This week, The Phoenix told the story of a Loyola student’s reported sexual assault and how he dealt with the trauma.
The story is the culmination of reporting since October on this specific incident. We wrote about when the crime was reported. We told the story of the Chicago Police Department’s investigation into the incident through police reports obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. And now, we’re telling the story through the survivor’s own words.
This is important reporting that needs to be done if we want our society to heal.
If we hadn’t reported on the story in October, we never would have sent in the FOIA. If we hadn’t gotten the police reports, the survivor never would have come forward to talk to us. If he hadn’t come forward to talk to us, his story would’ve remained hidden.
And that’s exactly the issue. Too often, these stories remain hidden.
Without The New York Times, we wouldn’t know about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s decades of abuse.
Without The New Yorker, we wouldn’t know about allegations of misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Sexual violence is a problem in every industry, in every community.
Yes, that includes college campuses like Loyola.
When Loyola officials were first approached with questions about this story, they stonewalled the reporter, acting as a brick wall despite claiming transparency about violence on students. As the reporting process continued over several months, the administration slowly became more accommodating, but there’s still more that can — and should — be done.
We’re not the only university facing widespread sexual violence, in fact, we’re far from it. If Loyola wants to live up to its social justice identity, the first step is addressing sexual violence and working diligently to prevent it. That means being honest about the number of reports and providing information about specific incidents when necessary.
The Phoenix staff cares immensely about sexual violence, which is why we want to do our part in bringing light to the issue. The only way we know how to do that is to report on it, and never stop reporting on it.
We aren’t reckless reporters looking for a juicy story. We aren’t looking to exploit a student’s trauma for our own benefit. We’re working to show students what is happening on their campus. And when survivors want to talk, we will gladly tell their stories.
The Phoenix staff pores over every word of every article about sexual assault, doing our best to ensure we are sensitive, truthful, empathetic and respectful.
The survivor in this case explicitly said talking about his case with reporters helped him feel better about it — and he wished it would help others come forward and continue their own healing process.
When survivors talk, they take agency over their own story.
“If anyone’s gonna tell this story it’s gonna be me, not a bunch of reports or a bunch of CPD,” the student survivor said. “Because they weren’t there. Title IX was supportive and everything but it didn’t happen to them.”
We understand every survivor is different, and some might not want to talk to reporters about their assault. But when they do, we want to be a speaker to amplify their voice, a source for survivors to take back some of the control they lost.
The Phoenix recently reported in 2016 there were 55 reports of sexual violence on students off campus and 15 reports in on-campus residence halls. The student in our story this week is an example of the wider problem on our campus, our home, where students should have the expectation of safety.
While Loyola itself acknowledged in that 2016 report that most instances happen off campus, those off-campus numbers aren’t readily available information. Loyola said they might be in the future.
Our reporting dredges up the dark truth behind a single sexual assault statistic. It’s horrible, heart-wrenching and disturbing. But that’s why it needs to be read. It’s a problem that can only be solved if it’s out in the open and candidly discussed.
Since the #MeToo movement, predators around the world have been exposed. They were exposed because of aggressive, difficult reporting about difficult topics.
And they were exposed because the men and women who came forward with allegations trusted the reporters’ intentions. They trusted the reporters would act ethically and follow through with the proper methodology. It shouldn’t have to be said that many likely came forward with some hesitation.
So did our source.
But our world wouldn’t have changed if it hadn’t been reported.