Writer of open letter attacked online
Student harassed, threatened with rape after criticizing UConn athletes’ domestic violence arrests
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 16:08
When student Carolyn Luby wrote an open letter to President Susan Herbst on The Feminist Wire, she did it with “sincere concern and love” for UConn.
Now, although Luby says she would not change anything about the letter, she says she has never felt less safe on campus.
For writing the letter, Luby has been the subject of online ridicule and has been threatened numerous times with rape since yesterday from frequenters of Barstool Sports, a blogging website targeting sports fans and anti-feminists that uses sophomoric humor and ample profanity.
Many comments dismissed Luby’s argument outright for identifying herself as a feminist. Still, some went much further.
Commenters demolished her looks, posted links to social media accounts and threatened rape.
The letter, which is addressed to Herbst in light of UConn’s efforts to rebrand its athletics department, implores the president to remodel the behavior of the athletes, instead of “prioritizing the remodeling of the fictional face of the Husky logo.”
In the letter, Luby specifically mentions the arrests of Lyle McCombs, a running back on the football team, and Enosch Wolf, a center for the men’s basketball team, for domestic violence as “serious marks against both our athletic program and our university as a whole.”
“My message was that if you’re going to make a change like that to the Husky logo, then you should match it with a [cultural] change that reflects what you see,” she said.
Luby said she was identified on campus and yelled at by “bro types.” She brought the issue up in a class, and the professor recommended she report the incident to the police department, and that she travel with a large group to the UConn police station so she would not be walking alone.
When she arrived to file a report, she said the officer took down her name, address and “The Feminist Wire,” but asked her no other questions. She is unsure if she actually filed a report, and felt it was not taken seriously. Luby left believing the police merely documented that she had sought help.
Instead, Luby said, the UConn police recommended she speak to Troop C, as she lives off campus, and there was no way they could protect her. She also said they told her there is a difference between direct threats and threats made about her online, as anonymity poses a problem in their efforts to help.
She said she was told by a UConn police officer to keep a low profile and wear a hat.
UConn Police Capt. Hans Rhynhart said that in Connecticut, jurisdiction arises from where the comment was made and where it was received. This would be figured out through tracing IP addresses, which are not posted publicly on the website.
Although Luby changed her name on Facebook to avoid unwanted messages, she continues to receive threatening emails.
“I hope you get raped by a husky,” one said.
The emails were sent to Luby’s UConn account, which follows the same formula as all other university email accounts: a first name, a last name, then UConn.edu. Luby does not know how to make them stop.
Luby, who openly shared her experience as a survivor of rape and sexual assault at Take Back The Night, an event organized to discuss sexual violence, said the abuse went beyond the Internet.
“My ex-boyfriend, who I literally have not heard from in years, who used to abuse me and rape me on campus, texted me and said, ‘I see you made it big on Barstool,’” she said.
Luby made the post to publish her academic writing and to “plant seeds” to discourage rape culture, societal attitudes that women are merely sexual objects with lesser rights than men, but in the process ended up exposing how bad it could be.
“It just reinforced the rape culture that I knew existed. Those comments that people made that I was attacking athletes, all of that was proven wrong by those comments,” she said. “It was appalling to see people angry enough to actually make those comments to me.”
University spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz was unfamiliar with the post, so she could not speak at length about specifics, but offered that all students agree to sign a code of conduct, which includes a clause about harassment, before they can enroll at the university.
The website attracts national attention, so not all of the commenters making threats may have an affiliation to the UConn community.