The UC Santa Cruz campus was buzzing on Feb. 28 when students received an email notifying us that the alleged rape victim had admitted to fabricating the entire attack. It was the email heard ‘round the world, or at least ‘round the campus.
A sense of anxiety overwhelmed most of the campus community when they received the email and CruzAlert on Feb. 17 informing them that a visitor had been beaten and sexually assaulted by the Quarry Amphitheater. The UCSC Police Department conducted an investigation and had offered a reward for tips leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.
In reaction to the reported sexual assault, Santa Cruz police introduced several safety measures like the Night Safety Escort Service. A group of UCSC students also organized a candlelight vigil and members of the community took on greater responsibility for each others’ safety.
Despite having been fabricated from the beginning, the assault helped spread safety and solidarity among the UCSC campus and also shed light on the issue of rape present in our nation. The UCSC community launched a full-fledged attack on the fabricated assailant and refused to give up until he was caught. It might have been for this reason that many were disappointed when they were told the attack didn’t actually occur.
Upon receiving the news, the first thing that came to my mind was how fast the detectives from Law and Order: SVU would be able to come to California and solve the mystery. I questioned how the attack could have been staged. How does one even go about staging a rape or a sexual assault? I also questioned why this woman would go through the trouble of staging a sexual assault, while others suffer from the effects each and every day. I felt both discontented and happy when I heard the news — my happiness stemming from the simple fact that she was not raped and my discontent coming from the feeling that we had all taken action for no reason. Then I stopped and thought about the rapes that do occur on campus, many of which go unnoticed or unreported. My feelings rapidly changed and I suddenly felt glad that the campus community had done everything we could to bring light to this issue.
According to a study done by the National Institute of Justice, 81 percent of on-campus sexual assaults are not reported to the police and fewer than 5 percent of attempted and completed rapes are actually reported to law enforcement. With statistics like these, I think it is necessary to bring the issue of sexual assault to light.
As the saying goes, knowledge is never wasted. The efforts students and members of this community have made have not been wasted either. They have shown us something that we might not have known about otherwise. I also do not want the community’s love and support to weaken due to the fact that the assault turned out to be false.
If there had been no candlelight vigil, no community safety meeting, no self-defense training, the campus community might have gone uninformed about real issues that affect college students and more importantly, the resources that are available to them in case said crimes do take place. Although a great amount of students were upset that the assault turned out to be false, it is important for them to remember that events like these do occur and should not be undermined by one false report.