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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Frontline: Administration needs to stop readmitting perpetrators of sexual assault

By Suzanna Leung

 

Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault

Former Western student Isaac Holloway was arrested and charged with third-degree rape in Kitsap County last March in connection with an assault that took place in August 2016. He then plead down to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation in court on June 26, allowing him to avoid registering as a sex-offender.

For Western students, this case may sound eerily similar to the case of Connor Griesemer, who was readmitted to Western last year after sexually assaulting a female student off campus. Griesemer was initially charged with second-degree rape, but like Holloway, ended up pleading guilty to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation.

Knowledge of Griesemer’s readmission sparked outrage among many students. They organized and protested against the university’s decision to allow a perpetrator of sexual assault back on campus.

Now, Western has a chance to do the right thing.

Holloway is not currently enrolled in classes for fall 2017, but he could try to return to Western after his sentence. That is why Western’s administration must commit to not allowing Holloway back on campus.

Students do not want to attend classes with perpetrators of sexual assault. When students come to Western, they expect safety, as well as an education that is undisturbed by the anxieties of attending class with people like Griesemer and Holloway. This is especially true for survivors of sexual assault.

According to Mental Health America, victims of sexual assault are at an increased risk for developing depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. Readmitting those convicted of sexual assault can retraumatize sexual assault survivors, and Western’s disregard for these students displays that the university fails to take sexual assault seriously.

There is also the dark reality that our legal system poorly handles rape cases, with victim-blaming techniques frequently being used to defend sexual assault perpetrators.

An example of this can be seen in the Brock Turner rape case, where a Stanford swimmer raped an unconscious female student. During the trial, the victim was asked questions about her height, weight, partying habits and how much she drank that night in attempts to make her seem at fault.

According to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, rape perpetrators are less likely to be incarcerated than those who commit robbery and physical assault. In a study of 310 reported rape cases, only six of the cases ended with the perpetrator going to jail.

This is why it is so important for the school to take action to protect students.

Students have raised endless concerns about sexual assault with Western’s administration, and it is time for the university to prove to students that it has grown from its previous mistakes.

Paul Cocke, Western’s director of communication and marketing, stated in an email to The Western Front on June 30 that Western has the right to refuse readmission to any student who poses a safety or security risk to the university community. 

Students undoubtedly feel that there is an inherent safety risk on campus that comes with attending school with a convicted perpetrator of sexual assault. Since our legal system refuses to properly convict perpetrators of sexual assault, Western’s administration needs to take it upon itself to protect students and sexual assault survivors on campus.

Just because a person has been convicted of one sexual assault does not mean the offense was an isolated incident. A study by the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center at the University of Michigan surveyed 99 male sex offenders who confessed a total of 959 victims between them, showing that those who commit sexual assault are likely to reoffend.

In another email concerning Griesemer’s readmission, Cocke said safety on Western’s campus is the university’s top priority. But statements like these are useless if Western refuses to act accordingly.

Readmitting students convicted of sexual assault disrupts the learning environment here at Western, and is contradictory to the morals that the university says it stands for. That is why the school must finally stand up for the student body and avoid making the same mistakes with Holloway’s case, as they did with Griesemer’s. Holloway, and any other student convicted of sexual assault, should not be permitted to enroll in classes at Western.

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