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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

9 Critical Reforms To Address Rape At USC

Kaya Masler |
October 2, 2013 | 7:35 p.m. PDT


When I was a freshman at the University of Southern California, I was roofied at a party.

Needless to say, these reforms are clearly overdue. (Neon Tommy)
Needless to say, these reforms are clearly overdue. (Neon Tommy)

I never figured out how it happened, but I was lucky because my friend carried me home and made sure I was safe. A few weeks later, I received an email that described me (and the rest of my gender) as a target. It specified various tactics for identifying the “sluts” among us and out-and-out advocated for creative ways to “take [us] down.” 

This email went viral and circulated to thousands, and before USC responded, a sea of people were rallying in front of Tommy Trojan to discuss it. It didn’t take long to realize that these people weren’t there because of the gross email. The email was just the tip of the iceberg for many who had continuously felt sexually and emotionally unsafe on campus. 

Over the next few weeks, I began attending meetings for a group called the “Safer Campus Coalition,” where I learned more about sexual and gender-based hostility. A number of students brought up specific issues they had with regards to the reporting and trial process for sexual misconduct at USC.

SEE ALSO: Rape Goes Unpunished At USC

With these concerns in mind, the leadership of the group drafted a petition that garnered enough signatures to win the attention of the Office of Student Affairs. A meeting was held and a follow-up letter was sent out to the the Vice Provost outlining their plans and promises. 

The semester ended. Summer internships began and the leadership of Safer Campus graduated. 

Two years later, I found the document from the Provost’s office and realized that nine promises out of ten had never been fulfilled.

By this time, I had a number of friends who had been raped at USC. 

In April of 2013, a group of students (12 survivors of sexual violence) felt it necessary to file a federal complaint regarding many of the very same concerns brought up in 2011.

SEE ALSO: USC Students Condemn University's Handling Of Sexual Assault

In a way, I felt a very small part of their trials were my responsibility, for never having followed up with the Safer Campus effort when I was a freshman. 

I have never said that outloud because I know everyone would jump in with an: “It’s not your responsibility, how could it be your responsibility?!” 

But I really think that it is all of our responsibilities to do something when this many people are hurt around us this often.

I recognize that there are some things that just can’t be done. There won’t always be enough evidence to expel a rapist. You can’t bust all of the rape myths for everyone and you certainly can’t undo a rape. 

SEE ALSO: On Rape Myths And Victim Blaming

But in 2011, a group of students sat down and thought long and hard about some simple reforms that could be done to make campus a little safer.

Since then, my friends and I have spent hours imagining, researching and revising other steps that USC can take. These are all small steps that we hope will go a long way in clearing up some of the confusion and betrayal that students are feeling. Most of them are based, in some way, off of the Safer Campus model from 2011.

Needless to say, these reforms are clearly overdue. 

USC is not the first and will not be the last campus to struggle with this issue. It’s pretty much everywhere and I don’t buy into unsupported statements about USC being “better” or “worse” than any other campus on this front. 

I only know my own campus, and from what I know, here are some tangible solutions.

The good news is that USC has already shown support for these solutions. I think that this time they see the opportunity to go beyond compliance with federal law and emerge as a true leader on this issue.

After all, why wouldn't they?

We feel very positive, but we need to ensure follow-through on these commitments. Sign this petition and help us fight on.


Reach Contributor Kaya Masler here.

If you’d like to get involved and help us work on a list of long-term goals, email the Safer Campus Coalition here



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

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