Later Saturday night, when fraternity parties on Rugby Road would have been in full-swing, the protesters gathered there told the student newspaper that they wanted to “protest a culture which puts female students at risk.”
“We’re here because we think there’s an ongoing problem with social life at UVA,” UVA English professor Susan Fraiman, one of the main organizers of the rally, told the Cavalier Daily. “It is centered on fraternities and as a result, men control who enters parties and women are not on their own turf.”
The University of Virginia is one more than 80 colleges currently being investigated by the federal government for how they handle sexual assaults on campus. Within the last few years, students at schools across the country including Yale, Harvard, Columbia, the University of North Carolina, UCLA and U.C. Berkeley have filed federal complaints alleging that their colleges have violated the Clery Act, which calls for schools to accurately report statistics about on-campus crimes to the government, and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in any school-related activity that receives federal funding.
The U.S. Department of Education sent a guidance letter to all schools in 2011 informing them “sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.” But complaints from student activists and a survey asking about colleges’ approaches to sexual assault cases spearheaded by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, have found that many institutions don’t conduct any investigations into the incidents.
While such injustices have spurred an activist movement in which college students from across the country have connected on social media and in person to demand justice, ultimately resulting in a White House task force to address the problem of campus rape, the Rolling Stone article portrayed UVA as a conservative campus where speaking out against rape was discouraged.
The student who was allegedly gang-raped, for example, became actively involved with campus anti-sexual assault initiatives and as a result, was harassed by men who recognized her from presentations, according to Rolling Stone. One man she encountered outside a bar flung a bottle at her that broke on her face, bruising and bloodying her, the article said.
UVA made headlines in 2010 when senior lacrosse player Yeardley Love was killed by her ex-boyfriend George Huguely, also a senior lacrosse player. He was convicted of second-degree murder after he burst into Love's apartment and repeatedly banged her head against the wall.