Within the past nine days the Cal Poly community has experienced something unimaginable: three women have come forward saying that they were raped. The first rape occurred on Saturday, May 7 at the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon (Sig Ep), the second (May 12) and third (May 15) at on campus apartments where many second year students live. Although alcohol was involved in all three assaults, police are saying they are three different incidences and that none are linked.
The initial press release that was sent out by campus police after the rape at Sig Ep caused an uprising with students who felt as though the campus police were blaming the victims for what happened to them. Once the second rape was reported, President Jeffrey Armstrong sent out an e-mail to the campus community saying how sorry he was for the women involved and asking how the campus can become a community of change following these incidences.
His e-mail states: “Beyond our concern for the women involved – and my heart goes out to both young women — the most useful questions we can ask right now are simple: What can we learn from these incidents? What more will we do as a community to prevent sexual violence? What more will we do to eliminate use of illegal drugs and reckless consumption of alcohol?”
Many students have rallied behind the women, saying that, no matter what, the women are not at fault. Their statements come in contrast to yet other students who feel as though some of the blame should be on the women who perhaps drank too much at a party or don’t remember hooking up with the guy that they ended up sleeping with. One student has turned himself in with connection to the Sig Ep rape; the two other suspects have not been arrested and will remain out of police custody until the police have figured out how to proceed with the evidence and arrests.
Students who know the man who turned himself in are confused and unsure of what the real story is. Many people don’t realize that most rapes are committed by somebody the victim knows.
Joseph Trupiano, the student who turned himself in with connection to the Sig Ep rape, has been described by friends as caring, compassionate, and “a stand-up guy.” Many of them do not understand how he could be involved with such a serious crime.
Armstrong also explained how important it is for fellow students, friends, and party goers to stand up and stop acts of sexual violence in the future. “This is not who we are as members of the Cal Poly community,” he explained. “This is not merely unacceptable behavior; this is deplorable, contemptible, infuriating behavior. Perhaps some who failed to report what they knew stemmed from a fear that they would be in trouble as well. That’s a change in culture we must embark on immediately. Others, perhaps, simply didn’t care. I don’t know that we can fix that sort of calloused behavior, but we surely must try.”
Local media stations have been quick to pick up on these stories. Questions have arisen about whether these reports show an increased number of sexual assaults, or whether the reports simply show an increase in confidence that coming forward about rape will be taken seriously. President Armstrong has set up a task force in order to figure out how to address the most recent rapes, as well as prevent similar acts of sexual assault from happening in the future.