Read of the Day: “When Rape Goes Viral”
6:00 pm, July 25th | by Colette McIntyre
In today’s Read of the Day, our journalism crush Ann Friedman discusses how social media is “forcing Americans to confront the scourge of sexual assault more openly and honestly than ever before — even as it also destroys the lives on individual victims.”
Kelsey is one of the anonymous plaintiffs in a national complaint against the Department of Education and several universities for violating students’ civil rights by failing to thoroughly investigate reports of crime on campus, and for failing to follow the Clery Act, a federal law that requires colleges to keep accurate crime statistics. (Janet Gilmore, spokeswoman for UC-Berkeley, says the university has yet to see the complaint, but “we care very much about this issue and work hard to encourage students to report sexual assaults. We thoroughly investigate these cases and work with surviving students to ensure they are getting the counseling, support, and any additional care they may need.”) But even though Kelsey is deeply engaged in activism surrounding the issue of rape, she’s also been very private about her own experience as a victim. Right now, she’s home for the summer, and her parents still don’t know that she was assaulted. She feels incredibly lucky that she didn’t end up like the girl in the video her floormates watched: the victim not only of a sexual assault but of a gross affront to her privacy.
Audrie Pott faced the dual trauma of assault followed by widespread judgment.
And yet, even as she seeks to maintain privacy about her assault, she says she wishes more people would have seen the video of the crying woman being attacked. Assuming the university failed to act, perhaps the release of the video would have changed that. “If the video had gotten published or something, maybe the university would have actually done something if it would have tarnished their reputation,” Kelsey says. “There’s a history of sexual assault and harassment being swept under the rug to make the campus look like a perfect and safe place, and it’s difficult but I feel like if something would have happened with this video …” She trails off, and corrects herself: “It isn’t even about the video though. It’s that it happened and the university didn’t do anything.”
In a way, though, it is kind of about the video—and the stark dilemma it created. That video—grotesque as it was—probably represented the best hope for shaming people into taking strong action in this case. It was also, however, a vicious weapon that if widely circulated could have ruined a young woman’s life.
To read the rest of the Daily Beast essay, click here.