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Taking Back Isla Vista

Both of us were out this weekend and nothing seemed remarkable. There were the token couples along the side of the street making out on cars and the flocks of freshmen roaming from house to house, the house music was loud as ever and Isla Vista seemed to be in its natural state. Then we got the text that so many of you readers did as well. At two in the morning we heard that a sexual assault occurred on the 6500 block of Del Playa. One of us lives on the 6500 block of DP… We both could have seen something that night and not even known it, simply brushing it off like it was just “natural” for people to be hooking up left and right in Isla Vista. But that’s not right, and it’s not okay that neither one of us thought to question those street-side lovers because we assume it’s just “all part of college.” In reality, we might have been watching something taking place, something we later read about in that 411 message, something which should never have to be part of anyone’s experience. Already we felt as if we had let our community down by not questioning these kinds of things. Unfortunately, that was not the only text we got from our local 411 that weekend.

Nothing could have prepared our community for the “timely warning” that we received at eight o’clock on Sunday morning. One of our peers, potential classmates, maybe even a friend, had been beaten and raped the night before by a group of unidentified “Asian males.” It took a minute for that to sink in — in our community? Who? How? Why? Simply questions with unknown answers about a thing that should never have happened. The fact of the matter is it could have happened to anyone, even either one of us: the slim-built girl, or the 180-pound guy. And it’s terrifying to think that the people who did it could also be our peers, classmates or even friends.

We are not going to pretend to know why this tragedy happened, or how to stop it from happening again. All that we know for sure is that there is a problem in Isla Vista. There’s a problem of passing the buck right along whenever something goes wrong. “Sorry I yelled at you last night, I was drunk,” is something we have surely heard during our time here, so we take it as natural. Actually, this is a perfect example of what we’re talking about — this is one of the many ways that people say “it’s not my fault.” Whether you’re sober as a goat, drunk off your ass or high as a space shuttle, you are equally responsible, in all states of mind, for what you do and don’t do. And this time, we are all responsible for letting this girl down. There is no single ounce of blame to be put on her shoulders and anyone who disagrees with that, please crawl back into the hole you came out of because you are the reason things like this continue to happen.

Rather than continue to repeat that girls need to “walk in pairs” or “take karate lessons” to keep themselves safe, let’s look at why it is they need to worry about this in the first place. It relates, once again, to the issue of dodging responsibility. Sadly, at the end of the day, it seems like everyone is allowed to evade this responsibility except the victim. “He was probably drunk, so she should have known to not go with him.” “She should’ve known to wait for a friend.” Or worst of all: “She was probably asking for it, just look at how she’s dressed.” In every single one of these situations everyone escapes blame, except for the person who deserves it least. It’s time that people realize that we are responsible for each other and we are responsible for each other’s actions.

The thing that hardly gets talked about is the man’s side of the story. Seeing as how the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by men (approximately 99 percent), we need to realize that there is no excuse for being a part of that statistic or allowing one of your friends to be. Who’s the guy who didn’t hear an enthusiastic “yes,” but assumed it instead? Who’s the one who watched his friend take a girl up to his room, knowing that it wasn’t right and still laughing like, “Classic Steve.” Who’s the one who knows that his female friend is nowhere to be found, but brushes it off like it’s not a big deal? Who’s the one who might have stopped those alerts from being necessary this weekend? We are.

We all wish that we lived in a perfect, peaceful world, but the sad truth is, we don’t. Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kelly Hoover is quoted as saying that this specific incident appeared to be a “crime of opportunity.” The idea that someone would ever find an “opportunity” to commit a violent crime is disgusting, period. It shouldn’t be on anyone to eliminate the “opportunity” for an attack; it should be on criminals to stop trying to find these opportunities. Basically, we shouldn’t have to watch our backs at every turn, but the reality, it seems, is that we do.

A quick survey around the Nexus office revealed that only two people out of the 15 or so that were working at the time had ever used a CSO escort. When asked who among us had walked home alone at some point or another, all of us responded that we had. It’s sad that we’ve reached a point where being out after dark alone is no longer safe for anybody, male or female, but this is not a problem central to Isla Vista — this is an international issue. We know that this has been hammered into everyone’s head since the beginning of freshman year, but at the risk of sounding preachy, the fact that we have a service like the CSOs that can reduce our risk of being attacked is a privilege and one that should definitely be utilized. We are not trying to insinuate that by not calling them you are being irresponsible or careless; in fact, neither of us had the phone number for the CSO escorts in our phone until now. But we just want to make sure everyone knows that this service is available every night and there’s really nothing to lose in giving it a try. And in an effort to practice what we preach, as this article goes to print tonight, one of us will be escorted home by using the service for the first time.

On that note, the other resource we are going to bring up is the Santa Barbara Police Department. Because somewhere out there, someone is wondering if his or her friends could potentially be this group of attackers … or is starting to remember seeing something vaguely unsettling on Saturday night. This article has been an attempt to promote our community’s sense of responsibility. If you know something about this assault, or any other crime, and you choose not to report it, you are not defending your friends; you are simply putting more of your friends, classmates and community members in danger. The only people who should be ashamed of a crime are the perpetrators of that crime … the perpetrators, and anyone who does nothing to stop them. So if you saw something, or if you know something, take the time to make the call.

Life in Isla Vista will go on. This weekend, huge numbers of UCSB students will once again roam the streets of Isla Vista and go to parties and get drunk. But this incident will be at the forefronts of our minds. We will be acutely aware that some of our own — fellow Isla Vistans, friends, classmates — have been through a horrible trauma. And for the crimes that we were alerted of, there were likely countless more that happened without our knowledge. But hopefully, from these terrible crimes, a stronger sense of community will be born. Hopefully this, like the memory of so many other weekends, will not just fade away once the news trucks stop coming around. We need to take this chance to start taking responsibility for each other. We need to take this chance to make sure things like this never happen again.

Emile Nelson and Allyson Campion are Opinion Co-Editors.


A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, February 26, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are primarily submitted by students.
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23 Responses to Taking Back Isla Vista

  1. J Reply

    March 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Girls only need to know three things to stop any rape…grab twist and pull. Honestly if you get him by the balls its all over

  2. Stacy L. Reply

    February 28, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    The rules for women are no different now than they were 25 years ago when I was at UCSB…be smart, don’t be out by yourself on DP alone at 1 AM. I’m not blaming the victim…believe me, but going forward women have to understand that they can’t expect schools or governments or “society” to place a higher value on their safety than they do themselves. It’s easy to sit there as college students and pie-in-the-sky demand that “the world change” and make things safer for women. Absolutely. Until that happens though, we’re responsible for ourselves. In all of my drunken nights as a UCSB student, not once did I ever leave a party or someone’s house by myself.

    I have a relative (a cousin’s daughter) who is a student at the University of Arizona, and at least twice a weekend she drunk-tweets about wandering back to her apartment alone at night. My cousin (who’s in her late 40s) thinks it’s funny. I think it’s stupid, and reckless. Should she be able to do this and not worry about her safety? Absolutely, but until we live in a crime-free world, women need to look out for themselves.

  3. Bob Sumner Reply

    February 27, 2014 at 7:28 am

    According to KEYT, “The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team has uncovered evidence linked to a violent rape that occurred early Sunday morning, on the campus of University of California Santa Barbara. A crime scene was being investigated on the edge of campus late Wednesday morning.
    Once again: If the investigators are seeking information from the public and the crime scene on campus is known why is the location apparently being kept secret?

  4. _____ Reply

    February 27, 2014 at 12:39 am

    It is so very important that this story is getting this kind of attention, and I am incredibly proud of all of you at the Nexus for using your platform to speak up. True awareness can be so powerful. A few years ago, I was raped in Isla Vista, and whenever this fact is revealed, I am always met with a variation of “What?! Here? I never thought that could happen in IV”. I have been acutely aware every day since my experience, of how often things like this happen in our little “paradise”, and how quietly they occur. Your words can prevent future violence, and that is a beautiful thing. In this article, you are the voice for so many women whose stories have been silenced. So, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for bringing awareness to this chronic issue.

  5. D Reply

    February 26, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    No difference if you’re white, black, Asian or not. We are all the same, until sexual violence happens. You couple of jerks deserve/earned the title “spic” I hope your asses get stabbed. Watch your back, i’m sure the campus and it’s people will NOT stand for this. To me sexual violence is a form of but not limited to, bullying. You have several people angry, justice will be served. Enjoy the prison scene, don’t drop the soap!

  6. anon Reply

    February 26, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. I, like you both, am feeling weighed down by the recent rapes here at UCSB, but also by the responses that I’ve been seeing. While the “catch these bad guys and lock them up forever” response is natural (and I had it too), the problem isn’t limited just to the group of men responsible for these latest attacks. As an undergrad who works at the campus Women’s Center told me yesterday, “these kinds of things are happening all the time”. Demonizing the entire UCSB undergraduate community is also not the answer – there are many students like this young woman who are working with great dedication on rape prevention. The underlying issue here, the root cause of all these attacks (those we hear about and those we don’t), is a culture of heteronormative masculinity based on violence and misogyny. If the administration is serious about ending rapes, we need more than just ‘community escort services’, safety education, and more policing. What we need is ongoing, thorough-going educational efforts, led BY men and FOR men, aimed at re-working their identities AS men, so that they can feel man enough to respect women, man enough to work against violence, and man enough for consensual sex.

    • D Reply

      February 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      If this continues and nobody is found, I think UCSB should be held responsible. It’s YOUR job UCSB to keep YOUR students SAFE. You are failing. You are letting people down. I heard of a little invention the government likes to use a lot, they are called cameras and audio devices. Perhaps UCSB could install a button, a panic button in every room directly wired to security. When the button is pressed a signal will travel to security showing dorm number and the names of the residential occupants of that particular dorm.
      This of course would only solve part of the problem although student’s, every time they leave the dorm should be notified that they are leaving at their own risk. Sexual violence IS everywhere and although we may never be able to stop it, we can slow it down. The fact that this article is titled “taking back isla vista” goes to show i am not the only one who feels angry and wanting to do something about it. I didn’t do any research, i’m would hope the campus has cameras and security and I have no idea about what the floor plan is as far as dorms.

      • anon Reply

        February 26, 2014 at 7:05 pm

        If you want to do something about it, why don’t you join the student orgs that try to make ucsb a safe campus? Have you attended any sexual assault training that the Women’s Center offers? Have signed up for any workshops? Installing cameras is risk-reduction. It may help but it does not solve the problem. Education helps solve the problem. Why don’t you try to educate yourself as best you can about sexual assault and how to prevent it?

      • J Reply

        February 27, 2014 at 11:13 am

        I really have to disagree with you, the school’s responsibility is to educate us, the student body. Beyond that they are not responsible for taking care of us. As far as protecting yourself and others, that is the responsibility of the community and the individual. We need a community that actively works to protect it’s members. Blaming UCSB for something caused by a small group of people who may or may not be students is absurd.

    • Jason G Reply

      February 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      I had a moment of hope when you said that “Demonizing the entire UCSB undergraduate community is also not the answer,” quickly followed by a moment of despair when you attempted to pin this tragedy on all men. You clearly have no understanding whatsoever of how men interact with masculinity if you believe that most men would rape. In fact, most rapes are perpetrated by a very small number of men who are also responsible for most other types of violence that occur on college campuses (Lisak and Miller 2002). Most men, myself included, were very much appalled by this incident – in fact, one thing that people accused of rape (whether rightly or wrongly) frequently have to worry about is vigilante justice, mainly perpetrated by men. (I’d also question the statistic mentioned above – that men are responsible for 99% of all rapes – considering that it’s easy to ignore female rapists when female-on-male forced sex isn’t even included in the definition of “rape,” and men are much less likely to report such incidents – or to be taken seriously about them – than women.) Masculinity does include violence – against other men. A “gentleman” was gentle to ladies, but not necessarily to other men. Honestly, I think that the Opinion Editors should be ashamed of themselves for perpetuating a misandrist lie, and you should be ashamed of yourself as well for the same reasons. This sexual assault should NOT be used as an excuse to attack an entire gender.

      • Cole Reply

        February 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm

        Yeah did they just pull that statistic out of their asses? 99% of Sexual Assaults are NOT committed by men. Please reprint a correction with an apology. I’ll be looking for it in the next edition! (“huh… 99%…. yeah that sounds about right let’s go with that!” is not a way to run a newspaper.)


        The real number is obviously debated but it’s no where near 99%.

      • Steve Mathon Reply

        February 27, 2014 at 10:35 pm


      • Brian Reply

        February 28, 2014 at 12:17 am

        Please quote the section in which it states most men would rape. Please quote the section “attempt[ing] to pin the tragedy on ALL MEN.”

        • Jason G Reply

          March 3, 2014 at 11:12 pm

          “The thing that hardly gets talked about is the man’s side of the story. Seeing as how the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed by men (approximately 99 percent), we need to realize that there is no excuse for being a part of that statistic or allowing one of your friends to be. Who’s the guy who didn’t hear an enthusiastic “yes,” but assumed it instead? Who’s the one who watched his friend take a girl up to his room, knowing that it wasn’t right and still laughing like, “Classic Steve.” Who’s the one who knows that his female friend is nowhere to be found, but brushes it off like it’s not a big deal? Who’s the one who might have stopped those alerts from being necessary this weekend? We are.”

          There, that paragraph literally attempts to say that all men are complicit in rape.

      • Brian Reply

        March 1, 2014 at 6:18 pm

        Perhaps we should rethink who should feel ashamed

    • M Reply

      March 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm

      you are obviously not a man

  7. Bob Sumner Reply

    February 26, 2014 at 9:38 am

    I appreciate this thoughtful, well written article.
    Has it been able to be determined where the Sunday morning incident took place? The reports I have seen say only between campus and Isla Vista. Where is that?

  8. anon Reply

    February 26, 2014 at 8:27 am

    There is definitely a link between these attacks and alcohol consumption…why else would most of these happen on the weekend. Maybe we should also start to take a more critical look at how normal it is to get black-out drunk every weekend.Cut down on drinking and these types of things will also be reduced.

    • anon Reply

      February 26, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Okay, so should we tell people who get hit by drunk drivers to stop walking on the streets to reduce their chances of getting hit by a car?
      Alcohol or not–the problem here lies in education. We need to educate everyone on what is sexual assault and how you can interfere when you see something going on that is not supposed to happen.

      • anon Reply

        February 26, 2014 at 8:01 pm

        I think painting what the first anon said as blaming the victim is unfair. The culture of drinking at Santa Barbara is deep and widespread, and there is some truth to the need to examine the blackout culture in Isla Vista. There’s no telling whether the victim, the perpetrators, or the victim’s friends were drunk at the time of the assault but it’s a good bet that all were, and that the culture of drinking at Santa Barbara contributes to (NOT CAUSES) things like this.

      • anon Reply

        February 27, 2014 at 8:23 am

        Or we could tell drivers not to drive blacked out.

        People act irrationally when they drink the copious amount of booze associated with your typical IV weekend. There is a reason you don’t see these types of attacks on campus on a Tuesday. I’m willing to bet the education level is more or less the same, but the BAC has changed.

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