National push to curb alcohol/sex assault connection

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AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – College campuses across the country are doing more to combat the undeniable link between alcohol and sexual assault.

22News went to UMass Amherst, the state’s largest public university, and found that the amount of sexual assaults has been rising. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 47% of student sexual assault victims believed their attacker was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to crime statistics from the UMass Police Department, the number of sexual assaults on campus has increased every year between 2011 and 2013. That’s the newest data publicly available. There were 13 sex offense in 2011, 15 in 2012, and 22 in 2013.

Students told us they attribute the rise to more victims coming forward. “UMass has targeted alcohol imparticular, but they can’t really target sexual assault. It’s very difficult. It’s not obviously. You can’t look and say that person is a predator of some sort where as you can so oh this person has a bottle in their hand,” said UMass Senior Peter Chiknas.

UMass has emergency blue lights across campus where the push of a button can connect you to the police. Their U-Mater program encourages students to say something if they see something.

“Sometimes in the areas where undergraduate students stay a lot, it is a little dangerous to go out in the evenings after dark because I have often been accosted by drunk students in their cars,” said graduate student Enwesha Das.

An average of 31,300 students are raped or sexually assaulted every year. Students told 22News they hope colleges and universities across the country come up with more aggressive ways to lower that statistic.

22News requested an interview with UMass officials and the police chief on their efforts to combat sexual assault, but as of news time, our calls were not returned.

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