Something is wrong.
I’ll admit, I’ve fallen into a nasty habit this summer of turning away when an excessively uncomfortable story breaks. I skim over it, scroll past it or close the laptop entirely, just to avoid that awful feeling you get when tragedy stares you in the face. One subject in particular seems to poison the air in the room, weighing it down with a convincing feeling that the world is no more than a dark, sorrow-filled place.
However, burying oneself beneath offseason football news and Twitter and other summertime nonsense won’t make the plague that is sexual assault go away — a fact our own university has, unfortunately, failed to grasp.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported last week that four women accused the same USU student of sexual assault in the past year. Three contacted the school itself, two have dropped out entirely to get away from him, and — in a twist as sick as it is predictable — no justice has been served.
Adding several layers of complexity to these events is the recent revelation that the alleged offender in question is Torrey Green, a promising former USU football player currently trying to make a name for himself in the NFL.
Somewhat understandably, people took this news and ran with it. It’s an emotional subject. We hurt. We’ve all seen the story before. Some big-time athlete does some unimaginable thing, coaches and administrators shove it under the rug, NCAA investigations and sanctions follow, and so on. But while the fact that Green was an athlete at USU is significant, perhaps we should all be focusing on a more concerning aspect of this whole catastrophe.
Sexual assault is a nightmare. It’s a crime that leaves victims feeling afraid, powerless, and hopeless. Talking about the experience with others can be as traumatic as the assault itself. Re-living an attack is nothing short of terrifying, yet something three of our fellow students were willing to do in order to find some degree of justice, or closure, or peace of mind. That’s why this stings —
“The most disturbing part of all of this is … I don’t feel like I have to go after my rapist to get justice for what he did to me,” she said. “I feel like I have to go after the people who were supposed to get the justice for me.”
Consider what she’s saying for a moment. Really think about it. The idea that someone could feel so afraid, be brave enough to go to authorities both at the university and at the local police department, and still feel unheard and unsupported is not something we will stand for. Not at this newspaper, and not at this school.
Whatever chain of command exists currently is flawed. That’s a fact whether Green is innocent or guilty — the problem is we don’t know what he is, because nobody took these women seriously enough to bother finding out.
To put it bluntly, Green either deserves to be in prison or in fall camp pursuing his NFL dreams. It’s one or the other, and though some people like to draw conclusions we really don’t know which it is.
For as much as sexual assault and USU have been linked in the news over the past few years, you’d think it wouldn’t still feel like this dark secret. This stuff doesn’t just happen to strangers and it doesn’t just concern athletes. We share this campus with students who have to get up in the morning filled with dread, then force themselves to sit in a classroom and see their attacker a few feet away living what appears to be a normal life. Imagine repeating that process several times a week, totally unable to tell anyone because of the fear and the hurt it would bring. It directly impacts daily routines, academics, self-image and future relationships — it can change lives forever.
Unacceptable is a sad, superficial understatement.
There can’t be confusion around this anymore. We don’t know yet if Torrey was guilty, if coaches were in on it in some grand conspiracy, if the police royally screwed up or if someone working at Utah State deserves to be fired for neglecting victims in need of an ally.
We do know that something is wrong.
We also know that in the coming weeks, there will be no end to this story until the complete truth is brought to light. The longer Utah State turns away from this, hiding behind student privacy loopholes and excuses, the more of our fellow classmates and friends will suffer life-altering tragedy. Someone will be called to answer for these crimes, and for as long as Utah State appears to refuse help to victims of sexual assault, that someone includes our own school.
So fix this now.