When we said we were tired of talking about rape culture on campus in 2012, we meant it. And yet, here we are.
On Thursday, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” published a story accusing former tailback Derrick Washington of raping a woman in 2008 and assaulting three other women over a three-year span — one physical, one sexual, one domestic. Washington was not charged by Boone County for rape, instead making an agreement to never contact the woman again and take a rape awareness class. After three more incidents, Washington was finally kicked off of the team. He was put on trial and served four months in prison for digitally penetrating a woman in June 2010.
The “Outside the Lines” investigation uncovered that multiple university officials knew about all of these instances and failed to conduct a Title IX investigation into the alleged 2008 rape. Title IX, a part of the United States Education Amendments of 1972, “requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding”. If a university official is aware of a report of sexual violence, they are required by law to initiate a Title IX investigation.
First, we want to once again applaud MU for their efforts in evaluating our sexual assault resources on campus. It is important that situations like this do not continue on campus, and seeing the university take some action to make sure of that is great. However, there is a much bigger problem that requires addressing.
Mizzou Director of Athletics Mike Alden admitted in a press conference last week that multiple staff members, such as former Chancellor Brady Deaton and former Public Affairs director Chris Koukola, were aware of what happened in 2008. But Alden said he was not aware of how Title IX procedures worked on campus at the time.
Considering that Title IX was created in 1972, this is not even remotely acceptable. Not initiating a Title IX investigation is one thing, but being ignorant of what Title IX procedures are is totally unacceptable.
We have to ask: If the rapist in this case was not a football player, would he have been charged? Our student-athletes have always been given special treatment, and this case is no exception. We must stop this trend of allowing Mizzou athletes to be treated differently simply because they are athletes.
Treating student-athletes differently is one thing, but making sure they play at the cost of student safety is utterly ridiculous. If we are going to take pride in our players being “Mizzou Made,” then we need to address their misconduct as well.
Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin pointed out in a teleconference last week that many things have changed during his time as chancellor. But still, while Deaton and a few other university officials have left, the overall administration remains mostly the same. While Title IX procedures have improved on paper, the university has no examples of how Title IX procedures have improved in practice. While we are glad that policies are changing and more resources are being offered, we have yet to see any concrete evidence of progress.
But this is bigger than Mizzou Athletics and bigger than MU.
Sexual assaults have become a growing problem on college campuses. As of July 2, the Department of Education is investigating 67 different schools for possible Title IX violations. According to Campus Safety Magazine, 20 to 25 percent of women will experience a completed and/or attempted rape while in college.
Rape culture is growing and getting harder to control. Treating others with respect and dignity is essential in attempting to stop rape. Understanding that “no” means “no,” and that a forced or coerced “yes” is not consent, is of the utmost importance.
As a campus, as a student body, let’s all recognize sexual violence as a serious problem and take a stand against it.