Reports of a graphic sexual assault just a block off of the Rose Hill campus shook not just the university community this past week, but much of the Bronx and New York City as well. NYC media outlets were calling the search for the two alleged assaulters a “man-hunt” and students exercised an extreme measure of caution around East 191st Street and East Fordham Road. The university allotted an abundance of resources at the dispense of the victim and the entire Fordham community. To most students, it appeared to be the most gruesome attack on a member of our community in recent memory. To many, it all seemed too terrifying to be true. Many were astonished that such a thing could happen at only 10 p.m. in an area that is traversed by students and local residents nearly every minute of the day.
This buildup of emotion and terror all took a drastic U-turn just four days after the report, when the alleged victim recanted the entire story.
At first, many of us were relieved that such a horrendous attack on our student body had not actually happened, and we were just as safe as we had felt before.
This sense of reassurance was short-lived. After the idea of a hoax of such velocity by a member of our school settled in the minds of Fordham students like myself, we became angry. Some even believe the fact that the entire story was false made matters even worse.
While Public Safety and the NYPD hold the right to protect the identity of the “assault victim” who cried wolf, many want her to be barred from the community.
Falsifying an attempted assault is not only damaging to the panicked community, but the entire population of college students worldwide who have to deal with such a gruesome and disgusting attack.
Over the past year I was lucky enough to work at a startup company that is closely partnered with No More, It’s On Us and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSRV). These great organizations work to alleviate the problem of sexual violence on U.S. college campuses as well as spread awareness for the ongoing crisis.
According to the NSRV, there is a rape on a U.S. college campus every 21 hours. One in four female college students of our generation will be the victim of a sexual assault or rape. One in 12 male college students in our generation will follow suit. Only about 10 percent of rapes and sexual assaults on college campuses are reported. For males, the statistic is a mere three percent. Many victims choose not to report the crime in fear of embarrassment or retaliation.
Here at Fordham, a member of the 75 percent of female students who have not been sexually assaulted decided it was OK to do what 90 percent of actual victims are too scared to do: report a sexual assault to campus officials and the police.
Not only is this despicable act a smack in the face to the thousands of victims who have survived rape whether or not they reported it, but this member of the Fordham community has betrayed us all. She has violated all of the major Jesuit moral principles Fordham vows to instill in its students through its mission.
One of the most commonly versed of these principles is Homines Pro Aliis, or Men and Women for Others. By betraying the Fordham community, the Bronx and the countless of victims of sexual assault, this person betrayed her promise to live by this moral principle.
Before this whole whirlwind of events even took place, Fordham broke international headlines in the media by revoking the honorary degree that was issued to Bill Cosby amid his sexual assault scandal. The Board of Trustees unanimously agreed that, due to Cosby’s actions which violated the principles Fordham draws its mission from, he did not live up to the values that Fordham upholds to its students and alumni.
As these are two separate events, the Cosby incident does not establish a direct precedent to be upheld in regard to the most recent chain of events to hit our community. It does, however, beg the question: can we still call this person a woman of Fordham? Has she committed crimes deep enough to sever her from our school and university?
To any reasonable person, her actions are inexcusable, and the amount of disrespect she has bestowed upon our community and the millions of sexual violence victims across the globe astonishes myself and many others.
I am certainly in no position of power to decide anything regarding this woman’s status as a student here at Fordham, but I am deeply disturbed that someone in our community, which upholds moral dignity, would act in this way and disrespect so many people.
Everything regarding this event is shameful, and we can only learn from the mistakes of this woman to never falsify an assault or act of violence of any kind.
Matthew Calhoun, GSB ’17, is a finance major from Springboro, Ohio.