FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS/CONCERNS
1. I heard that he’s not guilty- isn’t it true that the DA didn’t press charges?
Point of clarification: Whether or not the Orange County District’s Attorney’s office (OC DA) pressed charges is not an indication of Cheng’s true guilt. The Orange County DA stated that they did not make a decision on the case until February 10th. They cited “insufficient evidence," but evidence in any campus rape case is usually deemed "insufficient". Other factors that the OC DA has taken into account -- e.g. that they know each other, there was alcohol involved, etc. These are often strikes against the victim.
Further, Cheng admitted to several people as well as in a series of texts and emails to Laya that he was sorry that he “attempted to rape” her. Cheng also stated in his “cold call” between himself and Laya at the Irvine Police Department that he was sorry he attempted to rape her.
While Cheng was later released by the Irvine Police Department, they did find enough substance to arrest him on November 4th AFTER questioning him on campus. During the interview, police noted that he admitted that Laya said “no” to his advances several times.
2. What about UC Irvine? I heard that the UCI Student Conduct committee is reviewing the case but they haven’t made a decision. Why is that?
Laya filed a case with UCI Student Conduct in late October. Director Edgar Dormitorio assured her that this case was a “priority.” However, it has been four months and Laya has still not heard any word on when a decision would be rendered.
Even if a decision were rendered, both parties are able to appeal. For example, even if the committee recommends expulsion or suspension, both parties can appeal. During the appeal process, they can still attend class and even graduate. Thus, very little is really done. Very seldom are campuses held accountable; rape trials come around 1/decade, but there are 150,000 rapes/year. Most cases are forced to mediation. Many university campuses nationwide “wait out” the process, lengthening it so that one or more of the parties just “graduate out.”
3. I don't agree with Rape but I don't want to lose our tuition hike advocate/Queer rights advocate. Jesse is too important to bring down now.
This is about community accountability. Jesse is a dirty mark on all the positive progressive work our community has done in regards to tuition hike and queer rights. We've got too much riding on these movements to be discredited by an irresponsible leader. To save the work we have done we need Jesse to do the right thing - step down. We can't afford this scandal to get in the way of our community work. We need responsible community leaders who will respect women. Most importantly, the gains that have been made in areas of the budget cuts and tuition fee hikes have been made by a group of concerned students, advocates, and community members, not because of one person like Cheng.
Also, Cheng has gone on record stating: "Trust me, this post doesn't have power to do anything," he said. "I don't know why they waited so long [to release news of his arrest], but I have no power to stop it. I can't even stop a fee increase from happening. . . . Politically, no one's protecting my ass. . . . Last year, people were graffiting on my door over the fee increase. I couldn't even stop that. . . ." (From the OC Weekly)
According to Cheng, he has no power anyway. Can UCSA really stand by and allow the ONLY UC Student Regent to publicly admit that the position he holds HAS NO POWER? If he really feels he is has no power then he should step down from his position.
4. Cheng says he is an advocate for women. Is he lying?
Cheng did release a statement saying he is an advocate for women. However, we would like to challenge this notion by saying that everything he has done in his treatment of Laya, especially his statements, have shown that he is anything but an advocate for women. Advocates for women honor women’s voices and their experiences. Cheng has done neither. Advocates for women also take responsibility for their role in women’s exploitation. Cheng has not done this either. He is using the language of progressives to roll out his own agenda in his campaign to defend his alleged innocence. We need to be critical of statements like this that spout the rhetoric but are extremely undermatched by actions.
5. She must be lying. Jesse is Gay/Bi-sexual.
Rape is not about sex or sexuality. Rape is about power.
6. Isn’t Laya just doing this to get attention?
This is not the kind of attention that people want. Anyone who thinks this does not know the degrading, retraumatizing, and painful process when you report a sexual assault. First and foremost, Laya has had to tell her story over and over to police and school officials without any indication if they believe or support her. Then she had to wait and wait- until now not receiving any resolution from those who have the power to give her some measure of legal justice. In the process, she has been harassed by Cheng’s supporters, had her personal life and decisions scrutinized as if it were her fault, and harassed by the media. Attention? - This is the kind of attention people want???
7. Didn’t they have a relationship? Isn’t Laya just upset that the relationship ended and she is just doing this to get back at him?
There's never an invitation to rape. There is never a context when rape or sexual assault should be considered “okay.”
Cheng’s constant reference to his prior relationship with Laya minimizes the situation and blames the victim, implying that Laya is just upset that the relationship ended. Cheng stated that Laya would call him “over 50 times.” Whether or not this is true- what IS TRUE is that Laya said “NO” over 50 times over the course of the alleged sexual assault.
65% of rapes go unreported. Many do not report it because of victim-blaming and intimidation. Over
90% of rapes on campus happen between those that know each other.
8. "Why didn't she come out sooner? She must be lying"
The alleged incident occurred on Oct. 3, 2010. Laya reported it on Oct. 26, 2010. As with many victims, many do not report right away. In Laya’s case, she was conflicted about “tearing up the community” with this news. Also, it was during this time that Cheng sent texts and emails apologizing for what he did. Still, by Oct. 26th, she felt that she could not remain silent, even despite the best efforts of Cheng and his supporters to insure she did not talk.
Cheng was arrested on November 4, 2010. The Irvine Police Department took one month to complete their investigation and write their report. Laya was told it would be in her benefit not to talk until after the investigation was completed.
Laya also filed a Student Conduct case with UCI and was also told by that office that she should not discuss the issue with anyone until a decision was reached. She became resolute to tell her story when it seemed to her that the office was stalling in making a decision. Moreover, Laya was tired of being bullied and made to feel that it was her fault when in fact, she is the victim.
It takes an amazing amount of courage to do this -- someone that waited less than 90 days to talk? This is brave.
9. "I know Jesse and Jesse wouldn't do that."
One of the key features of abusers, attackers is that they are personable/charming. No matter how much we think we know someone, we might not know them in these situations. No matter how much we want to believe that someone wouldn’t do something so horrible, history and society is full of examples that we don’t know what people are capable of doing. In this case, it is important to look at patterns of power and control, not just in personal relationships but in other areas as well.
10. What can I do to help Laya get Justice?
• Sign on to the Justice for Laya Coalition (by joining the JUSTICE FOR LAYA Facebook Group and/or signing the Coalition Letter available on the Group)
• Write a letter urging UCSA to remove Jesse Cheng from his position as UC Student Regent
• Participate in the Justice for Laya demonstration at the UC Board of Regents meeting in March located in San Francisco