Article on sexual violence at UVA sparks debate

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Article on sexual violence at UVA sparks debate

Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/MCT Campus

Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/MCT Campus

Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/MCT Campus


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Last week, an article by Sabrina Erdely in Rolling Stone went viral. Instantly, the controversial and graphic article, titled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” provoked responses of all kinds from LB students and alumni.

The article initially follows Jackie, a UVA student, in narrative style. While at a party in 2012 held by Phi Kappa Psi, one of UVA’s prestigious fraternities, Jackie was led to the upper floor of the fraternity and then allegedly raped by a total of seven men, many of whom were members of Phi Kappa Psi. After she woke up from being unconscious, she escaped, terrified. In the following weeks, Jackie didn’t report the incident, discouraged by her friend’s comments that coming forward would put her reputation is in jeopardy.

After the gruesome narrative, Erdely continued to examine the way the university handles sexual assault and rape. Erdely stated that UVA likes to sweep sexual assault cases under the rug in order to protect its image.

“I feel shocked and disgusted that these types of things actually occur commonly through college campuses across the United States,” senior Jason Lwin said. “Sexual assault is a heinous crime and seeing it go unpunished should be unacceptable.”

Some LB students are taking these recent events into account when applying.

“The manner in which the UVA staff members and students alike discouraged the reporting of the event in order to avoid bad publicity affects my view of the school,” senior Christina Kosmakos said. “I still want to attend the school because of it’s quality of education; however I feel ashamed on their behalf for handling the situation so poorly.”

However, the problem isn’t just unique to UVA, Kosmakos said.

UVA is only one of 76 universities being investigated for Title IX violations. The article does point to other universities’ handlings of similar situations, such as Dartmouth College’s lack of initiative when students reported sexual assaults.

“Sexual violence towards college women is an issue that is prevalent throughout the country,” UVA first-year and LB alumna Uma Mengale said. “It is, in fact, an issue that is prevalent throughout most of the world, in developed and underdeveloped countries alike. So it feels unfair for an author to sensationalize an incident that occurred at UVA.”

Also, the accuracy of the article as a whole has been called into question after the girl who was called “Jackie” released a statement saying Dean Eramo was more helpful than the article described. According to the Washington Post, Jackie said that Eramo was a great deal of help in laying out Jackie’s options, even though she decided not to press charges.

Nevertheless, reactions to the article exploded on Twitter and Facebook, resulting in vandalism of the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi, on-campus protests, and calls for President Teresa Sullivan to resign.

Sullivan issued a short statement Wednesday, Nov 19, in which she was responded skeptically to Rolling Stone’s accusations.

“The article describes an alleged sexual assault of a female student at a fraternity house in September 2012,” Sullivan said, “including many details that were previously not disclosed to University officials.”

Later, Sullivan issued a longer statement assuring students that the way the university handles rape and sexual assault will be thoroughly examined. She also suspended all fraternities until Jan. 9, the beginning of the second semester.

“I just hope that justice is brought to the case and that changes be made in the future not only for UVA but for colleges nationwide,” Lwin said. “This type of thing should never happen again.”

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