Two very worried looking people speaking on their cell phones bisected the path in front me this afternoon as I walked to the library. I would have usually not taken notice of the event had it not been for the strangely similar facial expressions and tones of voice the two shared. Both looked concerned, speaking in a troubled, hurried tone that rolled at a pace irregular to normal sidewalk cell-phone speak.I listened for content to compare, and gathered that the speakers were engaging in the same conversation that many students, I later found out, were engaging in all over campus at that very moment. The conversation in which they informed their parents and friends about the false accusation of rape that occurred on campus earlier this semester.
I found out what happened earlier that day, and wasn’t surprised it was a topic of campus conversation. Though there was a range of emotional waves within the conversation as far as I could tell, what appeared to surface was alarm, surprise, and most obviously, frustration.
An inevitable reaction to the news is shock. Yet, from the conversations I have had with other students and with the reactions I witnessed on the sidewalk, I recognize that many students feel taken aback or possibly even betrayed by the false accusation.
However untrue the accusation—the rape—may have been, the reaction of the student body cannot be taken as such. The week in which the alleged rape occurred and in the months following, students, faculty and community members found time out of their schedules to digest the truth that sexual violence is a very real and very close horror in our community and in our world. Compassionate prayers of healing and conversations involving awareness were uttered out of the lips of those who may have never spoken or heard about the actuality of sexual violence before.
There is nothing “false” about the awareness that swept across campus since the news of the rape was spread, and there should be nothing annulled from actions that were taken attempting to stop it. Though an inconvenience, actions such as locked doors and posted signs have protected not only the physical safety of students, but continue to serve as a reminder of the violence that may not occur directly on campus, but occurs almost every second in our world.
Weeks ago, the campus resonated with the same emotions that I witnessed today on the sidewalk. We shared our frustration and shock and took part in conversations of morality and judgment as we shared emotions. As the news of the alleged victim’s accusation surfaces, I encourage students not to feel betrayed or frustrated, but to remember what has been learned in the wake of a very real tragedy in our world.
Through the past weeks, the victim of the purported assault had gone unnamed. The knowledge that an unnamed sister of ours had been injured caused a very real and justified response from the campus community. Now, as we recognize that this particular sister was not hurt in the way supposed, we may acknowledge the truth of our prayers and conversations were not in vain. They went out for the Unnamed Woman, the woman who represents all nationalities, genders, and ages who are victimized each day. As a campus, I ask that we not allow this now exposed situation to invalidate our actions involving safety control, awareness and compassion.