Rapists on a Bathroom Wall

Columbia University has been facing some heat lately for the way its authorities have been handling reports of rape and other sexual assaults — or, rather, their lack of handling them. This is, depressingly, nothing new in the land of undergraduate education.

What got my attention on the news a few nights back was the report of graffiti and flyers which have been found in at least one Columbia University bathroom. Apparently, some female students have taken the lack of formal punishment into their own hands, specifically naming rapists and sexual assailants on their campus. Check out this article on Jezebel for photographs of the lists and background information.

There is concern about the validity of the claims, but as sexual violence has been one of my longest-standing fears, I find myself strained to view this from an unbiased standpoint. So, I won’t.

I wholeheartedly support their vigilante justice.

At my school, the sexual assault rate was rumored to be about one in four women, although I have no doubt that many trans* students, men, and students of other sexes and genders have been violated as well. In my experience talking specifically with women on campus (both friends and acquaintances), I had not found more than a few who reported never having been in a sexually threatening situation against at least one man during their four or five college years. Most of us have had one or more of these experiences, and I am no exception.

I wish there had been public outlets for survivors at my university who wished to warn would-be victims to avoid these men and discourage would-be offenders. Public social shame is a phenomenally more potent punisher and could do infinitely more good in than hush-hush, administrative slaps on the wrist behind closed doors.

To the students at Columbia University publicly outing attackers on campus, I say “Bravo!” and give a hearty thanks for leading the way. Schools clearly won’t protect us, so it’s up to us to protect each other.

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