College campuses can be hunting grounds for teen rape

Forty mostly teenaged high school girls learned from a presentation at the Wilton Library Feb. 15 to be careful in their college years, because college campuses can be hunting grounds for teen rape.

Fraternity parties where girls are encouraged to guzzle beer and other liquor can lead to date rape and acquaintance rape, the girls learned from a documentary film, The Hunting Ground, which is about the prevalence of date rape and acquaintance rape in college.

“You hear about date rape drugs, but the most common date rape drug is alcohol,” said Johanna Debari, of the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury, who commented on the content of the film after it was shown on a large screen.

The film claimed the modus operandi of many college rapists is to get girls so drunk they pass out, and then the boys take advantage of the unconscious girls.

“I want to make it clear, though, that alcohol is not the cause of rape,” said Rosie Enyart of the Center for Sexual Assault, another of the speakers. The machismo behavior of young men, who are proud of a predator and prey attitude when it comes to girls, is the problem, the panelists said.

Once a girl is raped, she finds that college campuses often don’t take her complaints seriously but protect the male behavior, particularly if the males are athletes, according to the film.

Lt. Robert Cipolla of the Wilton Police Department said Wilton is not a college town, unlike the nearby town of Fairfield, so campus rape is not a widely reported problem here. There are an average of four cases of sexual assault in town every year, though, he said.

If a girl is raped, her first step is to go to the hospital for a rape kit with which DNA evidence from the crime is gathered. Then she should call the police and file her complaint, so the case can be immediately investigated, Cipolla said.

However, many rape victims do not report the crime.

There is a rape culture that must be vanquished, through moral education and awareness campaigns like the one in the film, the panelists said.

Several of the girls in the audience expressed concern that teenage boys at the high school level might try these methods of party rape. Cipolla advised them to call 911 immediately if they spot an underage drinking party.

“We can nip these things in the bud, just by calling the parents to let them know,” Cipolla said.

State crime statistics show that most rape victims are underage girls.

The program marked National Teen Dating Violence Awareness month.

Sponsors included the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force, the Wilton Youth Council, the WHS PTSA, Teen PeaceWorks, and the Wilton Library Association. Wilton High School also conducted awareness events that day, including a screening of the date-rape awareness film The Yellow Dress.