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USF promotes safety with new contact card

In order to educate USF students about rape and services available to victims, throughout the semester the USF Advocacy Program will hand out cards with a phone number to call in case of sexual assault.

According to the latest data from a 2001 Department of Justice report, 3 percent of female college students were a victim of rape or attempted rape the previous year.

The card program is part of the “Rape. Talk about it. Prevent it.” campaign.

“It’s a program that was created by the Florida Department of Health,” said Nora Penia, who works for USF’s Advocacy Program, which provides students with resources should they be victimized.

“They have been supplying these cards to all of the universities in Florida. They also supply us with many other materials that we can give out during presentations to classes,” she said.

Peggy Prophet, a consultant with FDH’s Sex Violence Prevention Program, said posters and public service announcements to make the issue more visible will also be provided to universities.

The cards are designed to serve more than one purpose.

Prophet said the front displays the “Talk about it” logo and a toll-free number that will connect callers to their local rape contact center. The back is a 15-minute long-distance calling card for emergencies.

Prophet wants to educate both potential victims and perpetrators about sexual violence.

“Part of the push is to help people to understand what sexual assault and rape are,” Prophet said. “When we’re talking about people being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, consent does not exist.”

Penia said many people are not aware that sexual assault with an object or forced oral sex can also be considered rape.

While this is only the second year the department has provided the cards, Prophet said the Center for Disease Control has been funding rape prevention programs for several years.

Many rapes aren’t reported, according to The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN). According to RAINN, there were 223,280 rapes in 2002, and 60 percent were unreported. According to Penia, the number could be much higher.

“Most rapes occur behind closed doors, without witnesses,” she said. “Many times, even if someone is caught and charged, they won’t go to court because of lack of evidence.”

Penia said that based on the University’s size, there are probably about 300 rapes a year, although she said that’s a guess.Penia said The Advocacy Program tries to help not only victims of sexual assault but all victims.

“This is what we do all the time,” Penia said. “We do serve victims, not necessarily of crime. That includes things in the past or severe traumas. If someone has been a victim, we’re a good place to start.”

Prophet said the dialogue the program would like to start by providing these cards includes prevention.

“It’s important for all of us to know that rape could happen to anyone,” Prophet said. “It is a traumatic event, and we hope that the efforts of this campaign will open a dialogue for prevention of rape.”