By Kaila Braley
Some FSU students are upset about a photo that was posted on Instagram in which a female student, wearing a fake black eye, flinched as a male student raised his fist toward her.
The photo was taken at a Halloween party off campus and posted on both students’ accounts, receiving at least 15 likes on one account and at least 25 on the other. Various comments were posted on each account. The photo was removed, but it has been circulating other sites such as Tumblr and Facebook.
Students posted on social media to discuss the photo and costume. On Yik Yak, a student said, “To the girl who dressed up as a ‘battered housewife’ for Halloween, you clearly have never been abused but let me just tell you, it’s not a joke and you should probably learn some class #whore.” The Yak received 67 “up votes” in the first three hours it was online, and multiple comments.
Another Yak said, “The fact that the girl who dressed up as an abuse victim used to be an RA is rly [sic] sickening to me...” Some of the comments on the post included personal attacks directed toward the students and profane language.
The students who appeared in the photo both declined to speak with The Gatepost reporter and asked not to be contacted again. The male student said he felt “threatened and harassed on this topic” after one email sent by a Gatepost reporter and would contact the “proper authorities” if contacted again.
Kim Dexter, director of affirmative action, Title IX, and ADA Compliance and Title II coordinator, said she would not comment on specific students’ actions.
Speaking generally about Halloween costumes that depict domestic violence, she said in an email, “When we choose to mock and ridicule rather than create dialogue and devise strategies aimed at awareness and prevention of domestic and dating violence, we perpetuate an environment where victims are marginalized and violence becomes accepted as a norm.”
She added, “Victims are then less likely to seek support or report the behavior, and perpetrators are more likely to continue the violence. That is not to say that there is no room for satire or even humor at times as a way to draw attention to the problem of domestic and dating violence, if it serves to continue that dialogue, but I saw no evidence of that intent this Halloween.”
A student who asked to remain anonymous said she thought the costume and photo were “not OK” but that the community has overreacted.
“It has devolved away from the point of discussion to a lynch mob,” she said.
She added that the female student said that she has been told by at least one student to leave campus, and has been reported to Dean of Students Melinda Stoops for “disrupting the learning process.” She said she doesn’t think the female student is comfortable being on campus anymore because of people’s reactions to the photo, adding that even some of her friends won’t speak to her anymore.
“It’s not OK what she did, but I’m just saying, people make mistakes. ... There’s a difference between a bad choice and a bad person.”
Sophomore psychology major Aiofe Lee said she thought the photo was “horrifying.” She added, “I tried to comprehend how that could possibly be comical,” but she couldn’t see it as anything other than “unacceptable.”
While Lee didn’t know much about the community’s reaction to the photo, she thought it is important to see students standing up against actions which are offensive.
Nate Murray, a senior biology major, said the costumes and photo are “wicked insensitive” and “totally inappropriate.”
He added, “I consider myself to have a good sense of humor, and I didn’t even think that was funny.”
Janelle Drolet senior chemistry major said she thought the costume was “terrible,” but added she didn’t think the students should be attacked online because of it. “Then it starts to be bullying. Say, ‘That’s not cool,’ and then move on.”
Kayla Hopkins, a junior communication arts major, said she thought that some people’s anger about the costume was “perfectly acceptable,” but she doesn’t see a reason for judicial punishment through the school, since the costumes were worn off campus.
Jamie Thibeault, a senior history major, said she just heard about the photo and thought it was “vile. I was so annoyed. Come on – it’s 2014. Things like this just set us back about awareness for domestic abuse and women’s rights.”
She said she thinks it’s understandable that there has been backlash from students against the photo, but believes it should be made into a “chance to educate people.”
Christopher Bunce, a junior business major, said, “When I saw it, I thought, ‘There are a thousand things you could be, and that was not the best choice.’ Halloween is supposed to be a fun holiday. ... It was not good taste.”
He added that it might have been an “honest mistake” and the students shouldn’t be attacked on social media because of it.
Emily Lyczynski, a senior elementary education major, said while she was “speechless” when she heard about the picture and costumes, she doesn’t think it is the school’s responsibility to react to it. “It makes me think of high school. When you get in trouble, it goes back to the principal. We’re adults. If it happened off campus, it doesn’t reflect on the school.”
Rachane Doyle, a sophomore environmental science major, said he also doesn’t think it is the school’s responsibility to react. “It’s not the smartest of costumes,” he said, but added, “if it’s not during school hours,” then it is not the administration’s duty to respond.