“No” Is A Complete Sentence

And Other Take-Aways From the UVA Rape Investigation

The New York Times article announcing the outcome of the police investigation of an alleged gang rape that occurred on the campus of the University of Virginia stated that students on campus “simply wanted life to return to normal.” If “normal” means ignoring crime on campus, pretending that it doesn’t happen, then it’s good that student’s lives have been shaken up a bit.

Even though the headlines are saying that there is no evidence of a sexual assault being committed in this case, the investigation never spoke with the victim OR the alleged perpetrator of the act. It’s going to be difficult to get information about a crime when the victim “refuses to cooperate” with the investigation. What I think is important to remember is that Jackie, the victim, has every right to not cooperate with the investigation, and just because she refuses to do so does NOT mean that the sexual assault did not happen. A police investigation into a sexual assault is incredibly invasive and involves answering highly personal (and often irrelevant) questions. This can cause a lot of pain for someone who has already been traumatized and might be experiencing symptoms of post- traumatic stress, which are common for survivors of rape.

Perhaps the reason that she does not want to discuss the incident with law enforcement is that she thinks it will make her nightmares worse, or that the scrutiny on campus will be unbearable, or maybe she’s afraid or retaliation from the perpetrator or the fraternity involved. Regardless of her reasons, she does not owe us an explanation. As a society, we must realize that when she says “no,” that is a complete sentence. Though no charges will be filed, it is foolish for us to say that nothing happened because the victim is exercising her right to heal in her own way. I applaud Chief Longo for reminding us, “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie on the evening of Sept. 28, 2012. We’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is.”

So let’s support Jackie and every other victim by first giving them control back by respecting them when they say “no.” Then, let’s not try to “simply get back to normal” but to continue to talk about sexual assault, on and off campus, so that society understands that sexual violence is unacceptable, and not to swept under the rug.