By Hannah W – Contributor
At this moment in time the general population refers to Baylor as a place where sexual assault lives. As a very recent alumna, I can elaborate on how that definition, though understandable to a degree, is not accurate.
The last few months have left me very torn. On one hand, I have tried to be a voice of reason while addressing the fact that the university and more importantly the victims of sexual assault were let down in unimaginable ways by former members of the Baylor community. I have had what seems like endless discussions with friends, family, and strangers confirming the notion that what has taken place at Baylor, not just in athletics, was terrible, and those involved should pay for their neglect and indecency. On the other-hand, I have defended the Baylor community and whilst doing so I have been verbally assaulted and mocked while engaging in what I thought to be civil discussions regarding the true character of the Baylor Bears… looking back on those moments I cannot begin to imagine the kinds of verbal, mental, and emotional abuse those intimately close to these happenings must be dealing with.
It has become clear to me that most people think I need to pick a side and that there really is no middle ground on the issue.
When I think of Baylor I don’t just think about our football program, because for me that’s not why I came to Baylor. I think about the professors who’ve walked the halls and campus educating future generations. I think of the thousands of students who have learned from those professors, instilled change where they saw fit, and impacted the world in different ways. I also think about all of the women and men who have been victims of sexual assault and violence who have gone unheard not only in the Baylor community, but also in communities and on campuses alike across the country. It is hard not to hear their voices rising above the rest in a time like this.
So how do I do it?
How do I stand beside the victim who has now been given a voice as well as my alma mater?
Well, the people who were the faces of one of the largest Christian higher education institutions failed miserably. They set vulnerable people up to fail when they reached out to seek justice. They failed women when they needed them most. The men and women involved in the sexual assault scandal no longer are representative of Baylor. Let me be clear, I am not trying to disown those involved or downplay the situation, I am acknowledging that there was a point in time where we supported them, we hoped for them, we defended them, and we cheered them on… I do believe that that was because at some point in time each one of those people truly did believe in and in our eyes represented what Baylor was about. In light of the events in the past year we see that we were very wrong, that our hope, our defense, our cheers, and our support were taken advantage of and in the end money and reputation trumped human decency and Christian ethics.
I have seen coverage by the media and people in general who seem to be shouting at the top of their lungs that the penalty should be for Baylor to get the death sentence. They colorfully illustrate their opinions with blanket statements about the kinds of people who did attend Baylor and who still do. On multiple occasions I have seen commentary saying that Baylor is not somewhere they would ever want to send their children. This scandal has become something other than addressing and penalizing those involved in the scandal, it seems now it is about watching Baylor burn. The thing is, Baylor is not just made up by sports faculty and staff or administration. We are diverse, connected, and educated, but in the last few months’ people have seen us as naïve and hypocritical. I promise that as a community we are grasping at straw’s trying to get all of the information. The lack of information has made people look foolish for standing up for those involved and has left victims defending their stories alone. We are still trying to figure out where we went wrong, while the rest of the world is so set on tearing us apart in order to set an example.
I am all for redefining how universities handle sexual assault cases, because this is NOT JUST A BAYLOR PROBLEM. It is true that though not all members of the Baylor community have felt unsafe on our campus, but that doesn’t mean that campus is a safe place for victims. Many of the cases happened off campus, but there were repercussions that bled into campus life for the victims. Campus became unsafe for those who had to face their attackers walking around in public while they waited for the judicial system to do its job. Campus became unsafe when one after another; phone calls and emails were ignored by administration. Campus became unsafe when authorities told them that their cases had been dropped due to a mishandling of the case or insufficient evidence (which was not always true).
College campuses are rather safe places, they are populated and public and especially at Baylor the people are warm, encouraging, and filled with the Spirit. You should make no mistake though, college campuses do harbor an evil that for a long time has been ignored, brushed under the rug, and believed to be our own kind of modern day boogieman. Just because your reality is true for yourself and many others, does not mean someone else’s internal struggle and living nightmare is invalid. Don’t forget though that the women who were affected over the last few years will live everyday with what has happened. Not just in that horrible moment that sparked each and every story, but also in the moments that someone uses their story as a way to hate Baylor instead of hating rape.
It is now our time to support, defend, cheer, and hope for not only the healing of the Baylor community, but also the healing of the victims who have been thrust into the limelight by choice or by association. It’s not just our duty as the Baylor community or Christians; it is our duty as a generation to create a new standard for how institutions address sexual assault and to never stop fighting until the right people are held accountable.
I refuse to let this turn into the death of Baylor, because it is about so much more. It is about fighting against sexual violence and working towards the future where campuses will be safer and women, as well as men, will have a voice.
So do me a favor, if you have something to say please be thoughtful, please be caring, and by all means please be honest. We are looking for help here, not ridicule. that won’t help anyone heal.
Hannah W. studied Management Information Systems at Baylor University and is a Technology Consultant. In her spare time she enjoys nature, traveling, Hamilton, and Sunday Fundays.
Hannah originally published this post to her Facebook page with the following disclaimer:
***DISCLAIMER: This is a post about the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University. It’s lengthy and took me a while to articulate my thoughts. Please read it and if you feel inclined I don’t mind if you share it.***
We felt that her message of fostering compassion and understanding in the midst of tragedy was something everyone should hear. We thank Hannah for agreeing to re-print her message with us. – SIL Blog Staff.