I love Lawrence. I love the University of Kansas and I love being able to call myself a Jayhawk alumna. When I think of my time on campus, I have nothing but fond memories. Sure, I may have been stressed over my courses for a considerable portion of my experience, but the incredible people I met and the opportunities I had stand out more than anything else.
Until last week, I had an ambivalent attitude toward the KU administration. Recent articles about the rape culture and way rape is handled at KU by the Huffington post, Al Jazeera America and local media outlets has pushed my ambivalence into anger.
If you are unfamiliar with this topic I recommend reading the following articles before you proceed:
“What role does college partying play in sexual assault?” from Al Jazeera America (2013) – This article started the conversation on campus about KU’s party culture and sexual assault. Some student leaders have gathered the administration refuses to discuss this article’s implications even a year after its publication.
“University of Kansas Considered Community Service Too ‘Punitive For Rape Punishment” from Huffington Post (2014) – This is the first mention of rape on campus since the federal government named KU one of 76 universities being investigated regarding the handling of sexual assault cases. The case discussed here fueled student action and gave rise to the hashtag “#AGreatPlaceToBeUnsafe.”
“KU Students Outraged Over Soft Punishment In Rape Case” from Huffington Post (2014) – In this follow-up article the Huffington Post outlines a few of the actions taken by students and the university.
The University Daily Kansan fantastically covered the discussion. Visit Kansan.com/news for ongoing coverage or read the initial coverage in the Sept. 4 issue.
Student leaders at KU have organized and are fighting for harsher punishment for student rapists. However, the victim blaming and excuses made by the university were made worse with the following tweet from the Lawrence, KS Twitter account.
There’s one thing you should know about me. I watch Law & Order: SVU and Mariska Hargitay religiously and know one thing for certain: Nobody deserves to be raped. Regardless of the irresponsible or stupid thing an assault survivor may have done before being raped, it is still the rapist’s fault.
I don’t know what the city’s tweet protocol looks like. I don’t know if it’s realized the misstep or if it will go into crisis communication mode. But most importantly, I don’t know how deeply seeded the belief that it’s a survivor’s fault goes.
Yes, there are things women can do to feel safer. But that’s just it: it’s a feeling of safety. Most sexual assaults are not committed by strangers. The case discussed by the Huffington Post is one scenario of an acquaintance being the perpetrator. Ultimately, this isn’t a problem solved by female sobriety, nail polish or walking home before dark.
The discussion within the community needs to continue in order to create a safer campus and safer community. It would certainly help if survivors had a university administration and a city government that supported them in bringing rapists to justice.
This is not the end. This is somewhere in the middle between the right to vote and the right to live a life free from the fear and reality of sexual assault.
(NOTE: After the initial publication, the Lawrence Twitter deleted the tweet included here. It replied to the many accounts condemning the above tweet with the same message: “The City of Lawrence did not authorize this tweet and it was not made by an employee. We are looking into the matter.” I hope so. I also choose to believe Lawrence is more supportive of survivors than I initially wrote.)