SMU student opinion piece about alcohol, sexual assault sparks petition

SMU student opinion piece about alcohol, sexual assault sparks petition

By Melissa Repko

5:21 pm on November 6, 2013

At Southern Methodist University, sexual assault and prevention efforts have generated many headlines. But the latest debate, which started in SMU’s student newspaper, has attracted national attention.

It all began last week with an opinion piece about alcohol and sexual assault in The Daily Campus, SMU’s student newspaper. In the guest column, SMU student Kirby Wiley says women should drink responsibly to avoid rape and asks “is the blame being placed in the right place?” by focusing only on the perpetrator.

“If the media would focus more attention on the fact that the majority of the women who are sexually assaulted are intoxicated, as opposed to stating and restating how horrible the perpetrator is, then maybe young women would start to listen,” she wrote in the piece, which was published Friday.

More than 300 people have signed a petition questioning the newspaper’s decision to run the piece and two others. The petition says the articles contribute to misogyny and victim-blaming.

“These types of articles are a slap in the face to young women on this campus who are survivors of rape, and publication of such articles discourage the reporting of sexual assaults,” the petition says.

The petition was started by two SMU student groups, Women’s Interest Network and SPECTRUM, an LGBT group, on Friday.

Samuel Partida, an SMU senior who helped create the petition, said he’s been “surprised and overwhelmed” by support for the petition and is encouraged by the conversation it started.

Take Back the Night, a rally to raise sexual assault awareness, and similar campus events at SMU usually draw few students and little attention, Partida said, but he’s hopeful that may change. “We are looking toward trying to create a sustained and perpetual dialogue,” he said.

In the controversy’s wake, The Daily Campus’ editorial board explained its opinion page policies and invited students to “join the conversation.”

Katy Roden, editor-in-chief of The Daily Campus, said the opinion page is intended to be “an open forum for students” and any student can submit a guest column.

Wiley, author of the controversial column, said she now wishes she’d worded her thoughts more carefully. She said she wrote it after seeing many students binge-drink and hearing about the gang-rape case at Vanderbilt University. “

All I wanted was to promote awareness of this issue because I want to help other women,” she said. “I would have definitely reworded things because I don’t believe in blaming the victim at all.” “Hopefully, it will raise awareness to some extent in a positive way,” she said.

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