One in four college women has experienced a rape or attempted rape, according to one prominent researcher.
That statistic gave the nonprofit group One in Four its name - and its purpose.
The group strives to reduce sexual violence against women on college campuses, with one big twist: it is made up entirely of men.
"The focus of One in Four is about prevention," said Jeff Bonfield, student adviser to the local chapter composed of University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University students.
Bonfield said that generally women are involved in outreach and prevention programs, but when women talk with men about sexual assault, the message gets lost.
"Through our group we are able to get that message out from one man to another and from one peer to another, and that's important."
Bonfield, director of the Center for Student Academic Resources at Drexel, represented One in Four yesterday at a seminar that brought together the West Philadelphia and University City Campus Community Consortium to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women.
"From every one thousand women on campus, 35 of them will be sexually assaulted before the semester is over, and yet only one or two of them will reach out and talk to someone else about that assault," said U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan, whose office organized the event, held at Drexel.
Meehan stressed the importance of victims knowing that there is a place they can go immediately for help and that they will have an advocate acting in their best interests.
"This consortium is definitely something to be emulated," the federal prosecutor said. "It's a community of three colleges that have come together with one common purpose and created the whole framework and network for a victim to have a place to turn to, as well as for there to be education on how to prevent this from happening in the first place."
The consortium - composed of Penn, Drexel, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police Department, the District Attorney's Office, the Women's Law Project, Women Organized Against Abuse, and Women Organized Against Rape - formed in 2005 with a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
"Rapists believe that their actions are accepted by men," Bonfield said. "If men continue to be silent about the issue of sexual violence, then they are allowing rapists to continue to believe that their actions are condoned. Through our program, we are striving to change that thinking completely." *