Amanda Hess over at The Sexist highlighted recently two students who have been speaking out in regards to rape on their campus – in two very different ways. The first student wrote about their experience as a survivor at Columbia University in the Columbia Spectator. Another student turned to Facebook as a way to name students as the rapists of other students.
If you have been following the issue of schools inadequately addressing sexual assault, sadly what the Columbia survivor isn’t as shocking, but for me it definitely was as heartbreaking (probably because I could relate to many facets of her story). The student went into the judicial process feeling confident about the sexual assault policy and the hearing panel agreed that she indeed was assaulted. Unfortunately that was not the end.
The panel ruled in my favor with a 30-page report detailing the many ways in which the respondent had violated the policy, as well as seven different recommended sanctions, the harshest of which included suspension for the remainder of the semester. The report and panel decision was then forwarded to Kevin Shollenberger, dean of student affairs and judicial affairs, for approval….I never imagined that the sanctions would be struck down, pared down to the mere removal of the respondent from housing and a mark on his record.
I was at first impressed to see that the panel actually reached the conclusion that the respondent was guilty, but sadly one person was able to drastically diminish the original sanction agreed on by multiple people. This is slightly reminiscent of the case at UMass-Amherst where a admitted rapist got no punishment whatsoever.
The survivor also hints that they believe that if “the respondent been a member of the community without money and power, this entire case would have turned out completely differently,” which is completely unsurprising as well. At schools like Columbia, unfortunately there oft seems to be implications of other additional politics at play when a student allegedly rapes another student. While she can’t do anything about her particular case (or could she?), she is speaking out in hopes that sharing her story will be a stepping stone to creating change.
The student at American University was not a survivor of campus rape herself, but posted a note naming students by name as rapists. It understandably caused a lot of ruckus on campus, including supporters of the students she named harassing her in person while walking around campus and calling her at late hours of the night.
However, harassment was not the only result of her bold Facebook act. Amanda writes,
After removing the note, Rubenstein finally heard from the woman she had followed into the bedroom. “That’s the most beautiful thing that came out of all this,” says Rubenstein. “She called me and asked me why I took my status down…She said that if the other victims decide they want to do something, that she might want to be there to do something too,” she says.
And while I am not encouraging all students to write statuses and Facebook notes naming students as rapists, I think it is great that she was able to support a stranger and help a survivor.
In the case of sexual assault and rape it often is too late to change the original event, but the aftermath is just as important as the rape. I applaud the women for wanting to help others and being so brave to take a stance on such a serious issue and hope that the ripple effect of their actions go far.