I have never been more aware of the existence of the “ACU bubble” or convinced of the sense of conservatism on our campus until last Friday when the Optimist reported on a student who was indicted for sexual assault.
Not all, but a good sum of students reacted to the story in a manner that showed me a side of ACU students I hadn’t seen before. They called on the Optimist to release the alleged victim’s name. They posted angry Facebook comments about how it made the accused “look bad” and not the victim.
This has absolutely nothing to do with whether Jacob Windsor is guilty. It has everything to do with the fact that the opinions and accusations some students expressed are exactly what perpetuate the rape culture mainstream society is currently fighting against.
One of the problems with sexual assault, especially on college campuses, is that victims don’t come forward and report incidents when they have been sexually assaulted because they are afraid they will be accused of lying. This fear sounds silly, but at universities, where identities and associations are fragile and permanent for at least four years, anxiety ensues when they are labeled “liar.”
This is not just at ACU; this is across the country. In September, President Obama launched a campaign targeting ways to end sexual assault on college campuses. “An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years – one in five,” the President said. “Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.”
However, what does seem specific to ACU and not to other college campuses is the way students respond when sexual assault cases finally do surface. Other larger and more liberal universities tend to jump on the victim’s side, assuming the accused is automatically a rapist. While this response isn’t reasonable, neither is the opposite – accusing the victim of playing victim or lying – which is what some ACU students have said.
So for anyone, or in this case ACU students, to speak out in a way that confirms the victim’s fear, is only going to propagate the sexual assault cycle. This cycle is one in which offenders go unreported and continue to assault new victims who continue to not report or speak up out of fear of their accusers.
Covering allegations of sexual assault in the Optimist is not to make statements about the accused or the accuser, but to report the news. And by reporting the news that people are capable of being sexually assaulted at ACU, is how we are refusing to let the cycle of unreported cases continue.
For every ignorant student comment that was made last week, other students came to me privately saying they were thankful for our coverage. They told me they had been sexually assaulted, that they didn’t report it and that they knew that same person had gone on to assault other people.
That’s the power of media. Here’s to hoping it’s strong enough to burst some students’ bubbles.