In all the coverage of the recent sexual assaults at the University of Minnesota, there's one line I just can't get out of my head.
In the St. Paul Pioneer Press, a campus police spokesman noted how unusual it is to have so many incidents reported in just two weeks.
The key word here is "reported." What's unusual is that this many assaults got reported so close together -- not that they happened.
Between the three at fraternity houses and another just last Tuesday at the Radisson Hotel on campus, we've heard about four assaults since Sept. 18. A Justice Department report found that only one in 20 sexual assaults is reported to the police. Are there 76 more we haven't heard about?
I was a college freshman in 1979, and I was raped at a frat house. It never occurred to me to call the police. I knew what had been done to me was awful, but I didn't know to call it rape.
Like a lot of people, I thought rape meant a stranger in a dark alley, not someone you know in a place you thought was safe.
Eventually, I did tell a few people. Not the police but some close friends. And I found out something that shocked me. Many of my friends had also been raped. And none of us had ever mentioned it to each other.
It's not just that most rape survivors never tell the police. Close to half of us never tell anyone.
A colleague told me recently she doesn't know anyone who's been the victim of a violent crime. "Yeah, you do," I told her. "We all do. We just don't know it."
Now I speak at colleges and universities. Every time I tell my story, other survivors tell me theirs. Sometimes I'm the first person they've told.
Rape still carries a stigma, and that fosters a culture both of silence. Silence and skepticism.
Minneapolis police have finished their investigation into one of the fraternity incidents. They say that no charges will be filed -- that there's not enough evidence "to support a criminal prosecution."
But that doesn't mean there was no assault. They just can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. And with rape, doubt is our go-to response even though false reports are as rare as unreported rapes are common.
If we want more survivors to come forward, we need some radical lessons in listening. If we want to make our campuses safe, we must first acknowledge how dangerous they really are. Campus police decided not to issue a crime alert after the most recent assault, they say, because there's "no ongoing threat to the institution."
But what about the ongoing threat to its students?
Nancy Donoval, Minneapolis, is a professional storyteller. She is a source in MPR's Public Insight Network. She won the 2010 National Story Slam with an excerpt from her campus rape program, "Stories to Stop Rape."