Last week, the University of Iowa reopened an investigation into allegations that band members were verbally, physically, and sexually assaulted after a football game against Iowa State University.
The Gazette and other media outlets reported allegations from band members that “they experienced racial slurs, verbal and physical sexual harassment and assault, shoves that sent one woman to the hospital, and thrown objects leaving lasting bruises ...”
The University of Iowa spokeswoman Jeneane Beck told The Gazette in an email, “Student safety is our number one priority and we are committed to ensuring a safe experience on game day for our students.”
But those words are not reassuring. The reopening of the investigation raises more questions about what the nature of the first investigation was and how seriously administrators took the complaints.
And the University needs to be taking these allegations seriously. This is not an isolated incident. Instead, this incident reveals a pattern of violence and abuse that is routine at football games and on college campuses. Sexual violence is an epidemic. According to RAINN, the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, one in five women, one in 14 men, and one in four transgender students experience sexual assault on college campuses. And of those assaults, the majority tend to happen in the first semester of college.
Specifically, at the University of Iowa, reports of sexual assault are on the rise. There were 52 rapes reported in 2017, up from 41 the year before — a 26 percent increase. The school also saw an uptick in the reporting of other forms of sexual assault. Incidents that involved “fondling” nearly doubled with 65 reported in 2017 compared to 35 incidents in 2016.
In this culture, victims are hesitant to come forward for fears that they will be demeaned, blamed or not believed. How the University has handled, and continues to handle, this incident with the band sends a strong message to students about how seriously the administration takes all reports of abuse and violence on campus.
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And the message they are sending isn’t good. Band members told The Gazette that they felt abandoned by the administration and the athletic department, who failed to act when their safety was threatened.
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