Hannah Poplack & Nadine Leffler
Special to Mustang News
We had heard before that issues like sexual assaults on campus don’t become real, don’t mean anything to you, until they happen to someone around you. This quarter, we realized how true that is.
This weekend, the unthinkable happened and there was another sexual assault on campus.
The details of the most recent victim’s assault are private, and really, they shouldn’t matter. What bothered us more was what happened to her after. Like so many women, she was terrified to report her abuse. Scared of what people would think, scared of what would happen to her if she made it public. Days later, she is still too hesitant to report the incident to the school, made worse by the way other survivors have been hailed after other attacks this year and especially after the statement released Monday, announcing that “if another sexual assault was reported, there would be dire consequences for all of greek life.”
Our friend deserved better. We deserve better.
What is worse is that clearly she was not the only female who experienced something like this last weekend. In fact, a recent study from the Department of Justice estimates that one in four women will be victims of rape or attempted rape before they graduate. It’s likely that last weekend, there were far more than two on our campus alone.
However, according to Safer, nine people on average came into Safer each week last quarter, yet only two crimes were reported on campus. Clearly blaming survivors for their crimes and pressuring them out of reporting them with statements like the one made by Cal Poly earlier this week is not the answer. Threatening and later putting greek life on social probation because one of their own members reported an assault only scares and pressures women away from reporting these crimes. The policy pressures women to not report assaults.
And who wants to be the girl that shut down greek life, shut down her own organization? What happens when you need to report but are part of a greek organization? The hardest part of the aftermath of a crime for most survivors is reporting them, and for this reason most women never do.
Knowing this, why was the policy written this way and circulated? We believe social probation is a positive thing, because it really is necessary. In light of recent events, we need to press pause and come together to resolve these issues. We are grateful they have this opportunity, but having social probation act as a punishment for reporting a crime? Not so much.
The media circus that follows these events is insane. Instead of speculating about whether or not a survivor is lying, how drunk she was (or was not), where it happened or complaining about social probation, we need to stop doubting and start listening. As a community, we need to stop asking survivors invasive, pointless questions and start asking ourselves for answers. Why do we let these things happen? What could we have done? If you are more concerned about being on social probation and clearing your organization’s name than your fellow Mustang who was sexually assaulted, check your priorities.
And stop asking who it was — you do know her! She’s your friend. She’s in your class right now. She’s walking downtown. She’s in line in front of you at VG Cafe. Statistically, you personally know a survivor of sexual assault, which means you probably know a perpetrator, too. Let’s not forget the real problem here. She is closer and realer than you’re willing to think.
Clearly something needs to be done, and we have to applaud InterFraternity Council (IFC) and Panhellenic for already making strides in the right direction. There is good that will come out of these tragedies, and both councils are taking time to come up with tangible solutions and ways to change this culture.
We admire the Cal Poly leadership for responding to those events so seriously. Honestly, I’m not sure what the “right” solution to it is. We don’t think there is just one, or maybe any. But I’m certain that the solution does not start with scaring and pressuring women away from coming forward to report, discuss and get help after abuses, now and in the future.
We urge the IFC, USFC, Panhellenic, coordinator of fraternity and sorority life, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey, Dean of Students Jean DeCosta and the Mustang community to step up and right this wrong, and we urge female and male students, faculty and staff to not stand for this kind of treatment for anyone.
We can do better.