UVA’s repeated failure to act on sexual violence finally surfaces

Jordan Walker, Contributing Writer

In the wake of a detailed Rolling Stone article on the gang rape of a first-year girl committed by seven men in Phi Kappa Psi at the University of Virginia in 2012, the school is just now being scrutinized and investigated for its poor handling of sexual assault on campus. At a school of over 20,000 students, not one student was expelled for sexual assault in the last seven years. To an outsider, that is pretty impressive.

Behind the facade that the school puts up to protect its long tradition of success, a web of lies, victimization, and assault have remained hidden under the protection of the faculty and students who are afraid to face this growing issue.

In a recent New York Times interview with one of the previous deans of UVA, the dean acknowledged that even students that admitted to perpetrating sexual assault had invariably escaped expulsion, yet those that have been caught cheating in academic coursework have faced far worse consequences. No one wants to be stamped the “rape school,” but ironically, UVA’s attempts to avoid this label by sweeping sexual assault cases under the rug and repeatedly letting the perpetrator go free have now awarded them the title, “UVrApe.” I don’t know what is more sickening: the fact that in this case rape was an accepted act among seven fraternity brothers or the fact that even after the victim had the courage to tell the administration about the horrific experience, such a blatantly violent act was excused and hushed.

The UVA President Teresa Sullivan, along with the entire UVA administration have been under the intense scrutiny of the media for showing little emotion and strength in response to the released article. The only action she has taken thus far is suspension of all fraternity events until January. She has also called a meeting with the Board of Visitors, who govern the school, to discuss the matter.

According to Valerie Bauerlein and Douglas Belkin of The Wall Street Journal, the number of reported sexual assaults on college campuses has increased by 50 percent between 2001 and 2011, yet still less than 5 percent of all rapes are reported. This reveals the failure of all colleges and universities to adequately report sexual assaults, and the twisted politics in play at universities that allow the importance of a renowned reputation to take priority over administering justice and providing a safe environment for its students.

The problem here lies in the shaping of cultural norms among all college students–not just in fraternities–over what is right and wrong and when to draw the line at social events. Just as students can easily be peer-pressured, they can also be catalysts for positive change; but it starts with the standards that must be set by the administration.

If the reporting of sexual assault incidents continues to be discouraged, abuse will only continue and perpetrators will continue to get away with their acts. The gang rape case of UVA, which is unfortunately one of many, will hopefully serve as a wake-up call for universities everywhere to take matters of sexual assault more seriously and provide victims with more security and confidence to take a stance against predators.  

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