An Open Letter To My Fellow Wahoos

Dear Hoos,

Many times I’ve seen comments – by both friends and strangers – saying "you've missing the point” in regards to the Rolling Stone article or the pictures of the vandalism of Phi Psi, and in the same breath those exact individuals reiterate "rape happens everywhere, not just at UVA."

To this, I'd like to point out that I think every rational person understands that UVA isn't the only university where sexual assault occurs. But it is, however, OUR university where sexual assault occurs. We're talking about an act that did in fact occur on OUR GROUNDS--not "everywhere," and it's in no way, shape, or form an isolated incident. In fact, if you take the time to research the history of sexual assault at the University (which I encourage you all to do), you'll find dozens upon dozens of stories of women being assaulted – some more detailed and more violent than others.

In this regard, one story that lingers in my mind involves a female student who had a formal hearing with the University about her rape, during which her attacker CONFIRMED every disgusting detail that she recounted from that night. I'll spare you all the graphic details, which you can read online if you so choose, because I think (and hope) you'll get the point. Now, if we fast-forward to the conclusion of the hearing, he was cleared of EVERY charge except one: touching her at a debate club meeting.

So when President Sullivan issues statements asserting just how "seriously" UVA takes cases of sexual assault and how appalled the administration is at persistence of such heinous acts, I can't help but think of that story – and many others like it – that indicate otherwise.

And what of the "honor code" of which we so proudly boast? What does it say about our "community of trust" that a woman can leave her unattended laptop in Starbucks, but she can't depend on the University to support her after she's been raped? Perhaps we should ponder every instance the University has sent an email about "an alleged sexual assault" on grounds, and why the accused is always a 'townie' but never a fellow Wahoo.

Obviously change is overdue. The guilty should be held accountable, and it's unfortunate and shameful that it took so long for us to acknowledge that. But instead of adding to the problem, we should all be working toward being a part of the solution. Acts of aggression, such as the vandalism of Phi Psi and threats directed at University offices, only weaken the cause that many have so righteously fought to uphold.

If you want things to change, be the change you want to see.

DO YOUR RESEARCH. The only thing worse than an uninformed opinion is bandwagon activism. If you care about an issue now, care about it in the time to come. Stop pontificating from the safety of your laptop. If you're unhappy with University policies on sexual assault, voice your concerns. Get involved. Be an active bystander. Support survivors. Anyone can get angry and lash out, but it takes bravery to stand by the things you say and believe and fight for change.

Let us all fight the good fight.

Instead of hatred, let’s spread peace – peace to those who deserve it, peace to those who have for too long felt it has eluded them.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Friend