On Nov. 16, USA Today published an article detailing how LSU and LSU Athletics officials have mishandled sexual assault complaints against students for years. The article sent shockwaves throughout the LSU community; many fans took to social media to express their outrage at the University’s apparent prioritization of athletes’ careers over their victims’ wellbeing.
For many LSU students, however, this news was disappointing but not surprising.
Students have been denouncing the University’s handling of sexual assault cases long before USA Today’s initial Aug. 19 report found the University failed to investigate two female students’ claims that then-student athlete Derrius Guice sexually assaulted them.
Over the summer, LSU alumnae Brooklen Farley and McCaala Nelson created the hashtag #ShowYourself to share their experiences of sexual assault at the University. Many current and former students followed suit, including some who had never before spoken publicly about their stories.
While the students’ personal experiences differed, many of them had one common factor — the victims reported the incidents to LSUPD and hadn’t heard back since.
LSUPD isn’t the only deficient cog in the wheel, however. University policies require the Title IX Office to conduct investigations of sexual misconduct allegations. When reporting on Title IX regulation changes in October, The Reveille spoke with a student who had to report an incident to the Title IX Office twice last year before he received a response. The USA Today report contains more damning evidence: former LSU student Samantha Brennan, one of Guice’s victims, also never heard back from the Title IX Office after her report was filed.
Victims who manage to secure an investigation are typically only met with more bureaucratic red tape; even after completing this arduous process, there is no guarantee their attackers won’t simply be placed on “deferred suspensions” after being found responsible for the assault.
Rather than suffer through the frustration that often accompanies this process, many victims choose to not report and instead suffer in silence. This emotional toil is likely only amplified for students who were assaulted by high-profile student athletes who, according to USA Today, often have a team of supporters within the athletic department at their side.
As one victim told USA Today, “I just think that honestly they don’t care. The whole system is on the side of the accused.”
A scandal of this magnitude may have been what LSU and LSU Athletics administration needed to finally begin to address our University’s ineffective sexual misconduct regulations, but for students, it only confirmed what many already knew to be true — the system is broken, perhaps beyond repair.
LSU officials have scrambled to save face since the article was published, but as this behavior continued right under their noses, their silence is deafening.
LSU Athletics released a short response claiming “LSU does not tolerate sexual assault or any form of abuse;” Head Coach Ed Orgeron echoed this sentiment in a press conference on Monday. LSU Interim President Thomas Galligan issued a response of his own that stated, despite evidence to the contrary, that “LSU takes every report of sexual assault or sexual violence seriously.”
The Reveille’s response is this: Actions speak louder than words.