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IUPUI student shares story of survival, why it's important to report sexual assault on campus

Posted at 11:32 PM, Mar 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-23 11:17:51-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Elizabeth Terhorst moved from Valparaiso to Indianapolis to study education at IUPUI.

“Hopefully I can teach English abroad someday," Terhorst said.

The freshman says in her short time on campus, she’s found community through the Domestic Abuse Prevention Student Organization (DAPSO).

“I am very glad that there is an organization like this here in Indianapolis because when I was in Valparaiso, I couldn’t find a lot of those places to find community," Terhorst said.

Terhorst is a sexual assault survivor.

“Those are usually the people who are the most passionate about these things. It’s really sad but sometimes you have to experience something really terrible for you to see just how big of an issue it is systemically," Terhorst said.

Next year, Terhorst will become president of the organization, which works on and off campus to do advocacy, education and prevention for survivors and victims.

She says often times, individuals like her are scared to report their stories.

“Sometimes when you try to tell people something, it’s ‘no that didn’t happen’ or ‘that wouldn’t happen.’ You just get shut down. Or the thought of having to go through the legal loopholes is just terrible. You went through something very traumatic and now you have to go to court and tell people what happened over and over again and the perpetrator still might walk away. That’s horrendous," Terhorst said.

IU Public Safety spokesperson Hannah Skibba says the university understands how difficult it is to come forward.

She says there are resources in place to support students — no matter their comfort level.

“I would always encourage students to start with us. Just because you report to IUPD does not mean you have to follow through with the criminal process and pursue charges. We can help connect students to other departments on campus like student affairs, our counseling services and stuff like that," Skibba said.

Skibba oversees public safety for all IU campuses, including Indianapolis and Bloomington.

IU Bloomington is seeing a slight increase in the number of reported rapes over time.

According to the 2022 annual reports on campus security and safety the reported number of rapes was 19 in 2019.

So far this school year, the number is 24, which is consistent with last school year.

At IUPUI, in the past 3 years, the number has teetered around 13.

“I think there’s a variety of factors that play into the statistics here. What we are seeing is that more students are feeling comfortable and reporting to the university and that’s what we want. We want our students to know that there are resources available to help them," Skibba said.

If you or anyone you know is a victim of sexual assault and would like to seek help, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.