This is part one of a two-part series.
On February 7th, I woke up to a disturbing email in my UWG inbox. The subject line, “Timely Warning–Sexual Assault” was enough to spring me awake. I went on to read the contents, and I was dismayed by each sentence that I read. The first bit reported that a rape had occurred a few days prior, and instructed students to contact UPD if they had any information. The rest of the email told students several precautions they should take to avoid being caught in these unfortunate situations, with exactly one sentence about consent:
Remember that no means no.
My twitter feed was flooded that morning with concern about the sexual assault situation from students at UWG. Some criticized UWG’s handling of the situation, others sent condolences to the victim, and some tweeted reminders of consent and safety. I wanted to see how the university would handle the situation, but past experiences and, well, the history of mankind didn’t give me much hope.
The next morning, my suspicions were confirmed through a follow-up email.
“The suspect was an individual known to the victim and did not force entry into any location or attempt to force the victim to another location,” the email stated. “There is NO indication that there is an individual on campus committing violations against random members of our university community.”
I read and reread the email. The purpose of it was to “clarify” the previous email, but I read a sloppy coverup filled with victim shaming and the shedding of responsibility from the university.
“I don’t know how the situation was handled after the email but I do know that they sent an update email that I was deeply unsatisfied with,” said one student and current Center Pointe Suites resident at UWG. “They claimed the victim knew the rapist so now we don’t have to worry about a serial rapist going around. It seemed as if they were saying since the victim knew the rapist everything was ok but it’s not okay. A girl got raped and all they could talk about was how she knew him.”
“I think during the day women may feel safer but at night I don’t think I nor a lot of other women feel safe at all,” she said when asked about the atmosphere surrounding women’s safety at UWG. “I’m constantly told to walk in groups but if I want to go out to my car at night, I want to go without the fear of getting harassed. I’m tired of people telling women how to react and ready for people to tell men that this is not how they should be acting.”
“I don’t feel as if they handled it well at all because when I lived at the Oaks my freshman year of college, we had a similar inciden[t],” said one sophomore student. “Instead of kicking him out, they moved him to Center Pointe, where he could cause more damage.”
“Due to COVID, I haven’t been on campus much, but still seeing these emails pop up on my phone is very disheartening. I would honestly say the atmosphere is tense and uncomfortable at times if you’re walking by yourself, whether it be at night or during the day,” she said when asked if she felt safe on campus.
In the wake of the incident, Twitter reaffirmed my hopes that there is a brighter future ahead for victims of sexual assault. Conversations about sexual consent flourished. One student, Imani Johnson, took matters into her own hands and created the After Dark Safe Line, a free rideshare service to pick up students who may be in danger.
When Johnson first read the email, her reaction was similar to mine. She had many questions such as, how could this happen? What if it were me?
“I believe that the university could have taken more action about the situation. I feel as though it was swept under the rug afterwards,” said Johnson. She wanted to do her part to prevent these situations from happening again.
The second-year student posted a flyer for the safe-line on social media. The post went viral among UWG students. “I received so many messages from peers and alumni that wanted to donate and help me achieve this idea. Everyone was so nice and wanted to help.”
“I’m pretty sure that student felt safe but how was she to know that something like that would happen to her? That is why I want to do something about it,” said Johnson when asked if women feel safe on campus.
While this safe-line is much needed on campus, it shows where students themselves need to pick up the slack from the university. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised when I received that email about the incident in Center Pointe. Until a healthy dialogue about consent is a norm at UWG and society at large, these situations will continue to happen.
This is part 1 of a 2 part series in discussing the incidents that have happened in early 2021. See part 2 here: Sexual Assualt Awarenss on UWG’s Campus