Letter to the Editor: "Alleged" Rape?

I am writing in response to the article "Woman Allegedly Raped in Harvard Yard" posted on Aug. 10, 2012.

Specifically, I am writing to challenge the use of the word "allegedly" in the headline. While such language is appropriate when reporting on judicial proceedings to protect a presumption of innocence, it is inappropriate in this context.

Instead of protecting the presumed innocence of an accused party, the use of "allegedly" casts doubt on the truthfulness of the victim who survived a sexual assault on our campus Friday, August 10. One of the most common barriers to victims of sexual assault seeking further services is a fear that they will not be believed.

It is the firm belief of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at Harvard University that no one ever deserves to be sexually assaulted. This tragic case highlights that sexual assault can happen in any community, to anyone, anytime.

Yet, there are many steps we can take to reduce sexual assault and create a safer environment for those who have survived it. One of these is to critically examine the language we use to discuss issues of sexual violence. The Crimson plays a crucial role in shaping campus discourse. Therefore, we encourage Crimson staff to promote the use of language which can build a safer, more supportive environment for survivors of sexual assault.

Christopher Gilbert is the Prevention Specialist at the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response.

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