Cal Poly student’s senior project documents school’s ‘rape climate’

April 9, 2019

Amelia Meyerhoff

A Cal Poly student and alleged rape victim has released a report containing interviews with 61 alleged victims of sexual assaults who are either current Cal Poly students or graduates of the university. [Cal Coast Times]

Amelia Meyerhoff compiled the report, titled “The Clapback,” as a senior project. Meyerhoff describes her report as an investigation into “the sexual assault and rape climate” at Cal Poly.

Between Sept. 2018 and March 2019, Meyerhoff conducted interviews with 45 Cal Poly students and 16 alumni who provided accounts of their sexual assaults. The majority of the survivors interviewed were sexually assaulted and/or raped during their time at Cal Poly, while some of the participants experienced sexual trauma prior to arriving at the university, according to the report.

Two “male identifying survivors” participated in the study, while all of the other alleged victims identify as women.

Of the current Cal Poly students interviewed, 87 percent said their perpetrators never faced consequences. All of the alumni who gave interviews said their perpetrators never faced consequences.

Nearly 30 percent of the participants in the study said they were sexually assaulted by a fraternity member.

Just 18 percent of the alleged victims who gave interviews reported their cases to Cal Poly’s Title IX office. Most of the cases that were reported to Title IX were ultimately invalidated, according to the report.

Meyerhoff’s findings allege Cal Poly, and specifically its Title IX office, worsened the trauma for most of the victims.

The majority of the alleged victims did not label their incidents as sexual assault or rape right away, according to the report. Numerous cases involved alcohol and/or drug use, according to the interviews.

In describing her own case, Meyerhoff said she was raped during her second year at Cal Poly by a Cuesta College student with whom she had a casual relationship for three months prior to the assault. Meyerhoff stated that, on a night in which they were both intoxicated, she came over to his apartment, and he forced her to have sex with her multiple times when she did not want it, injuring her in the process.

“Even though my perpetrator and I had a casual relationship for three months prior to the incident, I always should have the right to say no,” Meyerhoff stated in the report.

Meyerhoff said she refrained from reporting the rape because she likely would have obtained no justice since she was intoxicated that night and had no evidence.

“The project is called The Clapback because these 61 survivors’ voices are meant to be a slap in the face to those who have invalidated, blamed, ignored and silenced us,” Meyerhoff stated.

Meyerhoff alleges the Cal Poly administration is complicit in the invalidation of rape cases. Between 1995 and 2005, 23 red hand-prints were painted on sidewalks near locations on campus where sexual assaults occurred.

The administration painted over the hands in 2005 to minimize scrutiny of Cal Poly’s sexual assault and rape problem, the report states. Meyerhoff is using the red hand print as the symbol for her senior project.

“I am bringing back the red hand print to honor the 23 survivors’ stories that the administration invalidated,” she stated.

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I remember sometime between 1980 and 1982 a coed was raped at Cal Poly. The University Police did nothing; city police said it wasn’t their jurisdiction; the DA did nothing after it was reported to him by the parents. These parents went to the local Assemblyperson – no help there, either. The coed dropped out of Cal Poly totally traumatized. My point is this has been going on for a very long time – at least 37 years – but keeping Cal Poly’s stellar reputation seems to trump doing anything to root out problems. I really hope this will change that attitude.

Let’s not forget the monumental ball drop in the Smart case either.