Former UVA Student, and Rape Survivor, Speaks Out About School’s Apathy

Liz Seccuro was raped in 1984 when she was a freshman at the University of Virginia. She recounts, in graphic (triggering) detail, what happened next in her piece in the Huffington Post:

I was drugged and gang-raped by a pack of three members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at UVA. I did not know any of them. I remembered one of the rapes graphically — the violence, the pain. The next day, when I awoke wrapped in a bloody sheet, thrown on a sofa, I went through the man’s mail. I needed to know his name in order to report him. I sat across from the then Dean of Students, Robert Canevari, and told him what had happened to me. With the blood still leaking from me and my face bruised, he asked me, “Are you sure you didn’t have sex with this man and you don’t want to admit that you aren’t a ‘good girl’?”

There was no investigation, no paper trail and no prosecution, although I went to the hospital, Student Health, the Dean of Students, and the University Police and made dozens of reports. I was told by the Dean of Students that the Charlottesville Police had no jurisdiction over Phi Kappa Psi and was ordered not to call them. The deans said that they had spoken with the young man in question and told me “he said it was consensual.” He, the rapist, withdrew from the University and was thus “no longer a danger” to me. I was told, in so many words and actions, to go away. I did not, but my life was diminished. I felt that I did not matter.

Context for Seccuro’s piece is of course the death of Yeardley Love, the UVA student who was murdered by her boyfriend, George Huguely. Seccuro argues that while much has been made of Huguely’s history of violence, little attention has been paid to UVA’s negligent lack of education about intimate partner violence and sexual assault, which hasn’t changed since she was a student in the 80s:

University of Virginia administration’s steadfast refusal to require the students to do anything that is mandatory beyond paying their fees and returning their library books before they graduate now looks like a deadly stance in the name of being a fully student-run University. While there are adult administrators, there is no sense of protection for young students. I spoke with the DA, and unlike many colleges, nothing is mandatory — not even orientation. That’s right: there are no requirements for students to have any education in sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders and depression — all very much present on college campuses today.

Personally, I’m not surprised that none of that stuff is mandatory, as it isn’t at quite a number of schools, but echo Seccuro’s frustration and anger with the lack of prevention education. Last week, Twe also highlighted a Huff Po commenter who pointed out that none of the rapes reported to UVA (and consequently reported to the federal government) has resulted in sanctions. There is something wrong with all of the different pieces of this picture. I would add that the procedures for UVA’s sexual assault board include two options that are basically mediation—one literally called mediation, and a “structured meeting” that seems to be the same as mediation except the discussion is more structured? What? Notably, if a student chooses a structured meeting, they must waive their right to a formal adjudication before the Sexual Assault Board. (Oddly enough, students are allowed to pursue formal adjudication if the are unhappy with the results of a mediation…as long as they don’t sign anything that says they can’t…) Neither the mediation or strcutured meeting can result in sanctions. Perhaps this speaks to why the 52 reported rapes at UVA resulted in no sanctions? I would really like to know what channels UVA’s sexual assault cases go through most often.

    3 thoughts on “Former UVA Student, and Rape Survivor, Speaks Out About School’s Apathy

    1. “would really like to know what channels UVA’s sexual assault cases go through most often.”

      Most often? Nothing gets done. When I asked my dean for some consideration and extensions in my classes because of my rape, she recommended I drop out of school. Repeatedly. Without ever offering me any information about other courses of action.
      And you know what? Two years later, I did.

    2. CMB, so terribly sorry to hear that. We’ve definitely heard that before, but it’s never any less horrible or frustrating. I hope in light of all of this publicity, students at UVA are inspired to push the school for change.

    3. Sarah, thank you very much for asking the tough questions and highlighting my HuffPo piece. I very much appreciate it.

      CMB – I have 100% confidence that that is EXACTLY what you experience. The Dean of Students offered to personally help me transfer. While certainly not plugging it, please read my upcoming book (available on all the booksellers’ websites for preorder)and feel free to email me – I can tell you are intelligent and you’ll be able to find me! The details of the administration’s treatment of rape victims may be helpful to you as you continue on your journey. UVa has a bigger problem than most and that’s not said lightly or because I have an axe to grind. Hugs, Liz