By: Isaiah Silva
In college, one in five women are sexually assaulted and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted. Unfortunately, these statistics are only based on the incidents that are reported. Doña Ana County ranked second in the state for reported sexual assault cases. La Piñon Sexual Assault Recovery Services of Southern New Mexico is a resource available to victims of sexual assault.
La Piñon is the only center of its kind in southern New Mexico. They provide services not only to the Las Cruces community, but also to cities such as: Anthony, Chaparral, Deming, Hatch, and Silver City.
“My goal is to be able to help as many people out there,” Amanda Carreras, Campus Advocate for La Piñon said, “Like I said, it’s very underreported and I’m not sure people just don’t know where to go on campus because not only is it, as far as reporting, and this just isn’t at NMSU, but this is in general that a lot of people they fear reporting and what that looks like.”
Sexual assault is any type of sexual behavior or contact that is not consensual. Some of the conducts that NMSU prohibits include: rape, groping, stalking, fondling, and forced kissing.
“Campus sexual assault is much more common than people imagine. There was a survey conducted that approximately up to 15 percent of male college students reported that they actually were the offender or perpetrator to a sexual assault within that past year,” Carreras said.
According to Carreras, when they do their outreach on NMSU’s campus, they do anonymous surveys in order to get insight as to what students think of sexual assault and whether or not they know how and where to report an incident.
“All those results are useful for me to be able to know where I need to target populations on campus,” Carreras said, “For example, in 2013 the NMSU Police Department had reported only two sexual assaults and then in 2014 they had four. There’s no way of telling whether or not these statistics are the same for everyone, however you can see that the number is very underreported.”
There are some myths about sexual assault that indeed are not true. The first thing that comes into play when defining sexual assault or rape is consent.
“Consent is an actual, affirmative agreement and verbal yes, or no. However, just because somebody consented to it once doesn’t mean that it’s continuous. We can’t just assume that, ‘Okay this person, we had sexual intimacy or whatever, and now it’s okay every time,” Carreras said.
There are limitations, or boundaries even if someone consents to intimate behavior. While someone may consent to one thing, they could say no to another.
Another thing that comes into play is alcohol.
With alcohol being such a big part of the “college experience,” it makes the chances of sexual assault occurring greater. Anyone under the influence cannot give consent.
There are other myths as far as reporting a sexual assault.
“A lot of times people don’t report because they believe no one is going to believe their story is true. They’re going to say, ‘Well why did you go to the party? Why were you so drunk you couldn’t get yourself home and you had to get a ride from someone?’” Carreras said,
“So, that goes into little bit more victim blaming where that overrides their ability and their strength to report, or to get the help that they need.”
Many times cases go unreported because the survivor is already weakened by the incident and it is difficult to share the details of what happened to a complete stranger. Since La Piñon provides services to many different communities and the university, some clients are from out of town and come alone.
“A lot of our students in the cases I’ve received, they’re not from here, and so they feel alone already because their families are out of state or out of town, and they don’t want their parents or their families knowing what happened here because then they’re going to cause worry to their family,” Carreras said, “A lot of those factors come into play of why people feel like they’re not going to report because people think that maybe they don’t believe them.”
Other myths could be that people don’t think the person who assaulted them is going to get convicted, which is hard to determine since it is determined case by case. People also don’t report because they feel as if they need to report the assault. Through La Piñon, one has the right to not report the assault to the police.
If one does decide to seek help through La Piñon specifically, there are a multitude of services they offer to help the survivor cope with being sexually assaulted. One thing they help with is the survivor’s school. They work with administration to help extend deadlines and help get extra time on assignments. La Piñon will also help if the survivor needs to move schools, or just move back home because they feel like they cannot be at school anymore.
“They’re already experiencing a significant amount of either guilt, or pain, or sadness that now their goals that they once had are no longer there,” Carreras said.
They will also work with housing to get room changes if they see it will benefit the survivor. They will also help the survivor’s parent as well if the parent has to take time off of work to be with their child. They could recover lost wages, similar to workman’s compensation.
“We want to be able to assist them in a way where they are still able to do those things that they would’ve done had this not happened.” Carreras said.
Carreras wanted survivors to know that what happened is not your fault. There will always be someone there to help. La Piñon does instructing of staff and faculty at NMSU, so help is easily accessible.
For more information, you can contact La Piñon at 575-526-3437, the 24-hour Crisis Hotline at 1-888-595-7273, or the NMSU Police Department at 575-646-3311