OPINION | @boysbeware.tulane illuminates deep-rooted sexual abuse culture

Anna Dixon, Staff Columnist

@boysbeware.tulane serves as an anonymous sexual assault reporting system (Gabe Darley)

Content Warning: The following article contains subject matter pertaining to sexual violence.

@boysbeware.tulane, a Tulane University student-run Instagram account, has recently gained a significant following for its provision of a platform through which students can anonymously share stories about sexual abuse. The account is private and only allows for female-identifying and non-binary students to follow it. 

At a minimum, @boysbeware.tulane may serve as a virtual support group for women who have experienced sexual violence to be able to tell their stories. Discussing trauma can be incredibly difficult, so the virtual aspect of the account could help women who might not be able to talk about their assaults in an in-person setting. The account allows survivors to feel less alone while coping with their trauma. 

Ultimately, @boysbeware.tulane illuminates how widespread of an issue sexual misconduct is on Tulane’s campus. It allows women access to information that may be necessary to protect themselves, which is especially important because it seems they feel as though no one else is doing so. 

The most common criticism of the account is that it will allow for people to falsely accuse men of sexual assault anonymously. This narrative is omnipresent: allowing women to have a platform to discuss their abuse will only lead to false accusations. Such a notion is built upon patriarchal principles and needs to be retired

We need to begin prioritizing women’s rights to, firstly, not be abused, and, secondly, receive justice, over men’s right to privacy and protection from being accused of rape. This mindset does nothing but protect abusers as it creates the continuous doubt of survivors’ stories when they come forward. 

Furthermore, as the account is private, the motivations for submitting a false accusation are invalidated if only a certain demographic can view its posts. 

Anonymous public forums are obviously not the best solution to sexual assault issues on college campuses, but, as less than 1% of rapists face felony charges, the current system has deemed it the responsibility of women to protect themselves by failing to provide legal repercussions. 

If a person is convicted of sexual abuse, they become a registered sex offender and this information becomes public. Since we have a system that very rarely holds sexual abusers accountable, this responsibility has shifted to citizens and, in our case, female college students.  

@boysbeware.tulane, and accounts similar to it, are by no means the final solution to sexual violence. However, they illuminate societal issues about the handling of sexual assault that must be addressed. That women have resorted to using social media as a platform to discuss sexual assault shows that legitimate, legal repercussions are rare or out of reach. 

If the Tulane administration genuinely cared about sexual assault on campus, they would respond to reports with greater urgency. They should view the creation of @boysbeware.tulane as a warning sign that sexual violence is an immense issue on campus. 

The account serves as a tool that women use to warn one another of assaulters. It is not the responsibility of women to protect themselves from rapists. This feature of the account further emphasizes that there are no systemic measures in place for assault survivors to receive justice nor to prevent assaulters from harming more women.

Tulane’s poor handling of sexual assault cases is not unique to the institution but is reflective of society’s lack of regard for sexual violence. 26.4% of female-identifying undergraduates in the United States reported being raped or sexually assaulted, in addition to 6.8% of male-identifying undergraduates. This does not include the daily sexual harassment that women face, such as being groped or subjected to unnerving comments. 

In May 2020, the Trump administration’s Department of Education passed modifications to Title IX that gave sexual assault survivors two unsatisfactory options to legally challenge their abusers. The first requires the survivor to be cross-examined in the presence of their assaulter, which could be incredibly traumatizing.

The second option is considered an informal one, and both parties, even the accused, can choose to opt out of it. Even if the accused chooses to participate, no formal consequences can be ordered, such as expulsion, suspension, changing of class schedules or switching their housing assignment. 

Both options prioritize the rights of a sexual abuser over those of their victim and are disgustingly disrespectful to victims of sexual abuse. Given that these are the only “legitimate” options for sexual assault survivors to seek justice, the rationale behind the creation of @boysbeware.tulane becomes obvious and necessary. 

In 2017, Tulane conducted a Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey and found that 40% of female undergraduates experienced sexual assault. A new climate survey is set to be conducted in January of 2022, and it is unlikely that this statistic is going to decrease. Without a complete overhaul of the way that administrators both listen to survivors and punish assailants, the frequency with which women experience sexual assault will never change.

Resources are available for Tulane students who are victims of sexual violence. Contact Sexual Assault Peer Hotline and Education‘s 24/7 Peer Run Hotline at 504-654-9543 if you need help. 

Tulane Emergency Medical Services can be reached at 504-865-5911. TEMS is a free, student-run service. In addition, Tulane University Police Department’s non-emergency Uptown number is 504-865-5381.

You can also reach out to Case Management and Victim Support Services at 504-314-2160 and they can offer support and help you file a report.

RAINN: Rape Abuse + Incest National Network provides resources that are LGBTQ+ inclusive and can be reached at 800-656-4673.