me to go further than I was comfortable with even though I was telling him to stop, Beth said. Before I realized it, I was shouting and trying to push him off of me.
James ignored her protests. He held her down and ripped off most of her clothes. As he positioned himself above her, Beth managed to pull one of her legs free and knee him in the stomach. Unprepared for the blow, James doubled over gasping for breath. Beth seized the opportunity and clawed herself out from underneath him.
Ill always remember scrambling across the floor on all fours, trying to reach the door while grabbing my clothes, Beth said. James was leaning over the coach, coughing and saying, You asked for this.
Escaping James house, Beth got in her car and arrived home to an empty apartment. She immediately went to the bathroom where she sat in the shower for more than an hour, crying and scrubbing her skin raw. In the morning, she threw her torn clothes into the trash can outside her apartment. Instead of reporting the incident or telling her friends, Beth tried to ignore the assault and continued on as if it had never happened.
Until the day I die, I will regret not going to police, Beth said.
Beth later discovered her experience with James was not an isolated event. The next weekend he attempted to sexually assault another girl and succeeded. Weeks later, James went to trial for drugging and assaulting two girls a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old.
I cant help but think that if I had reported James, maybe he wouldnt have had a chance to rape those two young girls, Beth said.
Sexual assault is not about sex
In April 1986, Lehigh University freshman Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm room on the Bethlehem, Pa., campus. Acting in her memory, the U.S. Congress passed the Clery Act in 1990. The act requires universities that receive federal funding to publish an annual report disclosing information on any criminal activity occurring on or near campus.
According to the 2011 Clery report, Texas A&M recorded 12 forcible sex offenses during the past three years. Compiled by the University Police Department, the Clery Acts reporting of sexual assaults is limited by the number of victims who report their assault and the boundaries of campus. Assaults that occur off campus, where more than 80 percent of students live, may not be included.
Some students who suffer a sexual assault turn to university-provided counseling, even though they will not report the attack to the police. The Student Counseling Service in Cain Hall provides a variety of free services to A&M students. The University employs seven counselors and 14 psychologists and is regarded as one of the best college counseling centers in the country.
Every semester is different, said Maggie Gartner, who has her doctorate in counseling psychology and is the executive director at the Student Counseling Service. On average we see about 30 people a semester who have been sexually assaulted.
Counseling with certified psychologists remains confidential and is not reported to authorities even when the patient receives counsel following a sexual attack. Gartner, who is a licensed psychologist in the states of Texas and Washington, said freshmen, in particular, are at risk.
The most dangerous time in a womans life is between the time she first leaves home for college and the first holiday, which for Texas A&M is Thanksgiving, Gartner said.
Statistics compiled by the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network reveal that girls between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be victims of a sexual assault than the rest of the general population. Furthermore, 80 percent of rapes are committed against women under 30.
Based on the ages of the victims, a common assumption persists that rapes are the result of an outburst of suppressed or frustrated sexuality. This is not accurate, according to Cary Haynes, director of center programs at the Brazos County Sexual Assault Resource Center.
Sexual assault is not about sex, said Haynes, Class of 2005. Its about power. Its about asserting control over somebody else.
Founded in 1981, the Sexual Assault Resource Center offers free and confidential services to victims, friends, family and anyone affected by sexual violence in the Brazos Valley. Directions to the center can be obtained by scheduling an appointment via phone or email.
We keep our location confidential because we deal with a very sensitive topic, Haynes said. We dont want somebody to be identified as a survivor of sexual assault because they walk through our door.
In addition to maintaining a 24-hour hotline and providing counseling, the center employees also educate the community about sexual assaults, correcting common misconceptions.
The biggest myth about rape is that its committed by a stranger in the dark alley, Haynes said. The reality is that most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, someone they trust.
Among the cases reported to the authorities, more than 80 percent of sexual assault victims knew their attacker. When the relationship between the victim and the offender is close, the likelihood that the rape will not be reported increases exponentially.
The most common response I hear when I ask girls whove been assaulted why they didnt report it is, I dont want to ruin [the attackers] life, Haynes said. And all I can think is, But he raped you. He ruined your life.
A sexual predators tactics
During her sophomore year, Rebecca, Class of 2009, attended a party thrown by David, a casual friend, at a student living apartment complex. Alcohol was readily available at the party and Rebecca began drinking almost immediately. David, however, only had a couple of beers. As Thursday transitioned to Friday, many of the partygoers left the residence to go to Northgate.
Realizing she had already exceeded her alcohol limit, Rebecca declined to join the group. After everyone had left, she turned to David for help.
I had too many drinks and I knew wasnt sober enough to drive home, Rebecca said. I told David that I probably needed to stay over and he said, Well, youll have to have sex with me. I said No and he was like, Fine, good luck getting home.
Rebecca walked out of the apartment and made her way to her vehicle. Overcome with nausea, she realized she wasnt fit to exit the complexs driveway, much less make the 15-minute drive to her house. David walked to the driveway and led the inebriated Rachel back into his apartment.
I kept on saying I dont want to do this, and Please dont do this, but I was drunk and he was stronger than me, Rebecca said. Then he took off my clothes and laid on top of me. He made me have sex with him.
Almost all sexual assault cases reported to Student Counseling Services and the Sexual Assault Resource Center involve alcohol or another sedating substance.
While alcohol is by far the most common, date rape drugs such as Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate, known as GHB, and Rohypnol are both illegal in the U.S. and are unknowingly consumed when dissolved in a drink. GHB and Rohypnol are central nervous system depressants that decrease the victims inhibitions or subdue the victim to the point of unconsciousness. Both drugs leave the human body within 72 hours of ingestion and are difficult to detect.
Forensic examination
If a victim chooses to report the assault, forensic evidence can be collected up to 72 hours after the incident, provided the victim has not bathed or douched. Evidence is collected through a sexual assault forensic exam, which is administered by a medical doctor or sexual assault nurse examiner. Nurse examiners are registered nurses trained by the Texas Office of the Attorney General to provide sensitive and comprehensive care to survivors. There is one certified nurse examiner on-call for the Brazos Valley a region that includes seven counties and more than 300,000 residents.
During a forensic exam, the victims body is considered to be a crime scene. For this reason, friends and family members are not allowed to be present in the examination room. Victims may be accompanied by an advocate a specially trained volunteer provided and trained by the Sexual Assault Resource Center.
Every time Ive been called out as an advocate, it has been for a college-age student, Haynes said.
Advocates help survivors by providing support during the sexual assault exam and accompany survivors to law enforcement agencies upon request. Advocates must complete 40 hours of training, focusing extensively on the sexual assault exam process, before they are allowed to have client contact.
The exam is brutal, Haynes said. These people have been sexually assaulted and they are basically assaulted all over again.
As a medical exam, a forensic exam determines whether any injuries have been sustained as a result of the assault and provides preventative treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. The cost of the exam is covered by the state of Texas through the Crime Victims Compensation Program. However, the victim must file a police report in order to receive reimbursement that is not covered by medical insurance.
The forensic exam also involves collecting evidence of the attack, such as hair, fluids and tissues, and preserving these for forensic analysis. The nurse examiner takes oral and vaginal swabs, pulled head hair samples, fingernail scrapings and collects blood and saliva samples.
Following the general examination, a pelvic exam is performed on female victims. The pelvic exam is almost identical to the exam performed by a gynecologist, except the examiner uses a speculum to inspect the vaginal walls for tearing or bruising related to the assault.
At the end of the exam, the victim receives information about emergency contraception. Sold under the brand names Plan B and Preven, the pill is a concentrated dose of standard birth control pills. If taken within 72 hours of the assault, the emergency contraceptives can reduce the chance of pregnancy by 75 to 89 percent.
After completing the exam, the evidence is stored by the police until the victim chooses to report the crime. After two-years, the evidence is destroyed.
A survivors plea
Rebecca suffered through her rape in an alcohol-induced haze. In the morning, she gathered her clothes and left Davids apartment before he woke up. In the coming weeks, she told no one about the assault and avoided David for the remainder of the semester.
I didnt want to talk about what happened because I felt ashamed, Rebecca said. I thought people would look at me differently and I thought it was all my fault.
Neither Beth nor Rebecca reported their assault to the authorities. Regardless of how the assault transpired or whether they filed a report following the attack, Rebecca, Beth and countless other victims face a long road to recovery one Beth began when she came forward with her story.
The first step is to talk about it, Beth said. Speak up to save yourself and, just as importantly, speak up to save another girl.
UNSPEAKABLE
This is the first of a four-part series about sexual assaults involving college students. Coming up in next four weeks:
Road to recovery
Prosecuting rage
Men and sexual assault
If you have experienced sexual assault and you would like to share your story, please contact us at [email protected].
Story by Joe Terrell
Graphics by Jorge Montalvo and Osa Okundaye
Planning and design by Alec Goetz and Jorge Montalvo
Editing by Kalee Bumguardner, Robert Carpenter, Alec Goetz, Barrett House and Emily Villani

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