Fighting a Rape Culture

Explicit consent, according to the University of Oregon student code, “means voluntary, non-coerced and clear communication indicating a willingness to engage in a particular act.” It “includes an affirmative verbal response or voluntary acts unmistakable in their meaning.”

Making sure students understand consent and what constitutes sexual assault (or as it says in the student code, sexual misconduct) is easier said than done with nearly 25,000 students and a focus that critics say has become more about sports than about educating students.

Oregon has steadily increased its programs aimed at heading off sexual assault and helping survivors, but those in the school striving to prevent rape are also working against a long history of rape culture that the school has been slow to change.

Campus culture

Shin Shin Tang, a clinical psychologist in Eugene with a doctorate from the UO, created an online petition that alleges the UO has “systematically fostered a climate of rape culture on campus.” Tang says that when she was on campus Axe Body Spray had a campaign that involved leaving black thong panties on student desks. She says complaints about this and other issues went disregarded by the administration. There is a “lack of consciousness about rape culture at the UO,” Tang says, adding that the school needs to start paying attention to things like advertising and what the administration is willing to support.

A rape culture is created when societal norms allow sexual violence to be perpetuated and even validated.

Rape survivor Kelly Goodman says when she was sexually assaulted by a UO football player in 2002, the school was using sex as a recruitment tool and thus giving players “a sense of entitlement.”

Media reports from that time bear out Goodman’s claims. A 2003 football recruit, Lynell Hamilton, turned down the UO after he says he was “offered marijuana, alcohol and sex at off-campus parties during his official visit to Oregon the weekend the Ducks played Arizona State,” according to an Associated Press article. That same year the UO’s Teamwork internship program was featured on HBO’s Real Sports, which had an interview with former player Eddie Smith who said that attractions for recruits on official UO visits included “Girls, girls, girls.”

The UO Senate’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee (IAC) discussed the show at its January 2003 meeting and found that “HBO was clearly looking for something negative to report, but found Oregon’s program to be well organized with Teamwork students representing the university in a positive manner.”

More recently, the IAC fought throughout the 2013-14 school year over whether its duty was to serve as a watchdog group or to simply advise the athletic department. It also had internal disagreements over whether it should be subject to open meetings law. Chair Rob Illig, who advocated for closed meetings, suggested the IAC be supplanted by another committee, and on June 19 UO President Michael Gottfredson appointed “the President’s Advisory Group on Intercollegiate Athletics.”

Dealing with sexual violence

On April 3, about a month after a young woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by three UO basketball players and a month before those allegations were made public, Gottfredson announced that the school had a new website dealing with preventing and reporting sexual violence and harassment, and that the Dean of Students Office was hiring a new staff member in addition to staff that had been added at the UO Police Department, Office of the Dean of Students and the Office of Affirmative Action.

UO professor Cheyney Ryan, who has long criticized the UO’s handling of sexual assault and harassment cases, says that having one office that handles sexual violence is a better model and points to the example of Yale University, which has one Title IX office. Ryan was a consultant in settling the 2011 federal case against Yale that led to changes in how the school addresses sexual violence. Ryan has also called for professors to put information about sexual harassment and assault on their syllabi.

The UO has created a webpage,, with information about the variety of services and groups on and off campus that deal with sexual violence. The university also created a 24-hour hotline, 541-346-SAFE, that will “explain your options and connect you with resources.”

Despite the university’s attempts to improve how it deals with dealing with sexual violence, the process for a victim of sexual assault appears to remain confusing and cumbersome. A UO pamphlet lists resources from confidential reporting to the school’s Counseling Department to reporting to the UOPD or an array of other offices.

According to the pamphlet, the first thing that happens when sexual violence is reported is the support services coordinator, through the offices of the Dean of Students, reaches out to the reporting student, then the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity reaches out to the student, investigates, then passes information on to the Office of Community Conduct and Community Standards, which determines if there are applicable conduct charges.

With some narrow exceptions, employees at the UO are mandatory reporters. If a student comes to them and says he or she was sexually assaulted or harassed, the employee must report it. If the incident involves students, then it must be reported to the Office of the Dean of Students. If it involves employees, then the report is made to the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.

To a rape victim, many of whom are already reluctant to report, the number of offices and administrators can be overwhelming. According to the UO’s statistics, published in response to criticisms that the school suffers from “administrative bloat,” the university had 1,182.4 officers of administration in 2012 and 1,626.4 faculty members, so the school had only about 444 more faculty than it did administrators.


Sheryl Eyster, associate dean of students at the UO, says once a sexual assault has been reported, the “school wants to work in a way that’s very survivor-centric” and avoid having the victim telling her story again and again.

She says all students under 21 at the UO are required to take an online alcohol education course called AlcoholEdu that contains a sexual assault component called Haven. There is also online training for faculty and staff. UO professor and expert on institutional betrayal Jennifer Freyd has criticized the student online training as being done largely by insurance companies to reduce liability rather than educate students.

Eyster points to SWAT (Sexual Wellness Awareness Team) as one of the campus’ “hidden gems.” Abigail Leeder, the UO’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Education director, heads SWAT, a student group that leads workshops that use theater to facilitate education about sexual violence as well as sex-positivity. Leeder says workshops include “scenarios where someone is wasted at party and someone is trying to get someone to come upstairs,” and audience members are asked to change the situation.

SWAT volunteers take a class for three terms, and Eyster says they learn to do outreach on bystander intervention and work with leaders of student groups, such as fraternities and sororities as well as athletes. She says training natural leaders leads to peer-to-peer behavioral change. “We know most men are not perpetrators,” Eyster says, “but we need empowered men stepping up and being vocal on this issue.”

Leeder says, “Culturally, we don’t get a lot of education on how to communicate with our partners.” SWAT members wear T-shirts that say, “Consent is sexy.”

She adds that sexual assault is a “vastly under-reported crime” and SWAT seeks to create “ideally a culture and environment where people are comfortable reporting.”

Basketball coach Dana Altman said at a news conference in May that, while UO athletes are required to go through a program to teach them about sexual violence, the basketball team did not attend this year’s training session. ν

UO Resources for Sexual Assault Prevention and Support

When asked where the best place is to send a victim or survivor of sexual assault, many of those on campus speaking out against the UO’s handling of sexual violence suggested students go to Sexual Assault Support Services, a local nonprofit that does education and outreach to survivors of sexual violence. SASS also does work on campus through a contract with the Associated Students of the UO.

Below is a list of resources the campus community can access. If we missed anything, please let us know.


UO Coalition to End Sexual Violence

We Resist and

ASUO Women’s Center 541-346-4095

ASUO Men’s Center 541-346-0743


Sexual Violence Prevention and Education 541-346-1198

SWAT (Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team) 541-346-1198

Safe Ride 541-346-RIDE


24-hour information and support hotline 541-346-SAFE (7233)

University of Oregon Police Department 541-346-2919

Office of the Dean of Students 541-346-3216

Sexual Violence Response and Support Services Coordinator 541-346-8194

Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards 541-346-3216

Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity 541-346-3123

Confidential reporting

University Counseling and Testing Center 541-346-3227

University Health Center 541-346-2770

Community Resources

Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS) 541-343-7277

Womenspace (Intimate partner and domestic violence) 541-485-6513

City of Eugene Police Department 541-682-5111

City of Springfield Police Department 541-726-3714

Lane County Victim Services 541-682-4523

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