Going off to college can be an extremely exciting time in one’s life. But unfortunately, college life can sometimes expose one to violence. According to a study led by Christopher P. Krebs, one in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
In a college newsletter for students, the University of West Virginia offered various tips for preventing sexual assault, including staying with friends at parties and not accepting drinks from anyone.
I have found another way to reduce one’s vulnerability – becoming conscious of the protecting power of God.
My wife, Bonnie, found this to be true when she was in college. She and a friend had decided to read their literature assignment by the local river. Sitting on a dock, dangling their feet in the water, they were engrossed in their reading and didn’t notice the approach of a stranger. Suddenly, Bonnie heard a sound and saw her friend stand up terrified. Then a large young man jumped on top of Bonnie, knocking her flat on her back and pinning her to the dock. Since she was just inches from the edge of the dock, and he was so much bigger than she, it seemed impossible to fight him off. His intent, she told me later, was clear.
She began to pray, acknowledging God’s presence. She remembered the Bible promise, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46: 1). She told her friend to run and get help. When her friend did this, the man got up and ran away. As she walked back toward campus, the man walked up to her and apologized.
In order to protect others, they reported this to the campus safety department. The police said they knew who he was. He was participating in a local police rehabilitation program for troubled youth. They promised to intensify their efforts to help him stop these destructive behaviors.
Bonnie found that this prayer of acknowledging God as “a very present help in trouble” also aided her in overcoming the emotional aftereffects of the attack.
What I have found is that what is true for one is true for all. Everyone can find safety from violence, including the offenders. As we realize God’s loving presence on campus, or anywhere in the world, we can find that God is “a very present help” to everyone.