On sexual assault: letters from the community

Focus on supporting and listening to survivors

Like most of us at UVa right now, I am angry, disgusted, sad, and frustrated. Among many other things, I have serious concerns about how gang rape charges against a fraternity can be known and not investigated by law enforcement, even if the student decided not to press charges. I find that disturbing and something we need to change institutionally. As a community, we need to make major changes, in both our institutional and peer cultures. Such changes are not easy. They do no come overnight. And they are not made by single actions alone. They take concerted, thoughtful efforts by all of us. I believe that the worst thing we could do as a community is to decide what we think the answer is without listening carefully to the voices of those women who have survived sexual assault in our community, and in our rush to do something, to do things that survivors themselves find counter-productive. For example, at least one of the women quoted in the RS article, herself a survivor, has expressed concern about how her quotes were used in the article and in the article’s portrayal of Dean Eramo, whom, she said, is a strong supporter of survivors. At least one of the student sexual assault support groups on grounds has echoed this sentiment. I hope we can all listen, as well as take action, in the coming days, weeks, months, and years and keep our focus on the (mostly) women who we all should be trying our hardest to support and on changing the cultures, both institutional and peer, that supports the behavior in the first place, as well as that are responding after the fact. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault and in need of support, the Sexual Assault Resource Agency’s 24-hour hotline is: 434-977-7273.

Sincerely,

Nancy Deutsch

Curry School of Education


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