Erica Kinsman spoke publicly for the first time about her assault and experience reporting to Florida State University (FSU) in the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground. Erica’s account of FSU’s apathy and deliberate indifference is as harrowing as the brutal rape she recounts. In addition to sharing her story publicly, Erica also chose to bring FSU to civil court, and today, she reached a historic settlement with the university.
While the settlement between FSU and Erica is an important milestone, it should not have been necessary in the first place. Under Title IX, all students, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation, are entitled to an education free from sexual violence. This settlement is a step in the right direction and we hope it leads towards acquiring justice for all survivors of campus sexual assault.
Though it should not require a hit to the wallet for students to be safe from sexual violence, this is the current state of affairs on campuses nationwide. And until the incentive structure changes so that schools will protect their students over their reputations, we will support the right of survivors to hold their schools accountable in the way that works best for them.
Erica released an optimistic statement regarding the outcome of her suit: “I’ll always be disappointed that I had to leave the school I dreamed of going to since I was little. I am happy that FSU has committed to continue making changes in order to ensure a safer environment for all students. My hope is that the federal investigation of my complaint by the Office of Civil Rights will produce even more positive change, not just at FSU, but across the country."
FSU has made a five year “commitment to awareness, prevention and training programs,” but we expect more from the university than just a promise. Survivors, and the entire FSU community, deserve transparency, including a clear outlines as to what this commitment entails, specifically regarding unbiased adjudications in cases involving athletes.
President John Thrasher’s comments about how FSU “could have prevailed” in this case further showcases the problematic trends in university responses. The fact that this settlement represents a “loss” for FSU illustrates how far the university has to go in it’s understanding of equity on campus. A campus free from sexual assault is the “win” we should all aspire to.
We must remember that our country, and the media, have a collectively short attention span for any one particular social justice issue. This reality makes it crucial that we incentivize universities to make substantive changes that will outlast the negative publicity and heightened scrutiny, and that these changes prioritize making quality reforms over checking off compliance boxes.
We believe Erica Kinsman. We stand with Erica Kinsman. We stand with all survivors on every campus, everywhere.