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The high correlation between alcohol use and acquaintance rape on college campuses can best be remedied through efforts to educate men as well as women about rape, said panelists at a forum yesterday in the Gutman Conference Center.
Administrators from colleges across New England gathered to address issues of alcohol consumption by students at an all-day conference co-sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Boston Deans' Advisory Group, a board composed of area educators.
In a panel discussion of alcohol and acquaintance rape, speakers said it is important for students of both genders to understand what exactly constitutes acquaintance rape.
James Ferrier, associate director of public safety at Northeastern University, said that about 98 percent of all rapes at that school are believed to be committed by assailants previously known to the victims.
"It's important for us to get our heads out of the sand and admit it," Ferrier said. "The fact is that violent crimes occur on campuses by and to students."
Ferrier said that nearly all incidents of acquaintance rape at Northeastern are alcohol related. Noel Cartwright, director of counseling at the University of Lowell, also said that all such crimes reported on that campus involved alcohol.
"They are not two separate issues--they're part of the same issue," said Cartwright.
Cartwright emphasized that the one step towards prevention would be increasing the focus on educating both women and men on rape. "Acquaintance rape is a woman's problem but a man's issue," he said.
Ferrier agreed, saying that men are traditionally excluded from the educational aspect of rape prevention. Men must be made aware of college policies and current laws to resolve any confusion over the definition of acquaintance rape.
"We're trying to inform men of their misreading of signals," said Bobbie Knable, dean of students at Tufts University.
In addition, college administrations can encourage victims come forward and report incidents of rape, Ferrier said.
According to Karen Rigg, dean of students at Northeastern, 95 percent of all acquaintance rapes are not reported to authorities.
Administrators should advertise the availability of public services, public safety personnel and counselors to let students know rape is taken seriously, Ferrier said.
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