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The two women pursuing a lawsuit against the University of Colorado, after they say they were raped at a football recruiting party in 2001, chalked up what many are calling a small victory this week.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling Thursday that, contrary to a lower court’s decision, there is evidence that CU had an official policy of showing high school recruits a “good time,” using sex and alcohol as primary lures for these recruits.
Anyone who’s been at CU in recent memory should know the rest of the story: allegations that the alcohol, and the environment it created, led to rape. Gang-rape. Sexual assault. Scandals, headlines, resignations. The frightening idea that the university knew about this environment and turned its back on those harmed by it. Or worse, the idea that the university knew about this environment – and continued to help create it.
It turns my stomach.
I doubt Lisa Simpson and the other woman were celebrating Thursday night. This court decision means their fight isn’t over, but it can hardly be considered a victory. There’s still so much for them to fight for, and fight through. This battle is not an easy one. It never has been, not for any of the millions of women who fought it before them and are continuing to fight it today. Alleging rape is a hellish ordeal, forcing the victim to go through a process that should be confined only to nightmares.
Pursuing these allegations has exacted an awful price from these two women. Their names, which they both initially tried to keep out of the press, were learned and published in local and national papers. The intimate details of their lives were called into question and used against them, as evidence perhaps that they simply want attention – a concept so horrifically absurd to me that I can’t fathom how someone could possibly think it to be true – and that they, for some other nonsensical reason, are lying.
And to the skeptics, to those who say the women were never raped, that these football recruiting parties never got out of hand, that the university has always been a paragon of what’s good and true, I ask why. Why would these women fight an uphill battle for the last six years, for a lie? Why would they knowingly take on the status of becoming a public figure, a household name; why would they knowingly earn the ire of such top-ranking officials as Gary Barnett and Elizabeth Hoffman?
Portions of Simpson’s diary were leaked to the public. The skeptics grabbed hold of the passage where Simpson said she wanted to “ruin the lives” of the players who were at the party that night. They thought they had found their smoking gun; for here’s a woman who’s ruining the lives of these football players, and she even wrote that that’s what she wanted to do.
But if you believe Simpson – and I do – I’m not sure that I can fault a rape victim for wanting to ruin the lives of those who ruined her life. I’d rather applaud her, for standing up and speaking out, and refusing to allow institutional intimidation to frighten her. Let her serve as a model for other rape victims unsure about stepping forward.
Because if even one victim finds inspiration in these two women, and comes forward with allegations that otherwise would be buried, I think they would say their fight was worth it.
Contact Campus Press editor Emily Tienken at Emily.Tienken@colorado.edu