Updated thoughts can be found here: A UVA Student Reflects
This morning an unfortunately familiar wave of oppression and darkness fell over UVA. Somber and hushed conversations sounded like a sorrowful murmur against the blustery wind of the eerie November cold. A community that had just come together and started a healing journey had received yet another strong blow.
It has been two months since Hannah Graham went missing. Her loss is one that the entire student body felt, as well as the faculty, staff, and residents in the surrounding Charlottesville area. The long process of healing has only just begun. People have come together more than ever before in support and encouragement.
In the midst of this atmosphere, Rolling Stone published the following article; causing the second wave of gloom to descend like a blanket over grounds:
The article is long, but definitely worth reading. There has been an enormous response to this article. Links are ubiquitously present on all social media platforms which are littered with opinions. It hardly feels appropriate to speak of anything else in a moment such as this.
There has been a lot of backlash critiquing the article as bad journalism; and a large outcry for fact checking.
These people are missing the point.
I agree that the article could have been written differently. There are a lot of sweeping generalizations and careful wording which dramatizes things that shouldn’t be. Perhaps not all the quotes are exact and perhaps they aren’t word for word what was actually exchanged during those events. However, this is nitpicking.
This article has also sparked a lot of debate about how the faculty at the University, and others, have handled such cases, and what should be done in the future. Some are ignoring the fact that there are laws and policies in place which must be adhered to, however this does not mean that those laws and policies are effective and should exist in the first place. It is very disheartening that survivors feel hindered from coming forward for fear of being judged or losing social capital. I’ll be the first to admit that I am personally very frustrated by the whole broken system, and the feeling like there is little possibility of real change occurring. No one disagrees that there is a large need for change. The how is what is debated. This is a conversation that needs to happen, and it needs to happen soon. But it is also necessary to keep perspective and realize that change won’t happen overnight. This whole ordeal is infuriating, but I hope it can inspire hope and change and instill a sense of responsibility in the minds of everyone affected.
However, I, along with many others, fear that this article will be counterproductive. The divisiveness that results from something like this will cause strain on an already vulnerable community. The negative image of UVA that it depicts is going to taint all aspects of the University, including the good ones. My personal experience interacting with people at UVA, including those involved in Greek Life, has been nothing but positive. I do not discount the fact that others have had much different experiences than I have, but this article portrays the University as a whole and its students in a way that makes it seem like there is no good and there is no trust. By in large, this is a great place with great people. But like everywhere else in this twisted world, evil does exist.
Regardless of the details, rape culture and gang rape is very much real. It is a huge problem; one which is not isolated simply to UVA. In all the controversy that has arisen surrounding this article, I fear the story will be lost in the chaos.
We need to let this story have its impact. What has happened to “Jackie” and many others is horrific and makes me sick. To think that anyone could treat someone else in such a way is heartbreaking. The vivid memories she faces everyday should not exist. I hope that everyone who has experienced something like this can find healing and begin to see the good in the world again.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that our community comes together in support of each other, so that we can heal together. And in doing so, maybe, there can be one less.