Student maps sexual harassment on campus

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/18 5:03:41


Students walk on a street in Beijing Normal University.  Photos: CFP


Kang Chenwei Photo: Courtesy of Kang Chenwei

Student Kang Chenwei waited anxiously outside a teahouse while his female schoolmate secretly recorded a professor from her Beijing university, a sting operation they set up after a third student claimed the professor had harassed, drugged and groped her.

Kang, a senior from Beijing Normal University (BNU), listened carefully to the noises and voices transmitted from his friend's covert recording device. To ensure her safety, he also brought two other friends to the site.

About 40 minutes later, the young woman left the teahouse with the evidence she has collected. The teacher, according to Kang, is a vice dean of a department of BNU.

"I felt relieved when she came out. I also prepared medicine for her in case she was drugged," Kang told the Global Times.

According to the first student's accounts, the teacher had drugged her in the teahouse near the school and forcefully hugged and kissed her. 

In order to confirm this student's accounts, Kang initiated this undercover sting investigation, and his friend offered to help collect evidence. The investigation was also part of a major project that he was working on: mapping out the locations where sexual harassment and assaults have taken place on the campus.

After spending four months analyzing 60 cases, including the vice dean's, that have taken place over the last decade, he released a 13,000-word report outlining the time, location, frequency and details of sexual harassment and assault cases on the campus at the end of August, which led to heated discussions online.

Many have praised him for bringing a long neglected but ongoing issue into the spotlight. His report is now being used by the students on the campus to help raise awareness of sexual assault. So far his report has been viewed more than 100,000 times on social media.

"What happened on the campus is more serious than what's in my report. I only wrote about those cases that I could confirm. I sifted out those narratives with too much exaggeration," he said. "I'm not surprised that this report caused such a sensation on the Internet. The topic itself is explosive."


Sexual harassment map of Beijing Normal University Photo: Courtesy of Kang Chenwei

Protecting the vulnerable

Kang, 23, hails from Baotou, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. He spent his early childhood with his grandparents, only going to live with his mother when he was 10.

"As I lived in a single mother's family, I experienced scorn and prejudice when I was growing up. So I have more of an attachment with and interest in those minority groups," he said.

"Besides, my growing-up experiences shaped my character and made me very independent, so I'm able to do this research on my own."

According to Kang, he got his inspiration to carry out this research from an incident that took place at school. A sophomore from a rural village who was seen as shy and honest was caught secretly taking photos in the women's toilet. The student was then expelled from school.

"I wanted to figure out his psychology and motive," he said.

Kang later managed to find the student's number and called his family, but his request for an interview was declined.

"I tried my best. Even though no one accepted my interviews, I could still write my report, based on public data and scientific theory," he said.

According to Kang, he got his information from tip-offs and public posts on the school's forum, Weibo and other social media platforms.

"I not only want to speak for the victims of sexual harassment and assaults, but also want to figure out the motives and thinking of the predators," he told the Global Times.

"My identity as a student gives me an advantage when it comes to approaching them. They won't be wary of me," he said.

In the report, he managed to find some victims and security personnel from the campus to talk about the cases. The report stated that the number of sexual harassment and assault cases on campus is rising.

"I promised the interviewees that I wouldn't reveal their identities. Due to the sensitivity of the issue, many don't want to speak out," he said.

Looking ahead

The sexual harassment report is the second written by Kang. His first project, entitled Her Kingdom, looks into the life of sex workers living around the BNU area.

"I'm curious about the sex workers. I want to know about their lives," he said.

His research has kept him so busy that he didn't return home during his vacations.  "I haven't been back for one and a half years already," he said.

Working without financial support, Kang spent his own money and time compiling the report. "Some people on social media will give me some money when they republish my article," he said.

As a student, he said he got the opportunity to get to know the interviewees and become friends with them.

After the exposure that his reports received, the university issued a statement vowing to address the problem.

The vice dean in question offered his resignation, while security on the campus, especially at the blind spots that he listed in the report, is being upgraded. Kang said that so far he is satisfied with the outcome.

According to him, while he got support from his teachers, some advised him to be cautious when writing on these sensitive issues.

"I do also have my concerns when looking into these sensitive topics. But I'll still keep doing this," he said.
Newspaper headline: Hunting the predators

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