What is sexual assault?

What you need to know about sexual assault at Ferris

Two students are drinking at a party.

The young woman gets too drunk. The guy can’t tell how drunk she is, but knows he wants to have sex with her. They have sex. She wakes up in the morning, and even though the details are spotty, she knows that something bad happened the night before. She knows she was too drunk to consent and doesn’t feel okay with what happened. She doesn’t know what to do, though, or even if what happened to her is something reportable.

“What do we all think about rape? We think of the guy who jumps out of the bushes, holds a weapon, and forcibly rapes her,” Ferris Department of Public Safety Chief Bruce Borkovich said. “That’s what we think and it’s much broader than that. If someone is having sex with you and you don’t consent or can’t consent, it’s rape. That’s the bottom line. Almost every instance of sexual assault is what we call an acquaintance rape or date rape.”

The first six weeks of the fall semester, labeled the “Red Zone,” are when more than half of college sexual assaults occur, according to Business Insider. This happens for many reasons, including new students being immersed in a party atmosphere for the first time and having more freedom.

Many are acquaintance rapes due to overusing alcohol or drugs. A sexual assault includes rape but encompasses anything that leaves a victim feeling violated, ranging from sex to unwanted physical contact.

Sexual assaults can happen to men and women, but most happen to women, according to Borkovich.

“The message we want to send is that if she doesn’t consent or she can’t consent, it’s sexual assault,” said Borkovich. “Her mind is being really affected by alcohol to the point where her judgment is poor or to the point where she’s in and out of consciousness. If that happens and someone has sex with her, that’s sexual assault.”

Pre-pharmacy junior Ryan Brophy said he thinks acquaintance rape due to alcohol is a common occurrence in college.

“I think this situation happens at least once every weekend, probably much more than that,” Brophy said. “I am not surprised that that situation is sexual assault. Consent isn’t given unless the person is in complete control of what they are saying, and in that situation, the alcohol is clearly interfering with that.”

If an underage person is sexually assaulted while they are drunk, they should not be afraid to report the assault in fear of getting in trouble for underage drinking.

“If a 19-year-old girl comes forward and says she had 12 beers last night and was assaulted, in no way, shape or form is she going to be investigated or charged criminally for drinking,” Borkovich said. “A victim is never going to be prosecuted when a more serious crime happens to them because of something they were doing at the time.”

The question that then arises is what if the man was just as drunk and didn’t know how drunk she was?

“I have a younger brother, and thinking about that happening to him is really upsetting, because if he was just as drunk he didn’t know any better either,” business administration freshman Angie Graf said. “So that’s where it gets kind of murky and [becomes] the type of situation that needs to be discussed more. That’s something people don’t think about.”

“If there’s a question in your mind whether she’s too drunk, don’t you dare have sex with her,” Borkovich said. “Because if the guy does this acquaintance rape/sexual assault, his life gets ruined, too. He can go to prison, but even if he doesn’t get criminally charged, he could go through the student conduct process, and there’s a good chance he’s going to get kicked out of Ferris and our record of that will be there. Step up and be a hero; don’t be a predator where you’re looking for an opportunity to have sex with someone.”

If someone wants to report a sexual assault at Ferris, they have options. Ferris DPS does everything to make the reporting process more comfortable for the victim.

One option is to report it but not press charges. In this case, Ferris DPS will be aware of the suspect and can monitor his or her activities to prevent another sexual assault. Also, in this case and all other cases, Borkovich said they will make sure the victim gets all the services she needs, such as counseling and changing her residence hall if she needs to.

Another option is the victim can report it and want a criminal investigation to occur.

Or, the victim can report it and have the suspect go through Ferris’ student conduct process, but not be criminally prosecuted.

Finally, a victim can report it and want the suspect criminally prosecuted and to go through Ferris’ student conduct process.

“I like that there are varying degrees,” Graf said. “Maybe you don’t want them to go to jail but you don’t want them walking around doing it to someone else.”

Visit the Ferris DPS website home page and click on “STOP” to see more about the reporting details.
Borkovich said there are some circumstances where there may be a prosecution no matter what, such as if the suspect is dangerous and has been drugging others.

A victim can report a sexual assault any time after it happened, whether it is hours or months. According to Borkovich, delayed reports often occur due to the victim needing the initial trauma to subside to remember details.

If a sexual assault occurs to Ferris students but they are off-campus, it can still be reported to Ferris DPS and they will work with the Big Rapids police department to determine who handles the case.

In 2014, there were four reported forcible sex offenses at Ferris. Six were reported in 2013 and three in 2012.

In the Torch next week, see what Ferris does to educate students and prevent sexual assault from happening.