The Secret Crime on Campus: Guest Post by Bourne Morris, author of Rise of the Red Queen

“With The Rise of the Red Queen, Bourne Morris is poised to become the queen of academic mysteries and suspense.”Gigi Pandian, USA Today Bestselling Author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mysteries

A beautiful journalism student is abducted by a man with unusual and frightening expectations. While searching for her missing student, Red Solaris must contend with a university committee quarreling over the rights of the victims and those accused in sexual assault cases. And, in the midst of all this, a journalism professor brings a gun to school and shoots a colleague. Will Red’s ambition to become dean be destroyed by scandal around her? Will she and Detective Joe Morgan ever acknowledge their true feelings for each other?


 

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The Secret Crime on Campus

Guest Post by Bourne Morris

 I was a college professor for 26 years and now I write fiction about campus violence. In the past two years, we have all seen the number of discussions and articles in the media about sexual assault on American campuses. It’s raised some serious questions in my mind about my own college experience and about the health and safety of the students I taught for 26 years.  I know the topic is not cozy, but if you have a child going to college these days, it’s worth thinking about.

Should the names of Sexual Assault victims be kept secret? Some women are coming forward with stories of what happened to them. Not just older women, but often young women who are still in school. Those who go public call themselves survivors, not victims, and many regard the process of telling their stories as a step toward healing.

Yet, at many universities, the policy of the administration is still to protect the identity of the victim. And many major news organizations still have policies requiring that the name of the assaulted be kept secret from the community.

Is this discretion reasonable? From time to time someone argues that if a man or woman was robbed, his or her name would be revealed. If she was murdered her name would be known as soon as the body was identified and the family notified. If he was beaten up in a parking lot, we would know his name as well as what he could tell us about the event.

But sexual assault is a crime of violence still shrouded in secrecy. It seems we have a hard time separating the word “sexual’ from the word “assault.” The difference in attitudes, often reflected in varying state laws, is enough to drive you crazy. In some places, unless the victim actively fights back, no crime is committed.

One of the more surprising facts I learned in my research is the number of times the female victim is fearful she will lose her friends if she reports assault. In too many cases, it’s not the accused who tells her to keep her mouth shut, it’s other girls in her dorm or sorority.

Perhaps we are unwilling to identify the victim of a sex crime because even if she (or he) is badly hurt, we still think that somehow the victim was partly to blame.

Or maybe it’s because we still think that a young woman is somehow so altered by the event it will affect her chances of marriage. Or that a young man who is assaulted must be some sort of weakling.

Or maybe it’s because it’s so darn difficult to prove a crime when it’s two people telling very different versions of the same event

Or because, every once in a while, someone makes it up to get a former lover in trouble.

Whatever our reasons, the rule of secrecy causes more sorrow and depression than we know. One has only to understand what it is like to keep a traumatic event a secret for years, to keep from seeking justice for a crime committed against yourself or someone close, to know what price the survivors pay for the discretion as well as the act itself.

Why I decided to write about sexual assault in “The Rise of the Red Queen.” The basic theme of the Red Queen series is campus crime and violence.  And trying to cope with the problems posed by sexual assault is a major issue for today’s university administrations. The variety of policies now in place or under consideration indicate the predicament we find ourselves in.

It seems to be no trick at all to decide that campus crimes of murder, theft, battery and vandalism are immediately reported to the police and described in the media.

Perhaps some day we will be as open and swift about sexual assault. We will believe is not about sex. It is not a form of bullying or a drunken error in judgment. It’s an act of violence and should be treated as such.

That’s what my protagonist, Dr. Meredith “Red” Solaris hopes as she battles with the murky politics of her campus and searches for a kidnapped student taken by a deranged man.


About The Author

Red Queen Author Bourne Morris
After Bennington College, I worked at McCall’s Magazine and then went to Ogilvy&Mather, New York during the “Mad Men “ era. David Ogilvy and his colleagues treated me wonderfully, promoted me several times and then sent me west to become head of their agency in Los Angeles. I had a splendid run in advertising.

In 1983, I joined the University of Nevada Reno as a full professor in Journalism where I taught until 2009. I learned about campus politics when I served as chair of the faculty senate. I retired to write mysteries in 2009 after a wonderful teaching career.

I live with my husband of 34 years in a ranch house with a view of tall trees and mountains. We have four children and eight grandchildren. Life is good.

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