Sabrina Rubin Erdely has a damning recount of the UVA’s handling of an alleged 2012 gang rape of a female freshman named Jackie.
“Shut up,” she heard a man’s voice say as a body barreled into her, tripping her backward and sending them both crashing through a low glass table. There was a heavy person on top of her, spreading open her thighs, and another person kneeling on her hair, hands pinning down her arms, sharp shards digging into her back, and excited male voices rising all around her. When yet another hand clamped over her mouth, Jackie bit it, and the hand became a fist that punched her in the face. The men surrounding her began to laugh.
It should surprise no one that the prestigious school Thomas Jefferson founded, now under public scrutiny, is in full PR mode and has asked Charlottesville police to investigate.
A few thoughts.
In early October, I wrote about a VCU student tapped by Gov. McAuliffe’s administration to serve on the governor’s new Combating Campus Sexual Violence task force.
Also on the task force is Emily Renda, the Program Coordinator in Student Affairs at UVA. Renda appears in the Rolling Stone story:
That reaction of dismissal, downgrading and doubt is a common theme UVA rape survivors hear, including from women. “Some of my hallmates were skeptical,” recalls recent grad Emily Renda, who says that weeks into her first year she was raped after a party. “They were silent and avoided me afterwards. It made me doubt myself.” Other students encounter more overt hostility, as when a first-year student confided her assault to a friend. “She said she thought I was just looking for attention,” says the undergrad
…Emily Renda, for one, quickly figured out that few classmates were sympathetic to her plight, and instead channeled her despair into hard partying. “My drinking didn’t stand out,” says Renda, who often ended her nights passed out on a bathroom floor. “It does make you wonder how many others are doing what I did: drinking to self-medicate.”
Her story’s distressing. But as such, she’s perfect for this task force: a student with a horrible, traumatic story that can testify to a rape culture endemic on college campuses, and who (ideally) can help affect significant, meaningful correction of it.
But another person tied to UVA is also on the task force, Allen W. Groves, Dean of Students at UVA. Groves also appears in the Rolling Stone story, albeit unflatteringly (note: I’ve quoted a longer passage here; it’s needed for context):
If the UVA administration was roiled by such concerns, however, it wasn’t apparent this past September, as it hosted a trustees meeting. Two full hours had been set aside to discuss campus sexual assault, an amount of time that, as many around the conference table pointed out, underscored the depth of UVA’s commitment. Those two hours, however, were devoted entirely to upbeat explanations of UVA’s new prevention and response strategies, and to self-congratulations to UVA for being a “model” among schools in this arena. Only once did the room darken with concern, when a trustee in UVA colors – blue sport coat, orange bow tie – interrupted to ask, “Are we under any federal investigation with regard to sexual assault?”
Dean of students Allen Groves, in a blue suit and orange necktie of his own, swooped in with a smooth answer. He affirmed that while like many of its peers UVA was under investigation, it was merely a “standard compliance review.” He mentioned that a student’s complaint from the 2010–11 academic year had been folded into that “routine compliance review.” Having downplayed the significance of a Title IX compliance review – which is neither routine nor standard – he then elaborated upon the lengths to which UVA has cooperated with the Office of Civil Rights’ investigation, his tone and manner so reassuring that the room relaxed.
Told of the meeting, Office of Civil Rights’ Catherine Lhamon calls Groves’ mischaracterization “deliberate and irresponsible.” “Nothing annoys me more than a school not taking seriously their review from the federal government about their civil rights obligations,” she says.
I’m interested in seeing two things: what will outside investigations find out about this heinous episode of sexual violence (and others) at UVA, and how will those findings affect the dynamic of the Combating Campus Sexual Violence task force?