OUSU, making the OxStu’s slut-shaming legal doesn’t make it right

Siobhan Fenton tells us why OUSU’s response to the OxStu’s slut shaming is not only ineffective, but also incredibly harmful

In June of this vac, one of the OxStu’s editors, Amelia Hamer, wrote an article insinuating that an alleged rape victim at Oxford University should be taken less seriously because the alleged victim “had a reputation”.

Hamer’s OxStu article, titled ‘Sulllivan’s alleged rape victim knew her claims were false’ said, “the same student is believed to have boasted of sleeping with ‘Union Hacks’ who regularly feature in Oxford’s three student newspapers”.

Hamer continued, “She added that the allure of sexual encounters with well-known students was to develop a status as a “conquest-collector”.

A screen shot of Amelia Hamer’s OxStu article

The student body was, rightly, disgusted and the subsequent backlash resulted in the newspaper removing the article from it’s website, whilst the university promised an investigation into the incident.

Two months on, the university has finally responded by paying close to £400 for the Oxstu’s two editors (one of whom authored the article in question) to go on a media law training course. Such a response is at best meek and at worst insulting.

We must not let the university send the message to the OxStu that it’s ok to victim blame, just so long as they make sure it can get through the university’s lawyers next time.

We must not accept for one moment that alleged rape victims at our university can be treated this way just because attacks on them are veiled in media-law friendly language.

The university is paying for the Oxstu’s editors (including the writer of the offensive article) to go on media law courses

Above all, we cannot accept that the OxStu’s editor Amelia Hamer can write such an offensive piece about one of her fellow students and think that the backlash will all blow over if she simply gets a CV worthy Media Law law qualification in the end.

Victim blaming is a horrific reality at our university. When I wrote about my own experience of being raped in an article for The Tab recently, a dozen or so strangers took it upon themselves to get in touch and tell me how I was a liar or a slut who deserved it.

This week an anonymous student under the pseudonym of Maria Marcello published her personal experience, ‘I was raped at Oxford University, the police pressured me in to dropping charges‘. In return for her brave, personal story she was told that she was “just asking for it”.

Victim blaming is always unjustified- whether it comes from pathetic trolls hiding behind keyboards, whether it’s embedded in ink under a blue OxStu letterhead, or rubber stamped by lawyers.

Suggesting that an alleged rape victim deserved it because they are promiscuous is no minor thing. It cannot be treated as merely a legal headache for a couple of students in the paper’s office. Rather it must be treated as the disgusting, damaging view that it is. It is not only incredibly harmful, but indicative of a wider trend of victim blaming in society.

As a member of OUSU’s WomCam committee stated in response to the OxStu’s media law ‘punishment’ that over the course of our degrees one in four female students will be raped or sexually assaulted.  We must stand up against victim blaming and stand with some of the most vulnerable students at our university. The university’s response does not do this adequately and it is a shame to see OUSU return to its old ways of ineffective and poorly judged responses to serious issues.

If the OxStu genuinely wants students to believe that it now knows it to be wrong to publish such articles, then the person who wrote the article and also edits the paper, Amelia Hamer, must stand down as editor. The paper must acknowledge that trying to tarnish an alleged rape victim’s reputation by calling her promiscuous is not only legally wrong, but morally indefensible.