It Happened to Me: I Was Raped at Boston University and the Student Newspaper Made a Joke Of It

The day in my life that I was sexually assaulted marked a before-and-after divider in how I felt about myself as a human being and as a woman, and the student paper minimized it to a RAP PUN.
Publish date:
July 18, 2013
sexual assault, crime, journalism, serious, students, M

I attend Boston University and I really love it there. That said, it is always fun to complain about the little things that everybody complains about regarding their university, whether it be about how my dorm is too far away from the student union, or about how the dining hall should think about breakfast options besides yogurt and day-old scrambled eggs, or about a particularly surly lit professor.

However, I am writing this today to complain about something real, shocking, and incredibly personally offensive about Boston University’s student newspaper. The Daily Free Press has come under fire in the past for tastelessness around the issue of sexual assault. The incident was called out and taken care of.

But something is still lurking in that newspaper that has yet to be addressed by anybody before myself for reasons that a four-year degree from one of the finest schools in the country will never make me understand:

The Campus Crime Logs section.

It sounds harmless. A weekly, comprehensive list of the crimes that have occurred on or near campus grounds that students should be aware of so that they may take proper precautions. Totally fine. It has been a staple of the newspaper for years.

Except that the section regularly makes light of crimes like rape, sexual harassment and assault by prefacing the paragraph-long descriptions of the incidents with jokey, pun-ridden titles. They not only completely downplay the severity of the incidents but in some cases even make fun of the victims. Here are just a few examples:

  • A man tried to break into a female BU student’s on-campus dorm via her balcony. The classy title of this traumatizing incident that could have ended in theft/rape/kidnapping/murder? “Where for art thou, creepy dude?”
  • A man was beaten to the ground and had his head stomped on until he was unconscious and bleeding. "Stomp the yard." I am sure the victim and his family are touched by this sweet, concerned commentary on his life-threatening injuries in the form of a Ne-Yo movie.
  • A female BU student was pushed over on the street and held down to have her genitals photographed by a stranger. “Trashford." You know, a fun, in-joke pun, because it happened on Ashford Street which is inhabited by many BU students and therefore said to be fratty/trashy?! So funny! Like, seriously, give this writer a promotion! The victim will totally forget her trauma and feelings of dehumanization to congratulate you on your funny thing!
  • A female BU student’s door to her dorm room was vandalized with racial slurs. “Haters gonna hate." Yes, I do hate you, you ignorant, thoughtless person whom I refuse to call a “writer.”
  • A female BU student was domestically abused and choked by her boyfriend. “Choked up."

I found out about this after I was sexually assaulted during my sophomore year at Boston University. The emotional after-effects ruined my psychological state for the rest of the year, strained my relationships and student group commitments, and drove down my permanent college GPA.

(Side note: The BUPD [known amongst BU students as the BPD retirement program because they are so old and useless] handled it incredibly poorly and never followed up with me nor showed a remote sense of concern for my well-being or psychological trauma after my initial reporting of it, but that is a story for another time. This article is correct in saying that BU has a real problem.)

The following weekend I had my three best friends over so that I could tell them why I had been upset and distant recently, as I had yet to trust anybody with my secret except for the authorities and my parents. After describing the incident in detail, one of my friends, who happens to be an avid reader of The Daily Free Press replied, “Oh yeah. I think you were in the Crime Logs. This sounds familiar.”

I did not know what the Crime Logs were but immediately researched it on the newspaper’s website and came across the horrifying, humiliating title of my incident description.

I will not write it out or link to it because I want to remain anonymous and more importantly I refuse to give it the dignity of being repeated. The only description of the title that I will give, so as to clue you in on just how tasteless it is, is that it is a pun involving a popular rap song that describes the sexual appeal of a woman’s body. So, the angle is how rape-able I was? How enticing I must have been? How much the man wanted me?

I felt less-than-human. The day in my life that I was sexually assaulted marked a before-and-after divider in how I felt about myself as a human being and as a woman, and this thoughtless, demeaning description of it by somebody who is a fellow student and supposed “journalist” minimized it to a fucking RAP PUN. This was over a year and a half ago, and I am still livid.

One of the student managing editors of the paper, whom I know through mutual friends, said, “Yeah, that’s just what they’re like. It’s weird,” when I asked her in the dining hall one morning why the Crime Logs are written so offensively. Writing the Crime Logs like that is a tradition of The Daily Free Press and is considered standard practice.

The issue is not simply one student staffer who has a sick, twisted brain and has decided to write this way. It is a systemic problem, starting from the broken and rarely healthy good old excuse of “tradition.” If you look at all of those links above you will see that nearly every single installation of the Crime Logs has a different writer. This means that the head staff of The Daily Free Press is telling people to write this way. “Throw a funny pun in there, make it catchy!”

I do not know what took me so long to write this, but I am glad that I have. I want The Daily Free Press to publicly apologize, recognize its institutionalized tastelessness that has somehow gone unnoticed and unacknowledged by Boston University for years, and finally, put an immediate stop to the “funny title” tradition of the Crime Logs.

It cannot be that hard to make the title something normal like oh, I don’t know, the actual legal description of the incident? After all, “Student Assaulted” is easier to type, anyway.