Acquaintance Rape Not New on USF Campus

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University of San Francisco students have made their outcry about the recent allegations of rape and assault on campus heard. A group of student activists have organized and released a clear message: rape is not an isolated incident. In other words, this most recent and highly publicized case of a USF senior Ryan Caskey being charged with four counts of rape and aggravated assault is not the first incident of this nature that has occurred at USF.

These concerned students organized a public forum for the community to discuss their concerns about sexual assault on campus. Though this most recent case sparked the discussion, students wanted to emphasize that rape and sexual assault are ongoing problems.

Barbara Thomas, Ph.D. and director of USF Counseling and Psychological Services, confirmed that rape and sexual assault are more common than most people hear about at USF. In her 20 years of experience at the university, she has talked confidentially with many students who have experienced various forms of sexual assault. Acquaintance rapes, rapes committed by “friends” rather than strangers, are not unusual at USF, but they most often go unreported. They almost always involve drugs or alcohol, and many of these students do not realize they have been raped until Thomas tells them.

Students came to the forum to discuss the general lack of awareness and discussion about sexual assault taking place right here on campus. Many had other grievances as well, such as feeling starved for more information than was provided in USFConnect bulletins. Others complained about the wider-scale problem of a lack of education and programs about sexual violence. Others digressed into a discussion of whether Caskey’s affiliation with ROTC had led to his violence toward women. Emotions were raw on this Thursday, exactly a week after the news had broken of Caskey’s arrest. Some of the individuals at the forum were survivors of sexual assault. Thomas explained that a public incident such as this can reopen those wounds, especially if the individual never fully dealt with those issues after they happened.

Many, such as senior Jennifer Herrera, were concerned that there needs to be more education about sexual assault on campus. As a resident advisor in a freshman residence hall, Herrera said she feels well educated about these issues, but she said, “As a freshman, I wouldn’t have known exactly what qualifies as rape. I know our students aren’t very educated on this subject.”

Thomas said that in her experience at USF, she has not found any means of educational training about sexual violence to be particularly effective, though there have been attempts ranging from education during freshman orientation, informational programs within residence halls and peer counseling for men. But the reality is that these methods of education have been ineffective.

“I don’t want to be defeated by that, but I think the reality is that people just think, ‘That’s not about me; that’s about someone else.’ There’s this inflated sense of safety that’s just not there,” she said.
Thomas’s best idea for creating more awareness about sexual violence is to continue public discussions and open conversations. “Let’s talk about sex,” she said.

Junior Andrew Biederman said similarly at the forum, “We need more discussion between the sexes. It’s important for everyone to come out and say exactly how they feel affected by this to understand each other more and prevent something like this from happening ever again.”

Dan Lawson, director of public safety at USF, encouraged more discussions like the one at the forum.
“I think this is a wonderful thing that’s happening here in regards to this forum,” he said. He only hoped that the conversation would not end as soon as people forgot about this particular incident. He said, “People generally don’t get upset and excited until something terrible happens.”

6 COMMENTS

  1. Message from USF President Rev. Stephen Privett S.J. regarding rape on campus(Posted on USFConnect, USF’s internal communication system on Thursday, Feb. 26).

    Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

    I know that shock waves from the recent revelations regarding acquaintance rape/assault on campus still reverberate across campus, as well they should. I have the greatest appreciation for the women who came forward and called this issue to the attention of the campus. I also applaud the student-initiated forum that provided the community with an immediate opportunity to begin to identify and discuss the underlying issues that we must address.

    While no university can totally escape the shadow side of our culture, these dehumanizing influences are of paramount concern to a community such as USF that “respects and promotes the dignity of every person” and promotes a “common good that transcends the interests of particular individuals or groups” [University Values]. Violations of the dignity and rights of women are more than simply gender-specific issues; they are human issues that touch us all. The African-American abolitionist and poet, Frances Ellen Harper, underscored the reality of our common humanity when she wrote:

    “We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul.”

    This is the time to redouble our efforts at promoting a University-wide conversation that aims to create an overall campus culture where everyone feels secure and confident in the knowledge that every other member of the University community understands and accepts responsibility for creating and sustaining a community that promotes the authentic human development of all its members and that welcomes women and men of every race, language, creed and way of life.

    To promote that conversation, the cabinet met yesterday with the Chair of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, Ms. Lenli Corbett (Director of Compliance, Athletics), to consider further action steps in the aftermath of the recent tragedy. While these events have shocked and scarred our collective psyches, they have also heightened our awareness of our responsibility to engage the entire campus community in additional proactive measures that ensure the safety and well being of all. Violence against women is an assault on us all, and the solutions to that problem will only come from all of us working together to meet our responsibilities to and for one another.

    USF’s Jesuit education is a powerful vehicle for opening minds and motivating hearts to change the world. Let that change begin here on campus with us. I encourage everyone to attend today’s student-led forum at 12:15 PM in University Center’s Parina Lounge and to challenge and change those aspects of our campus culture that contradict our core values and compromise our ideals.

    Sincerely,

    Stephen A. Privett, SJ
    President

  2. I think it’s ridiculous that we find it OK to publish his name (remember that we used to have some rule about innocent until proven guilty) and negatively effect his family and the outcome of his trial while we protect the names of the women who are involved.

    All or nothing, this should be fair. If you don’t know the people involved and what the truth is, there is no reason for you to be ruining his life and not theirs.

  3. Publishing the names of people who have allegedly committed crimes is an extremely common practice in larger media outlets. This information is also available to the public. Even if the Foghorn had not printed his name, students could have found this information in any other local paper or through the San Francisco court system. If he is a threat to the community, shouldn’t people be aware of his identity?

  4. He’s not a threat to the community, women who are able to accuse a man of rape because they want attention are a threat to the community. If you are a man, I would hope you don’t wake up the next morning a rapist, because women need no proof to have you thrown in jail. That is California law.

  5. The victim’s names are also open to the public, and were announced in a pre-trial proceeding; what would the community do if we were to post their names?

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