A recent article published on the website of Universitas Gadjah Mada’s (UGM) Balairung Press revealed the rape case of a student who has been identified by the pseudonym Agni during her Student Community Service program. Agni was sexually assaulted during her sleep by one of her group mates and it has left her severely traumatized.
When she tried to seek help and support regarding her state, instead of the sense of security and justice that she sought for, the campus turned its back on her and blamed her for being “reckless”. In a meeting conducted between the victim, lecturers, and UGM officials, one of the officials was quoted as saying: "if you didn’t sleep in the same room as him, this would have never happened.”
This case eventually caught public attention a year after it happened that UGM eventually decided to make a press statement, which has hardly alleviated the public outrage. Agni’s case was clearly not the first sexual harassment case ever happened in this university, and in other universities. Its emergence is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the real issues faced by many sexual abuse victims in various universities in Indonesia.
In a highly patriarchal society like Indonesia, sexual assaults and harassment cases on campus are not rare. Whether perpetrated by fellow students, by lecturers to students, or by staffs to students. However, only a few usually come up to the surface, not only because the victims are often too traumatized to relive the events, but also because they fear reporting it will only make things worse for them. They will be blamed for the way they dress and the way they behave. Instead of gaining sympathy – which is the least people can do – they are accused of being irresponsible. Even more complicated is when the case involves university staff. Instead of getting justice, the victims are faced with the possibilities of failing or even getting expelled.
This skewed culture that exists in almost every Indonesian university has contributed to the overall rape culture, allowing sexual harassment cases to continue without justice. Sexual abuse survivors cannot get the security they seek from the campus, thus making them more reluctant to even talk about it. They are often left psychologically battered and they suffer in their studies as well as social lives.
In comparison to other universities in developed countries, it is obvious that Indonesian universities tend to take sexual violence cases lightly to the point of neglecting them at all. In the United States, educational institutions are protected by several federal laws that ensure sexual violence cases, including harassment are being seriously taken care of.
Harvard University, for example, has a Gender-Based Harassment Policy which provides a series of formal procedures on how to report such cases, and guarantees that the victims will be assisted by personal advisors. In Australia, a project regarding sexual assaults and sexual harassment of university students has been started by the Australian Human Rights Commission, encouraging victims to report their assaults. Although the implementation of these policies may not be perfect, at least something is being done to make sexual harassment and assaults victims feel that they have a place to run to.
Agni’s case has opened our eyes to the pervasiveness of sexual assaults in Indonesian universities and how people easily blame the victims. Let’s use this moment to fight to end rape culture in campus once and for all.
There should be a paradigmatic shift in the way institutions handle sexual violence cases. Universities need to adopt and implement strict policies regarding sexual harassment and they must end the knee-jerk victim-blaming response. They need to help bring justice for the survivors, and not be afraid to impose a just punishment on the perpetrator. Sexual harassment can no longer be treated as a mild offence by the institutions, instead, it should be regarded as a violation of law that must dealt with in a legal process.
This is also the moment for sexual assaults and harassments survivors to speak up and get help. With thousands of people at your back, you are not alone. You deserve to be heard. You deserve justice. You deserve to be respected regardless of your clothing and behavior. You deserve to fight back. Because you matter.