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Eastern Illinois University Washes Away a Cry for Help While Students Are Fighting Back

03/28/2013 12:10 pm ET | Updated May 28, 2013

Students at the Eastern Illinois University are taking a stand and writing a petition since an incident that occurred last month has left many feeling that the university does not care enough about rape survivors on campus.

A chalked message stating, "MY RAPIST STILL GOES HERE... WILL SOMEONE PLEASE LISTEN TO ME?" was written on the campus' Dounda steps for less than a week, when the facilities management scrubbed off the message, saying it looked "trashy."

Students regularly write messages in chalk all over the campus, so when this message was put up, many thought it would get more attention than just a good cleaning.

"Whatever was up there should have been cleaned. It's not an issue of what we should take down or leave up," Dan Nadler, vice-president of student affairs told the University's newspaper, The Daily Eastern News. "They were asked to freshen up anywhere there was a chalking done, and it was starting to look a little trashy."

Students at the university say that this message seemed to have been thoroughly scrubbed off, while other messages, including one about a blood drive, were still visible after the cleaning.

The message even got attention from other administration. Jeannie Ludlow, the coordinator of the Women's Studies Program and the Women's Resource Center, told the university's newspaper that seeing the message on the steps "broke her heart." She recognized the message as a cry for help from someone who does not feel validated for what happened to him or her.

"We know that victimization doesn't end when the sexual assault or abuse ends," she said. "Regardless of the process... it can feel invalidating."

Ludlow also added that she feels this message was aiming to get the university's attention about the possible underreporting of rapes on college campuses.

"According to FBI statistics, 1 in 6 college-aged women will be the victim of sexual assault, and Eastern has one, two or three reports a year," she said. "I don't buy it."

In a letter sent to the Daily Eastern News, Nadler expressed an effort that he has launched with the help of the school-counseling center, in order further reach out to victims of sexual assault. In the letter he lists the groups he has called upon in order to help in this effort:

"I would also like to call upon interested and concerned members of the
University community to join us in this educational effort so that no victim of
sexual assault will ever feel alone at EIU. Many offices on Eastern's campus --
including the Office of Student Standards, the University Police Department,
the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity, the Counseling Center, and the Sexual
Assault Counseling and Information Service (SACIS) -- are deeply committed
to assisting students who have been the victims of sexual violence. Staff
members in these offices consider reports of sexual assault to be of utmost
concern and seriousness. They listen to the victims, connect the victims with
helpful resources, and report the incidents to the appropriate authorities."

Since the incident, the Women's Empowerment League has put together a petition of six requests that they are requesting from the university president, William Perry. The petition has been put up on change.org in an effort to give rape survivors the attention they need.

The League members handed Perry the petition in early February, of which he said he would be able to achieve all of the demands of the list.

The petition requests the university hire a "full-time paid victim's advocate on campus," as well as more extensive community support for rape survivors on campus, among other things.

The Daily Eastern News has decided to provide a series of articles this semester covering the issues behind campus rapes in hopes that the administration will pay greater attention to the issue as well.

"We understand that this is a long process but we also know President Perry said he can make these demands possible and now we want to see that." Jennifer Hindes, former president of the Women's Empowerment League, told the Journal Gazette and Times Courier of Charleston, IL.