Annie Teriba does not fit the stereotypical profile of a sexual assailant. In fact, she defies nearly every conception of one.
The third-year student at Oxford University is a model example of extreme social activism on campus.
Teriba is the People of Color and Racial Equality officer in her college, Wadham.
She is an active member of the National Union of Students’ (NUS) Black Students’ Committee and National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, a group devoted to helping students organize “radical direct action against tuition fees, education cuts and wider cuts to public services.”
And Teriba is the editor for a key publishing platform for Oxford’s trans and queer community, No HeterOx**, which was founded to promote “queer sounds drowned out by the sermonizing voices of the majority” and to “affirm the polymorphous perversity of our a/sexualities and seek to speak for our own bodies, lives and loves.”
However, an impressive résumé of social advocacy by no means equates to an unimpeachable character.
Teriba came forward last Friday and made a very public and yet somewhat confusing confession of sexual misconduct.
She posted on Facebook—with a polite trigger warning, no less—that she had committed a non-consensual sex act and, therefore, would be resigning from her many positions of leadership at Oxford:
“I failed to properly establish consent before every act. I apologize sincerely and profoundly for my actions. I should have taken sufficient steps to ensure that everything I did was consensual. I should have been more attentive to the person’s body language. In failing to clarify that the person consented to our entire encounter, I have caused serious irreparable harm.”
Teriba has since deleted her Facebook profile, and she has not responded to The Daily Beast’s efforts to contact her. However, the text of her confessional resignation has been widely circulated.
As one can tell from the above excerpt, it is framed from the perspective that affirmative consent—obtaining a clear sign of consent to proceed with a sexual encounter rather than merely sensing an act is non-consensual—is a must.
Also known as “yes means yes,” the policy tends to be championed in liberal circles as essential to sexual assault reform, though many critics have pointed out that it is a vague and confusing metric.
Teriba proceeds to declare that this was “not an isolated event,” describing how “whilst drunk in a club...I had touched somebody in a sexual manner without their consent.”
It is unclear whether this drunken grope was skeevy but par for the course for a student night out, or a sexual violation that would be considered a criminal offense.
That difference may not actually matter in the current climate of campus sexual politics—at least in the U.S.
Under the latest statistic that one in four American college women are sexually assaulted, “unwanted sexual touching” is the bar for misconduct.
“Having one’s backside grabbed may feel icky and violating, but this kind of sexual misconduct doesn’t compare to being violently penetrated while sober or under the influence,” as Lizzie Crocker wrote of this problematic group for The Daily Beast.
It is not clear whether the police would take action based on a public confession, and Wadham College refused to comment on Teriba’s academic status or any potential suspension when The Daily Beast reached out to them.
Teriba admits she has not lived up to the liberal standards of sexual consent that she values. She also makes a commitment to seeking help while making it clear her actions should not be excused.
“I commit to getting help with how I consume alcohol. It is clear that I lack self-awareness and become sexually entitled when I am drunk,” she states. “This does not excuse my actions, I am wholly responsible for the damage that I have caused.”
Reading her own statement, it seems Teriba did not sense at the time that she was violating someone or proceeding without consent.
Her admittedly biased description encompasses so many of the problems raised by those who fear campus sexual assault reform is swinging toward vague, confusing regulations that are stacked against the accused.
Teriba’s case also raises the question: Who can meet the standards desired by the most liberal-minded campus sexual assault advocates? Unless Teriba was lying through her teeth when wrote an editorial decrying her school’s “endemic problem of rape culture,” as the MailOnline reported, she is committed to fighting sexual assault and “rape culture.”
If her sexual conduct makes her an assailant, does that mean too wide a breadth of sexual conduct can be molded into misconduct under her definition?
Yet, Teriba does not try to defend her actions. She goes straight into self-flagellation.
Not that Teriba needed to fall on the sword. Her fellow, liberal-minded, socially sensitive peers have thrown her under the double-decker bus with full force.
Oxford University’s Student Union’s (OUSU) Women Campaign, a leading feminist group on campus, denounced Teriba’s attempt to come clean and right her fully-admitted wrong.
According to a statement Women’s Campaign Officer Stephanie Kelley shared with The Daily Beast, the group found Teriba’s confession “unfortunately, rife with apologism,” which is why the members do “not condone it nor the violence it describes.”
OUSU’s vice president for women, Lucy Delaney, added her own statement, as reported in Cherwell, an Oxford student magazine.
While she did not specifically mention Teriba, Delaney declared: “In a society which silences survivors and which tolerates rape apologism it is essential that liberation spaces do not harbor or protect abusers, otherwise they are no better than the institutions which perpetuate oppression.”
In short, Teriba could take her (some would say) brave and exposing public apology and go shove it.
The outraged response to Teriba’s confessional resignation almost surpasses Prime Minister David Cameron’s alleged participation in a swine fellatio ritual as the most bizarre, perplexing story to come out of Oxford University.
Here is a person who is trying to be responsible and make amends. Teriba appears to have come forward in an effort to practice what she preaches—and she was met with jeers and rejection.
The case of Teriba is the perverse, futile resolution of the most liberal campus policies taken to their extreme.
A woman of color who appears to be deeply involved in improving her community is denounced as a pariah because she has confessed and apologized for something she feels she has done that is wrong.
There is a way to accept her apology without excusing her actions, but a contingency of Oxford students appear to be busy charging with pitchforks to wrestle with those nuances.
To add another layer of dark irony, Teriba herself appears to have promoted this militant righteousness that leaves little to no room for apologies, cooperation, or forgiveness.
In a speech arguing that the U.S. is institutionally racist, Teriba dismissed the idea of racial harmony as an option. “When they talk about holding hands and moving on, it takes a lot of privilege,” she said.
Teriba has openly espoused a narrow-minded vision of liberalism that actively kept out dissenting voices—or worse, people who simply came from different backgrounds.
This past July, No HeterOx**’s Facebook group removed multiple white gay students because “white cis men, blissfully ignorant of their privilege,” were “drowning out everyone else with their basic as hell politics,” No HeterOx** said in a statement, as reported in Cherwell.
The Tab, a UK digital news site focused on universities, ran an article on the purge with a screenshot from Teriba’s Facebook reading: “FUCK PRIVILEGED GAYS. FUCK PRIVILEGED GAYS. FUCK PRIVILEGED GAYS.”
No HeterOx** also reportedly kicked out Jewish students that it suspected of being Zionists, and other members who raised concerns that the group was verging into promoting anti-Semitism.
“To be honest, I’m not surprised I was removed; I had dared to like comments by a Jewish member who felt uncomfortable” because of “the use of the anti-Semitic ‘zio’ slur,” David Browne, one former No HeterOx** member, wrote on Facebook, according to Cherwell.
At the time, No HeterOx** released a statement, defiantly standing by their purge without a single self-aware hint of how problematic its tactics were:
[T]his is not a ‘safe space’. We are not interested in your liberal identity politics…. We are not accountable to you. We are not interested in vacuous calls for ‘free speech’ all the while drowning out the voices of the most marginalized in our community. Our politics is not one of offense but of oppression…. If you disagree with the fundamental attitudes of this group, that’s fine, but please leave. You are welcome to set up your own group that is more in tune with your ideology. Otherwise, you will be removed.
Teriba was one of the four co-signers of that statement.
In espousing her views, Teriba was relentlessly myopic in her vision of a campus community, choosing to silence any views perceived as dissenting or questioning.
One hopes Teriba receives support for her attempts at making amends. However, by her own radically extreme social values, perhaps there is no one who is good enough, no one sufficiently lacking in privilege but overflowing in willingness to unquestioningly acquiesce to Teriba’s views, to speak up for her.