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.