U campus must show support for survivors

Daily Editorial Board

Former University of Minnesota student Daniel Drill-Mellum was sentenced to six years in prison at Hennepin County District Court last Tuesday, after he pleaded guilty to raping two women at separate college parties in 2014.

Drill-Mellum will be registered as a sex offender for life, and, according to his attorney Debbie Lang, he has entered an inpatient sex offender treatment program. Drill-Mellum will be eligible for release from prison once he’s served two-thirds of his 74-month sentence.

Last week, both victim-survivors associated with Drill-Mellum’s conviction read statements at the courthouse. One of the women recounted the violence and terror inflicted upon her by Drill-Mellum, calling into question whether the length of his sentence matches the insidious weight of his crimes.

“All of this is permanent for me. I wonder how permanent it is for Mr. Drill-Mellum? His family clearly supports him through his actions, and he was able to negotiate a lower sentence on his own behalf,” she wrote.

Later on in the statement, the first woman references a number of other girls who contacted her, reporting similar encounters with Drill-Mellum.

In publishing their statements, the two victim-survivors send a powerful message of strength and tenacity, which we hope will help our community coalesce, lending support to survivors of sexual assault who may be awaiting justice. Whether it’s events like Take Back The Night, or seeking healing through therapy, we have a responsibility to make our campus an inclusive and safe space for survivors.

We must also question, however, whether justice was truly served by Drill-Mellum’s ruling, and whether we are taking appropriate action to halt heinous crimes on campus.

Even if Drill-Mellum serves his full sentence, he will be able to live a free, unencumbered life after his prison term — a fact that should make us think critically about the way we adjudicate, and punish perpetrators.

The women affected by Drill-Mellum’s unforgivable violence will carry the weight of his violence with them forever. Shouldn’t our treatment of Drill-Mellum be consistent with the physical bondage of life imprisonment?

We punish rapists for a number of reasons, but the primary purpose of any sentence should be to serve the needs of the perpetrator’s victims.

It is rare for a rapist to be caught, and even less likely for them to serve jail time. Though this case ended in Drill-Mellum’s imprisonment, that does not necessarily mean justice was served last Tuesday.last week.

In our community, we must privilege the voice of the survivor, working to reform our judicial system so that it serves and respects survivors, not their rapists.