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Sexual assault survivor shares story as sexual abuse reports rise at Indiana college campuses

Carissa Combellick-Siekmann was raped on her senior trip in high school. She's now speaking up about her experience to help other survivors find somewhere to turn.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana University has received around 200 reports of sexual misconduct at its main campus in Bloomington this semester. 

The uptick is likely a sign of more students deciding to come forward. A local survivor is discussing the importance of speaking up.

"I had spent many, many years in therapy and getting healthy mentally, it's just a long path," Carissa Combellick-Siekmann said.

More than 20 years later, Combellick-Siekmann said the trauma of sexual assault is still real. 

"I think it's just time to share my story," she said.

She recalls her story of abuse when she said she was raped during her high school senior trip abroad. 

"It seems like it's such a protected situation. Survivors are afraid to come forward, people that are bystanders, I had people come in the room and watched and participated in the crime, and people didn't say anything. I had friends that said, 'don't do anything,'" Combellick-Siekmann said.

Credit: Carissa Combellick-Siekmann
Carissa Combellick-Siekmann was raped during a senior class trip in high school. She's sharing that experience to encourage other survivors to talk with someone.

She reached out to 13News as more sexual assaults surface on college campuses around the state.

"I hear these things over and over and over, and I am just done with the status quo," she said.

Sally Thomas, director for Sexual Violence Prevention and Victim Advocacy at IU, is seeing more students in her office this semester. According to Thomas, a recent survey found 14% of IU students are assaulted. 

Students who decide to report sexual abuse will meet with an advocate and two investigators trained in sexual misconduct and trauma. 

"The main point is, get them connected with my office because anything that we need, that's why we're here," Thomas said.

Investigators will meet with the person accused, witnesses and gather evidence. The student decides whether university faculty meets to determine disciplinary action unless there's a threat to campus. Many times, the student goes with an alternative resolution. 

"That's the one message I want to get out, especially to the survivors: I can't guarantee an outcome, but I can guarantee you're going to be treated with respect," Thomas said.

No matter what you decide, Combellick-Siekmann wants survivors of sexual abuse to talk to someone who will listen. 

"I think it takes time. From my own journey, I just turned 38 this year, and I am like, 'Let's talk about this! Let's help other people.' But it's taken me 20 years," she said.

She will continue pushing for more education and changes to the law to give survivors more time to prosecute.

Most importantly, she's using her voice to help others feel comfortable using theirs. 

"I want to wrap my arms around them as a community and help them through or protect them or cover them," Combellick-Siekmann said. "I know there's other people coming."

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