Penn promises to keep us safe. Penn is failing: over one in four undergraduate women  have experienced some form of sexual assault, and even more can speak to the tangible, pervasive elements of rape culture embedded in this campus.  And yes, it exists in off–campus Greek life. But the campus rape epidemic extends to so much more than that tiny portion of our student body.

To exist as an assault survivor on this campus is to constantly find your experiences devalued, your trauma swept aside. CAPS takes weeks to schedule appointments about residual PTSD; there are administrative hurdles to excuse survivors from coursework in the immediate months after assault. The process of reporting and prosecuting rape at Penn is notoriously heinous. The University, as an institution and as a community, demands that you push aside your grief. But I’m constantly reminded of what it means to be a survivor. I’m not allowed to forget.

There’s the paradox of surviving rape at Penn: you know you’re not alone, but you feel abandoned. You see reminders of assault all the time, but nobody calls them out for what they are. That’s why the OZ email scandal was such a poignant opportunity — because it was concrete, unequivocal evidence of the rhetoric that leads to rape. Penn promised not to ignore it. And then, with the mangled enforcement of task force recommendations, the University did exactly that.

We’ve missed an opportunity to have a conversation, to actually examine why a group of men on this campus felt comfortable and secure enough to send that email to freshman women. We missed the chance to hold Penn accountable for supporting survivors. After the OZ email leaked, Amy Gutmann said she was “aghast” and that the language of the email had “no place” at Penn. But assault does have a place here, one carved into the fabric of campus life. Maybe if our President listened to the survivor speakout at Take Back the Night instead of sending along a printed–out statement like she’s done for the past years, or if she walked down Locust and heard girls whisper about which frat spikes drinks while its members sprawl on couches and blatantly stare at them, or if she stepped into the Street office where I edit, on an almost weekly basis, narratives of sexual violence and trauma, maybe then she would understand why OZ wrote what it did. But rape isn't an OZ issue, or a Greek life issue, or an off–campus group issue: assault is everywhere. The University's bastardized response to recommendations that were meant, in part, to prevent sexual violence is an insult to survivors. It’s hard to believe the University can be that ignorant. And it’s harder to believe that the administration genuinely thinks shutting down parties will stop sexual assault.

The feigned disconnect between the University and its students isn’t cute — we joke about Dean Furda showing up at Pool Party, but what clearer proof do we need that the administration knows our social events will be shifted, at enormous cost, off campus? The aftermath of the task force has ripped the narrative away from assault survivors; it’s Penn, as an institution, showing me once again that I don’t have a voice. If the administration really believes that banning students from taking shots will eliminate sexual assault, then we have a massive, destructive logical fallacy that takes blame away from rapists and puts it on alcohol and those who consume it. To state the obvious: that’s bullshit. But I don’t think Penn is that stupid. I think the administration is just shoving assault, and assault survivors, over to the side, where they can ignore us until the next round of statistics comes out.

This right here, this absurd moment in Penn’s history, is what rape culture looks like. When the administration goes after all of us who drink off–campus, or who just show up at an unregistered social event, it de facto exonerates OZ. We’re all attacked now; we all feel under fire. The collective narrative is about us–versus-event–monitors, not about why the guys who sit beside me in class or date my friends or wave to me at Smokes’ might call me a “tease” and tell me to “fuck off.” 

OZ will be fine — because it’s OZ, because its primary identifiers on campus are its wealth and status, and because fraternities, even off–campus, are more systemically entrenched at Penn than support for rape survivors. There are more frameworks in place for protecting frats than for protecting assault victims. Meanwhile, Betsy De Vos is gutting Title IX, a construction worker on Pine just shouted at me to smile, and every time I go to fill up my water bottle in a Fisher Bennett bathroom, I see ads taped to the stalls about a new study on rape survivors.  

The administration will, most likely, continue to fuck up spectacularly and give us new ammunition to gossip about. But the consequences, both tangible and symbolic, of appropriating a committee on rape culture to shut down some Natty Light keg stands and games of pong won’t get the attention they deserve. Penn promised to protect us. It’s time we take the University to task. 


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