Trigger warning: This story contains content regarding sexual assault.
It is no secret that in San Luis Obispo, sexual assault is an issue, especially among the college demographic.
After hearing countless stories from victims who have felt ignored by Cal Poly, what more can be done?
“I want to assure you all that we are taking the incident very seriously and responding with all appropriate Resources,” Cal Poly San Luis Obispo President Jeff Armstrong said in an email statement following the first attack.
Knowing that Cal Poly has a hit-or-miss reputation for acting on sexual assault reports, I wanted to find more information about these cases. Hopefully to ensure that the public will be informed about any developments moving forward.
I looked to the Cal Poly website for resources and came across Cal Poly’s SAFER program. SAFER claims to be, “Cal Poly’s primary confidential resource for addressing sexual assault, intimate partner violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual exploitation, and harassment.”
I reached out to Kara Samaniego, Assistant Director of CalPoly SAFER, to discuss the purpose of the organization and ask questions about the current state of their relationship with students.
The online appointment was not honored, and when I visited the office in person, I was told that all questions and answers would need to be in written form due to it’s official nature.
So much for a public university being transparent.
Their website also includes information such as, “What to do if you experience sexual assault,” and “Survivor wellness resources.” Although the mission appears genuine, I am not fully convinced. Based on what numerous Cal Poly Students have told me, they do not feel that their cases are taken seriously.
To get a better perspective on this issue, I spoke to a former Cal Poly student who was left with no choice but to transfer schools. This student, because of the highly sensitive nature of their circumstances, asked to remain anonymous.
The victim was forced to continue living with their abuser in the Cal Poly dormitories, and found the only way they could actually get away from the abuser was to transfer schools.
I found a plethora of similar stories on the Instagram account, @shadesofcalpoly. “Shades of Cal Poly” is a student-managed account focused on “Sharing the stories of the discrimination faced by POC and LGBTQ+ communities, women, etc. witnessed by al at Cal Poly.” Through their Instagram page, you can find a link to a database, organizing testimonies by topic and graduation year.
In the weeks following the two alleged rape reports, there have been no updates. Cal Poly has made no further public comments about either case, but has offered various resources on campus.
Support centers have been made available for students and faculty at various locations across campus. Cal Poly has also offered students and faculty the option to call campus police and be escorted anywhere on campus by Mustang Patrol.
Cal Poly must understand the heavy responsibility they hold in keeping both the student body and community safe. The shadow of Kristin Smart’s case will forever loom over San Luis Obispo. If Cal Poly wants to do the bare minimum to keep another case like this from happening, the least they can do is keep the public informed, and hold the perpetrators accountable.
I will continue to follow these cases as they develop. If you or anyone you know is in need of counseling or emergency resources related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or prevention, please reach out to any of the following resources.
Cuesta College Health Center: (805) 546-3171
Lumina Alliance: (805) 545-8888
Cal Poly Health Center: (805) 756-1221