Letter: Iowa State needs to do more for sexual assault victims


Letter writer Caroline Chantry laments over a sexual assault case 40 years ago and reflects on how victims at Iowa State are treated today, urging for more action. 

Caroline Chantry

It is with great interest that I have followed the conversation in the ISU Alumni Magazine about systemic racism and ways to work toward racial justice. I am glad to see it, particularly those letters requesting that the conversation continue. I am sure most of you are well aware about the national conversations about apologies and reparations. 

I was similarly interested, in fact delighted, to read the discussion in the Iowa State Daily about the March 2021 conference on Violence Against Women and Women’s Health convened for Women’s Week. Particularly, what stood out for me, were the statements by Margo Foreman, assistant vice president of equal opportunity, that “there is not enough of an expectation for men to contribute to the issue of violence against women” and “The trend that bothers me … is how men’s responsibility and their [lack of] energy toward fixing the problem is still not being called out as much as it probably should be.”

This rings true to my experience at Iowa State (as well as elsewhere) and triggered the thought that perhaps sexual violence against women is also a situation where we should consider apologies for our institutional failure to handle sexual violence against women appropriately.

Specifically, I sat on the All University Judiciary Committee at Iowa State from 1975-1977 as the sole student representative. For at least part of that time, as I recall, I was also the sole female representative. A case of rape came to the committee, for which a football player was found guilty. I was astonished when I was the sole dissenting vote that his punishment’ consist only of being required to sit out one football game. The male members of the committee were concerned that if he was expulsed from the team, (my suggestion), he would miss the rest of his senior season. Apparently, that was unacceptable despite his egregious criminal behavior. Clearly the men on the committee were sympathizing more with the perpetrator than with the victim.

Although it is now over 40 years later, I would plea to the university that they locate the victim if possible and apologize to her, the greater university community and the general public for their irresponsible handling of her case. Reparations are not fathomable to me in this instance, but perhaps I lack imagination. This case has bothered me for the past 40 years, so I can only begin to imagine her experience then — and more recently — as similar cases have received more public awareness in recent years.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts as an institution and as a community.