Friends and supporters of Alejandra Melgoza, a UCSB student who accused a man of raping her last year, gathered in front of the university’s Student Resource Building last Monday to protest what they claim has been the school’s lax enforcement of its penalties against perpetrators of sexual assault.
Melgoza — a second-year, first-generation student and current candidate for a position on UCSB’s Associated Students board — alleges a male UCSB student raped her in her dorm room on January 18, 2013. More than a year later, she said, the school found her perpetrator guilty of violating UCSB’s Student Conduct Code and subsequently ordered that he be suspended from campus for the 2015 spring and summer quarters. However, Melgoza charges, her rapist’s suspension has not been enforced.
Melgoza and several other students protested the reported mishandling of her case. She led the group of about 20 students in chants, shouting phrases such as “Blame the system, not the victim!” and “Who really cares? Not Judicial Affairs!” Melgoza’s supporters wore black to demonstrate that “even though UCSB is an aesthetically beautiful campus, it still has a dark side,” she said. Also in attendance were members of UCSB’s Take Back the Night, a student-initiated committee dedicated to raising awareness about sexual violence.
“In order to protect the privacy of individuals, and to encourage future reporting of cases, we do not discuss details of individual cases,” said university spokesperson George Foulsham. “We take concerns raised by our students extremely seriously and as such we look forward to having an opportunity to meet with our students involved in [Monday’s] action to continue to discuss their concerns in detail,” he said.
Protestors called for the restructuring of university policies and sanctions that would increase the consequences for perpetrators of sexual assault. Melgoza said she hopes that systemic changes will encourage survivors to come forward.
Melgoza isn’t the first to accuse the university of mishandling sexual-assault cases. Last year, six UCSB students filed federal complaints against the university for the same issue. Melgoza noted that the tendency of UCSB Judicial Affairs to make the process of reporting a rape “long and arduous” discourages students from ever speaking out.
Melgoza described the investigation of her case as “another job,” explaining it required her to be flexible with her academic and extracurricular schedules to meet with caseworkers. That took up to 12 hours a week and caused her many “sleepless nights of anxiety,” she said. Melgoza noted that witnesses to her rape were crucial to her assailant being found guilty by the university.
When asked if she intends to file a criminal complaint against her accused assailant, Melgoza said she’s already spread too thin and doesn’t see the point. “I do not think I will file a report with law enforcement at the moment — my time and energy only goes so far,” she said. “If my own institution does not trust me, then why would the law?”
Though she hasn’t issued a complaint with UCSB regarding her perpetrator’s continued presence on campus, Melgoza explained that Monday’s protest will serve as her notice to the school that she is angry and doesn’t intend to drop the issue. “The only way someone will listen to you is if you make noise,” said Melgoza’s friend Alexa Weyrick. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”