Editorial: Arrest may give answers but leaves even more questions


Girls dance at an Uptown bar on Sept. 6. An arrest was made in the most recent case of sexual assault.

Erin Snodgrass

The campus breathed a collective sigh of relief this weekend when a Loyola exchange student was arrested in connection with the most recent sexual battery at The Boot Bar and Grill. There were expressions of gratitude, shared Facebook statuses and a general sense of returning to normalcy.

But, hiding beneath the facade of finality are lingering questions and concerns that we, as a community, must grapple with as we start to move forward.

While Saturday’s arrest is certainly a huge step forward in this wave of horrific crimes that have been plaguing our community, there is information we still need to know. Is the suspect officially banned from campus? Could he be the same perpetrator of the first two assaults? Remember that the first assault involved multiple men? How do we prevent this from happening again and again and again?

These are all questions racing through our minds as we contend with the most horrifying revelation of all: the attacker may have been one of us.

None of us wanted to believe that this suspect — or suspects — were actually Loyola students. We didn’t want to think that they could be sitting behind us in class or walking with us through the Peace Quad. When the description said he claimed to be a student, we hoped that claim was some twisted manipulation method, not the truth.

To be absolutely clear, Mr. Cifuentes has been arrested, but not charged. And he was only arrested in the third attack in the string of assaults. In the eyes of the law, he is innocent until proven guilty — something that if it happens, won’t be for months, if not years.

But the possibility that the perpetrator of this crime walks, talks, eats and sleeps with us means we must face some difficult truths that would be easier to ignore. The monster in the dark is so rarely that — a monster. More often than not, these criminals aren’t the obvious villains we so want to admonish. They are our neighbors, our acquaintances and even our friends.

And that is a hard truth to swallow. Because it means we aren’t as safe as we like to think. It reminds us that this can happen to anyone, something we would rather forget.

So, yes. The arrest gave us a sense of hope. It gave us answers. But, it left us with some even more challenging questions.

Loyola’s police department is optimistic that these questions and more will be answered soon, and we can only hope they are right. But, even with this case potentially solved, the problem persists. This is potentially only a small-scale solution to one particular incident, and the epidemic is screaming for a long-term resolution.

After a month of fear and anger, email alerts and police surveillance, one thing is absolutely clear: We have three extraordinarily brave women to thank. They deserve our utmost respect and gratitude. They came forward and told their stories after a terrifying experience, knowing the backlash they could receive. And it is primarily due to their overwhelming courage that we have taken a step in the right direction.

But, there are women every day who don’t, or can’t, report their sexual assaults, who suffer in silence as a completely preventable crime proliferates. Women whose stories we will never hear. Women whose attackers will never be found. Men who will continue to get away with assault and will never learn their lesson. Men we may know.

As we begin to move forward from this horrible crime wave, our lives will inevitably return to normal. But, it’s important to remember this collective feeling of anger and passion that spread rapidly through our community. Just because this particular case may be “solved,” and just because one particular man now faces justice, we must remember the sacrifice and resilience of these women as they battled a heinous crime. They won’t soon forget it.