Lili Mackensie s a junior architecture major
As the writer, it is my responsibility to give you a content warning: this article focuses on sexua l assault, college rape culture, survivor stories, and related topics. Some people, by nature, tend to avoid these difficult topics of conversation, and those types of people will most likely not like what I have to say. This is a difficult, yet extremely important dialogue that the USF community needs to have.
A number of women have reportedly been sexually assaulted or raped by previous members of the men’s soccer team, according to Sports Illustrated (SI). These are also only women who have shared their experiences. No one knows in actuality how many noncisgender male individuals have experienced any form of sexual assault on USF’s campus. After reading the SI article, the entire 53 page legal investigation, and listening to survivor stories, USF has not done nearly enough to support survivors on campus. The behavior of the administration is almost as disgusting as the behavior exemplified by the soccer players themselves.
Since this article came out, I have felt like I am 13 again, the age when I experienced sexual trauma for the first time. As someone who has had seven years to process my own experiences, the wound it left feels fresher than it has in a long time. It also brings up much of the internal dialogue I’ve been battling regarding gender identity and sexual trauma.
In 2020, I started questioning my gender identity. As I journeyed through finding myself as a nonbinary individual, I could not stop thinking about my experiences of being catcalled on the street, being sexualized by male classmates, and being sexually assaulted. The world was telling me that this was a women’s issue, and if I stopped identifying as a woman, it would invalidate my experiences and trauma that I faced as a cisgender woman. But it does not, and even though I stopped identifying as female, I still get catcalled. Just three weeks ago, a man unaffiliated with USF followed me in a car for a block near campus.
Since the SI article came out, a lot of people have spoken exclusively about women’s rights, when we should be talking about survivors’ rights, and how in general, the majority of survivors are noncisgender male-identifying individuals, including women.
To any noncisgender male-identifying individual, the type of sexist and predatory behavior that has been exuded by male soccer team members for at least two decades should not come as a surprise. I know it did not for me. Myself and many others wanted to believe the school when they said that this institution was going to be different because we, as survivors, have been let down by previous institutions. USF should not consider itself holier than others when it comes to rape culture just because it is a private Catholic institution. The reputation of other private Catholic institutions, i.e., the Catholic church sex abuse scandals, around the world already speaks volumes about rape culture.
As it has now been a week with one response that left most community members unsatisfied from the University, students have taken on the responsibility to seek change in the administration. I applaud It’s On USFCA for all of the hard work they are doing and I want to second their demands for the University below:
First, “Father Fitzgerald must apologize for the University’s failures in addressing sexual violence. He must meet with survivor and student-led organizations on campus committed to reducing sexual violence.” Second, “Survivor-centered Title IX policies (as of August 2020, they are not) regardless of DeVos’ Title IX Rule.” Third, “Creation of a student and survivor Sexual Violence Taskforce.” Fourth, “Required course and/or training for ALL community members (students, faculty, staff, coaches, etc.) at least quarterly.” And lastly, “Increased funding for sexual violence prevention and awareness programming year-round, including more transparent and comprehensive Title IX messaging.”
I also have a few personal demands for the University and its community. Firstly, there should not only be an open dialogue on campus about supporting survivors but also an open dialogue about the intersectionality that survivors may face, and how those may make them more susceptible as targets. Secondly, Father Fitzgerald must make a public statement in support of survivors and their intersectional identities by recognizing these identities are still targeted by the patriarchal system of oppression that exists in our society today. He must also recognize the bravery of all individuals who have ever experienced sexual assault, especially the individuals who speak out against the system of oppression that these male soccer players have used to their advantage to commit abuse.
I want to thank Sports Illustrated for shedding light on this situation. I also want to thank Ashley, Janet, McLoughlin, Casciano, and all of the other strong women who shared their stories in the article.