Like many of you, I stumbled upon the Rolling Stone’s article about Jackie, a then college freshman who was brutally raped at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in 2012. Two years later Jackie publicly told her story, and instead of support, she received backlash. As many of us read the story that was published yesterday, you probably shared some of my immediate thoughts on the article.
1. Demonizing UVA and the entire student body will NOT solve anything. We can’t pretend that it doesn’t happen everywhere else. JMU had a similar scandal become public earlier this year, and VCU had one become public last year. Twenty percent of college women are victims to sexual assault and 1/6 women will be sexually assaulted in their life time, and that’s not even including the numerous men who will be too.
2. Prestige and wealth do not immortalize you or your institution from sexual assault crises. Ivy League schools, and other top tier institutions have this bizarre notion that they are untouchable, above the law, and that their status as an renowned academic institution makes them immortal, when in reality sexual assault could happen anywhere, and it does. Once we actually acknowledge the presence of a problem, we can tackle solving it.
3. If you care more about the prestigious reputation of your institution being tarnished due to someone coming out and sharing their rape story- please reevaluate your priorities in life. I guarantee you ensuring the safety and support of your students is an overall better investment, trust me.
4. You choose your friends, choose them wisely. If your friends are more concerned about their inability to attend frat parties or believe that once someone is raped, they are less valuable as a person- you need new friends, ones that don’t consider you a token that can be used as an exchange for admission at a party.
5. Once someone, particularly a female, has sex- she is not less of a person. She does not lose value simply because she is not an object that accrues scuffs and scratches- she is a person, and deserves to be treated as such. A woman is not, and never will be your property, and for someone to refer to a woman as an “it” is quite possibly the most cringe worthy, disgusting thought fathomable.
6. If you think the problem is girls going to fraternity parties and drinking- once again, please reevaluate your mindset. This point is brought up quite often when talking about sexual assault instances, however; every time an instance comes up there are still people who will bring up “well if she wasn’t wearing… if she didn’t drink…. If she hadn’t had gone…” No. This is clearly NOT the problem- the fact that there are people who believe gang rape is permissible are.
7. No, this does not reflect the entire student body, or all of Greek life, or all of the fraternity– however; the spotlight is on the student body, Greek life, and the specific fraternity. It is not up to them to set a positive example and create a movement that will end sexual assault on college campuses.
8. If your campus has expelled students for cheating, yet never expelled a student for sexual assault, please email your administration and tell them to reevaluate their priorities. (Or better yet, create a petition). UVA has expelled 183 students for cheating. How many have been expelled for sexual assault? None.
9. For those of you who think that the only reason that Sabrina Erdely wrote this piece was to establish her claim to fame, and that it is a sensationalized piece meant to invoke hatred for UVA- get the hell off of your damn high horse. Yes, the piece was meant to invoke anger. It was meant to cause tears, to cause outrage- but more importantly it was meant to cause awareness. This is the job of a reporter, to uncover stories, particularily ones that will invoke outcry and anger from the community. Sabrina Erdely did just that, and I applaud her.
10. The “secret” society that Jackie went to with other sexual assault victims shouldn’t be a secret– it should be an open beacon to all of the community to raise awareness for the issue and create a safe environment for all students.
11. No, revoking the fraternity’s charter will not solve the problem, however; with previous instances of gang rape at the same chapter, it would be a smart and meaningful move for the university. Charters at other schools are revoked because of physical fights between members, they should certainly be revoked due to violent sexual assault.
12. We have to start taking this more seriously and believe victims when they come out with such stories. Putting the word “alleged” in quotations when saying alleged sexual assault- or as the university did, not acknowledging the situation as rape, but rather stating “”We were not told that it was rape, but rather that something of a sexual nature took place.”- it’s demeaning to the entire situation and all of those affected by it. So much of the response to this article was “where are the facts… do we even really know that this happened?… there is no proof.” Let’s be honest- this is exactly what the men who sexually assaulted her probably thought after they did it. Our society is so hesitant to believe women who come out publically about their rape because they feel as though these women are seeking attention, or revenge, or have some ulterior motive. Such a mindset is the reason that this is a problem in the first place.
13. Just because it isn’t being reported, does not mean it doesn’t exist. We can’t turn a blind eye to the problem just because we don’t have a data sheet that says so and so got raped at this place, at this time and by this person. This is an unobtainable goal and not what we should turn to when trying to understand rape on college campuses. The truth is that one in five college women are going to be raped, and 95 percent of those rapes are going to go unreported. In reality, sometimes the victim won’t come out with their rape until years later, sometimes they never will.
14. While we automatically turn to the university to take action, we forget that sexual assault is ILLEGAL, and should be treated as what it is- a crime. Those seven men are sex offenders- and they will have that on their record for the rest of their entire lives- as will anyone else who sexually assaults someone.
15. Just because the event happened two years prior to the article being published, doesn’t mean it is irrelevant. As stated previously, 95 percent of rapes go unreported and sometimes the victim will never reveal that they have been raped. Whatever their reason is, we should respect their decision while trying to create a safe and supportive community that accepts the women or men who come out and report their rape.
16. Scandals such as this should act as a catalyst for community engagement and action. It’s not about reading the article, being mortified for a few hours and then presuming your normal activities. This is serious- and it’s time we start taking it seriously. All eyes on you, UVA. Let’s see if you can spark a movement.