In my professional and personal lives, I have listened to many people share their stories of surviving sexual assault. Some spoke with their chins lifted and their eyes locked on mine. Others looked over my head at the wall or down at their hands. I have read numerous accounts of assault, some descriptive and detailed, some vague, some plain and direct, and some poetic. I have watched performances, read fiction and scholarly articles, and taken part in conversations about sexual violence.
I have heard a lot of stories.
And that is one small way I try to help bring about change: by bearing witness. We have to talk about the unacceptable cruelties present in our world if we ever hope to remedy them.
That’s why I wanted to bring together members of the Roosevelt and Chicago communities to talk about the November Rolling Stone story “A Rape on Campus” in a public discussion this afternoon (details below). The story, which depicted the brutal gang rape of a female student at a University of Virginia fraternity, has been widely criticized as based on falsehoods and the imperfect account of the alleged victim, “Jackie.” Now, the magazine has attached an editorial note, and local police found no evidence that the rape occurred.
The case raises countless questions about how we treat victims and the accused, the often problematic ways universities respond to rape, and the ethics of journalism. It’s a difficult story, no matter what happened, but one we must engage with. If we shy away from topics like rape, we cannot fight the conditions that make it possible for such acts to happen in the first place. And whether or not the rape in the story occurred, rape happens all the time, in all parts of the world, and must be addressed.
The panelists leading this conversation—Anne-Marie Cusac, Marjorie Jolles and Steven Adler—each bring a unique and well-trained perspective to the issue. Respectively, they work as a journalist, a philosopher, and an activist, and they are each sensitive to the significant ethical and political dimensions of the story. This conversation is intended to include everyone who wishes to participate to the degree they desire. Everyone can learn something new about how journalism, activism and intellectual engagement prepare us to respond to injustice.
I believe with all my heart that having difficult conversations is the first step in making our community a supportive place to learn and to initiate change. It all starts with listening.
Responding to “A Rape on Campus”: Journalism, Activism and Ethics
Monday, March 30
3:30 to 5 p.m.
Wabash Building, Room 1017
Panel: Professor Anne-Marie Cusac (journalism), Professor Marjorie Jolles (women’s and gender studies), and Steve Adler of Rape Victim Advocates
For more information, contact Megan Bernard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: In January, this blog hosted “It’s On Us Week” to raise awareness of sexual assault on college campuses. Those posts, written by students, faculty and staff, can be found here.