As incoming freshmen celebrated the beginning of their college experience during Cal Poly’s Week of Welcome, an anonymous post to a popular internet message board described a disturbing account of a much darker experience.
On Sept. 23, an anonymous user claiming to be a Cal Poly freshman posted to the Cal Poly forum of Reddit that another student forcibly had sex with them.
“I can’t keep living like this,” wrote the author of the post, titled “I don’t know what to do.”
According to the post, the author said they had met a male on campus and had previously had consensual sex prior to the incident. The alleged rape occurred later, when the post’s author returned to the man’s home to retrieve a wallet.
“I went over against my better judgment, and we had sex. I didn’t want it and told him no but he didn’t listen, he was too drunk,” the post reads. “I went home feeling gross and alone.”
The post does not identify the male accused of the alleged rape, but does state that he was a welcome week leader. In the post, the author described the anxiety of participating in WOW Week activities, which ran from Sept. 18 through 25.
“Since the last time I was with him I’ve began having panic attacks and vomiting at the thought of him or seeing his social media posts,” they wrote. “During Wow-a-rama I was walking down the line with WOW leaders on both sides of me, I’ve never felt so nervous in my life. … I feel robbed, what was supposed to be one of the best experiences of WOW turned me into a nervous mess.”
So far, the university has not been able to verify the claims in the post. Cal Poly Spokesman Matt Lazier said no report had been filed with campus police.
“It is possible that the student may be working with a confidential resource on campus that is not a mandatory reporter,” Lazier said.
Lazier was referring to one of several support services provided by the university that allow victims of rape and sexual assault to report incidents and get help anonymously. Cal Poly Safer offers confidential counseling for victims of sexual assault and domestic or dating violence, as well as providing education and outreach. Safer was one of the organizations mentioned by some of the users who commented on the post.
Despite attempts to provide more confidential services, it’s still difficult to get victims of sexual violence to come forward and get the help they need.
“Sexual assault is the most underreported crime there is,” said Jennifer Adams, executive director for the domestic violence and sexual assault nonprofit RISE SLO.
Adams, whose group also provides confidential counseling and services for victims of sexual assault, said the reasons for victims not reporting such incidents, especially to law enforcement or other authorities, varies.
“Everything from shame and self-blame to a culture that blames victims,” she said. “The thing about sexual assault is that your decision making and choice has been taken away; … that can be scary to a victim.”
Adams said organizations like RISE allow victims to try and regain that loss and make an informed choice on how to move forward.
“Being raped is a traumatic experience, and it can be difficult to make decisions. … It’s scary, so often they will contact an organization like RISE to find out what their options are.”
Like many colleges, Cal Poly has attempted to address the growing national concern over rape and sexual assault on college campuses. Last year, the university reported 11 on-campus rapes in 2014, according to data provided to the FBI by the university’s police department. In 2015, the department reported only 2.