Jul 27, 2017

(RSS) On sexual assault: letters from the community


A moral imperative — addressing the problem of sexual assault

After a fall semester like the one our community has lived through this year, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s words hit close to home: “In… a free society, only some are guilty, but all are responsible.” As clergy members who work with students at the University, we feel this responsibility too. No one is immune to the effects of sexual violence, which ravages not only individual bodies and lives but also the trust and well-being of communities like ours. This is a cultural problem that affects students and groups throughout the University — Greek life, sports teams, political clubs, Dean’s listers and those of us in religious organizations.

What has been happening here is not okay. What has come to light this year is that, regardless of any one particular story, sexual violence has been a part of our communal story for far too long. We struggle with this tragic fact and with how to address the depths of pain, how to foster healing and how to become part of creating a more just culture. It is clear from our religious traditions that we must act. There is a moral imperative to love our neighbors and to transform our current culture.

We believe each person bears the image of God and it is up to each of us to look for and honor that image. We see this happening across Grounds through the efforts of the Women’s Center, the creation of the Green Dot program, the work of groups like One in Four and every time one person responds to a survivor with love and support. We are all responsible for this holy work of creating a just and safe community where sexual violence is no longer a problem.

We don’t have all the answers but we do know any way forward from here will require an honest appraisal of where we are today, leaning on one another for support and working together to change our culture. Communities of faith can be communities of support for survivors and places of healing for everyone. We can be communities of action and instrumental in creating the cultural change we all deserve. We are committed to this work and to being better partners with the larger University as we all move forward together. We all bear responsibility for what’s been happening here — and for what will happen next.

Rev. Deborah Lewis ‘90 and Rabbi Jake Rubin ‘02, on behalf of United Ministries.

A letter from a friend: Jackie's story is not a hoax

Fellow Wahoos,

My name is Emily, and I was Jackie’s suitemate first year. I am writing to you in regards to Rolling Stone’s recent statement of “misplaced trust” in Jackie. I feel this statement is backwards, as it seems it was Jackie who misplaced her trust in Rolling Stone.

I fully support Jackie, and I believe wholeheartedly that she went through a traumatizing sexual assault. I remember my first semester here, and I remember Jackie’s. Jackie came to UVA bright, happy and bubbly. She was kind, funny, outgoing, friendly, and a pleasant person to be around. That all notably changed by December 2012, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Our suite bonded that first semester and talked many times about the new troubles we were facing in college. Jackie never mentioned anything about her assault to us until much later. But I, as well as others, noticed Jackie becoming more and more withdrawn and depressed.

I remember her alarm going off every morning. I always assumed she had gone to class and forgot to turn off her later alarms. Being the lazy freshman I was, I tended to roll over in bed and pay no mind to it, hoping somebody else would turn it off, and remind Jackie about it once she got back from class. If I had known Jackie wasn’t going to class, that she was curled up in bed without the will to turn off the alarm, things would have been much different. I remember second semester, she shared a Netflix account with me and I noticed how much TV she was watching — hours and hours of shows that seemed to get darker and darker as time went on. I wondered how she had time, with homework and school, and I wondered if she was okay. I didn’t ask. I wish I had.

In December 2012, Jackie broke down. All of a sudden she was going home and none of us knew why. It was right before finals, and I couldn’t believe she was leaving. She was distraught, and only said she needed to go home. Her teachers had given her allowance to take her finals over break. At that point, we knew something big had happened. I didn’t know until this year with the publication of Rolling Stone’s article how bad that time was for her.

Sometime that year I remember her letting it slip to me that she had had a terrible experience at a party. I remember her telling me that multiple men had assaulted her at this party. She didn’t say anything more. It seemed that was all she’d allow herself to say. I wish I had done something sooner. I wish I had known how to help. But I applaud Jackie for telling her story, now two years later. It was a story that needed to be told.

However, the articles released in the past few days have been troubling to me, and the responses to them even more so. While I cannot say what happened that night, and I cannot prove the validity of every tiny aspect of her story to you, I can tell you that this story is not a hoax, a lie or a scheme. Something terrible happened to Jackie at the hands of several men who have yet to receive any repercussions.

Whether the details are correct or not, and whether the reporting was faulty, or the hazy memories of a traumatizing night got skewed…the blame should never fall on the victim’s shoulders. Jackie is a victim, as are so many others, men and women, young and old. So many stories have gone untold and so many perpetrators have been allowed to walk free.

There is fear among us, and there is pain after these past few weeks of turmoil. But there is also hope, which has been manifested in a multitude of protests, speeches, and groups formed. There is a support growing among students and faculty that has never been seen before. The number of conversations occurring about rape, rights, consent and justice is astounding and inspiring, but talking only goes so far.

As we approach this much-needed winter break I urge you to continue to support your fellow wahoos; do not let this issue die. Speak up when you see something happening that does not feel right; act when you have a chance to stop something terrible. Talk with your friends, let them know you support them, and that no reputation matters more than their own safety and basic human rights. Let them know you’ll stand by them and that their stories do matter. Walk your friends home, look out for one another, do not turn your back on a fellow student. Discourage those who have caved to peer pressure which encourages them to devalue another human being. Support the efforts of the groups leading change in the wake of this tough semester: One Less, Not on Our Grounds (#HoosGotYourBack), Help Save the Next Girl, and Buddies on Call. Let the nation know we are not a scandal school, but a school that does not tolerate injustice. We are in the public eye right now, and we can either let that cripple us, and shove us back into the mold of a perfect institution, or we can recognize that we have flaws, but that we work to reconcile them.

Sexual assault is not just a UVA issue, but UVA is where this issue has come to the forefront. The University of Virginia is a school historically known for its powerful student body. The Hoos of UVA have always rallied when a change was needed. We still stand as one of the top schools in the nation, and we can be the face of change. Let us be an example, and not a failure. Let us stand with survivors.

Emily Clark

SEAS '16

Silver linings in Rolling Stone rape fiasco

Rolling Stone alleged a gang rape at UVA and now doubts its own report. I have no knowledge of the matter. Maybe the victim was completely honest. Maybe she was largely honest but too drunk, or just too traumatized, to remember which fraternity house she was in. Maybe she made it all up. I have no idea and hope a competent police department, rather than an incompetent magazine, tries to find out if possible.

Predictably enough, the internet is now being flooded with articles pointing out that even if one alleged rape victim is lying, many others are not.

The thing is, I believe a lot of people know that, and more might know it now, rather than fewer.

But it's possible they'll know it with a little more seriousness.

It's all too common to assert, absurdly, outrageously, and immorally that all alleged victims must be believed as a matter of principle. It's all too common to assume they are all lying. Neither position is a principle. Either is a preposterous bit of stupidity.

I think the more the matter is discussed, examined and considered, the fewer people will hold either idiotic position.

So here are some possible silver linings:

Awareness that people lie about rape.

Awareness that people also tell the truth about rape, and that doing so is in some cases so notoriously difficult that a well-meaning journalist may bend over backwards to help.

Awareness that journalism can make a difference, and that it would make a bigger difference if done better. What if that were applied to military and corporate funding of universities, or the poor manner in which history is taught in our colleges, or the lives of UVA staff who work extra jobs and still need public support?

Awareness that inactive, TV-viewing, partying students can get active about something and make a difference. What if they were to notice climate change or mass incarceration or the fact that college is free in some countries that fight fewer wars?

Awareness that one incident is not a trend, and that treating it as such is unfair to all involved.

Awareness that many rapes are never reported.

Awareness that men have spent many years in prison before being cleared of false rape charges.

Awareness that people claiming rape should be treated with kindness, consideration, understanding, and professional support, not because there is a certain high percentage chance they are telling the truth, but because they are people. Period.

Awareness that people accused of rape should be treated with kindness, consideration, understanding, and professional support, not because they could be innocent, but because they are people. Period.

Awareness that labeling people or institutions innocent or guilty, in combination with anger and vengeance, leads to blinding prejudices that make a mockery of the right to a trial and the wisdom meant to be instilled by a well-rounded education.

Awareness of all of the following:

Rape victims are victims of traumatic violence.

Someone making a false accusation may be a victim of an earlier, unreported assault, or of a traumatic or humiliating non-criminal experience, but is in any case troubled and in need of understanding.

Victims of false accusation can find the damage traumatic and lasting.

Someone accurately accused of rape is clearly a very troubled person in need of help he will not get from "correctional officers" or "inmates."

Collectively, UVA needs restorative justice, truth and reconciliation, open discussion of rapes real, fictional, and disputed.

Individually, victims and assailants need restorative justice. Those guilty need to be brought to understand and regret their victims' pain and suffering, and to work to make it up to them to the extent possible. Victims need to be brought to understand that they are not to blame, that their community supports them, and that those responsible are sorry for what they've done. None of that comes out of an ancient British system of adversarial justice, an unprecedented epidemic of U.S. mass incarceration, or journalism that doesn't bother to get more than one side of a story.

David Swanson

MA Philosophy, '97

UVa culture does not make men rapists

As I read the Rolling Stone article, I grew simultaneously incredulous and nauseous. I was beyond disturbed to hear of such horrifying incidents occurring at this place that I have come to love so dearly. I think that the article will prove a good thing for U.Va., first and foremost because the rape that took place at Phi Psi needs to be exposed. We must open a dialogue about changes that need to happen in order to keep U.Va. the place that it should be.

I do not agree with everything written in the article or the way it portrayed our school. I think it is absurd that the men accused of multiple sexual misconducts were not expelled. However, the administration’s role in these situations is much more complicated than the article suggests. If Jackie did not wish to file a claim against the men who raped her, Dean Eramo was not in a position to do so for her. If Eramo had gone against Jackie’s wishes, it would likely have resulted in other victims of sexual assault being less inclined to come forward when recovering from similar experiences. That being said, perhaps Dean Eramo should have more vehemently encouraged Jackie to press charges. We would need a lot more information about the situation to be able to discern whether Dean Eramo was in the wrong with her decision. But there is one thing that certainly does not fall into grey area, and that is the utter despicability of the act described in the article, and those who committed it.

The article suggests that to some degree, the culture of U.Va. social life played a role in pushing those boys to rape Jackie that night, and this is the part of the article with which I find the most fault. These boys did not arrive at U.Va. and become molded into gang rapists, nor did they arrive at U.Va. and think to themselves, “People party here a lot, and that gives me the sense that gang rape is acceptable.” What the article fails to highlight is that what happened to Jackie was not a group of misguided boys acting in accordance with college norms; it was an act of uncommon evil. To engage in a gang rape requires some personality or mental deficiency that I can confidently say the vast majority of U.Va. students do not possess. “Drew” committed a heinous act and felt no remorse. That level of monstrosity is not the result of a couple years in the college environment. Implying this detracts from the magnitude of the horror with which this event, and its perpetrators, should be viewed.

I recognize that rape is a huge problem on college campuses. Though drinking and partying are undoubtedly contributing factors, I find it hard to pinpoint the college environment as the direct cause of rape and other forms of sexual assault. That being said, I don’t think that the power to solve the problem lies with University administrators. This true problem, in my eyes, is that men are inclined toward sexual assault in the first place.

I want U.Va. — and every other college campus — to be a place where men do not sexually assault women because they do not want to, not just because they fear the ramifications. We need to think seriously about what causes men to commit rape and sexual assault. I believe the problem begins long before the college years, with subliminal messages that are latent in society and popular culture: that women are, first and foremost, objects meant for men’s sexual enjoyment. Parents, teachers, coaches, and other role models must teach both boys and girls from a young age the importance of healthy male-female relationships. Celebrity figures such as Dan Bilzerian, who make it seem “cool” to brutally objectify women, need to be condemned by popular culture and removed from the limelight.

Men and women are not the same, and never will be, but we need to learn to accept that different doesn’t mean one is dominant over the other. Children need to grow up with strong role models of both genders, and with examples of men who treat women with respect. The fact that women do not feel comfortable coming forward after being sexually assaulted because they fear the social ramifications of being “the girl who cried rape” is an incredibly disheartening indicator of the state of our society. We need to work to change the way men view women long before the college years if this situation is ever going to truly improve.

Kacey Hirtle

CLAS '15

Change will be painful, but possible

Dear President Sullivan:

I am writing as an alumna, a Jefferson and Echols Scholar, and one of many concerned native daughters of Virginia. For most of the past week I have been losing sleep, as I imagine you have too, over the growing storm of revelations about sexual violence at UVA.

They show me that nothing has changed in the 30 years since I arrived on Grounds.

While I was not raped at UVA, I had my close calls. During first year I went to about a dozen fraternity parties; I was not rushing a sorority, and had only a few friends who were fraternity brothers, but already knew a good number of first- and second-year students because the Jefferson and Echols Scholar communities were so tight-knit. Because of that, I was watched over and protected, when we all made the rounds on Rugby Road. On at least one occasion, during a particularly boozy Sigma Nu party, I was scooped up by my male friends and taken back to Watson Hall when it was clear I had become vulnerable. The next year, as I was walking alone back to Lambeth Field from a University Singers party, a University police officer picked me up and drove me to my apartment, admonishing me that I was really taking a foolish risk of being assaulted. So I escaped harm. But I was aware that others had not. Everyone knew, first year, about the girl who woke up on a couch at a frat house and never found out who had raped her. Second year, one of my friends got HSV when she was raped. Neither of these students — none of the women, in fact, who were raped in my sphere of awareness at the University — ever saw their assailants prosecuted.

And here we are with the same sickening state of affairs. Last week I lamented to a friend “that article could have been written when we were there” — but then she reminded me that it was. By a friend of ours, and published in the University Journal. And I felt even sicker. The only thing worse, she observed, is that we now know just how twisted the University administration’s responses have become. In what world, I would like to know, is it accepted that the remedy for rape is to have the victim face the rapist and tell him how the attack made her feel? As a psychiatrist, I cannot even begin to comprehend where this comes from. If the goal was to not “be the rape school”, I suppose that has been achieved – instead, I am now known to have graduated from the “we do nothing about rape” school.

UVA was never where I wanted to go in the first place. I had been accepted to Yale on early admission, well before Christmas. That was where I wanted to go, and I only went through with the Jefferson Scholar competition to humor my parents and the college counselor at my high school. As a life-long outsider at that private girls’ school, I had no intention of going to the preppy old-fashioned university just 70 miles from home, where so many of my classmates would be. But I fell in love with the University during the Jefferson weekend that February, and I have told people all the rest of my life that it was the best decision I ever made, forsaking Yale for UVA. I found my niche, made lifelong friends, got a world-class education, and was set on the road to a Mellon Fellowship, a Ph.D. at U.C. Berkeley, and a tenure-track job at U.C. San Diego. When I switched gears to medicine, I readily got accepted at several top medical schools, then my first choice for residency, and I now have a very successful practice in psychiatry. I attribute much of my success to the formative time I spent at UVA. And right now, what I’m getting asked about by family and friends is whether I am surprised by the Rolling Stone article; it shames me to admit that I am not. It pains me to re-visit those early memories of the brutalization of my peers, now that I sit in a room with survivors of rape on an almost-daily basis, trying to restore to them the sleep, the confidence, the ability to engage in healthy relationships that they were robbed of years ago.

You, President Sullivan, are uniquely positioned to revolutionize the University on this issue. As the first female president, who won her way back into office in unprecedented fashion, you are already a pioneer. Despite the stain of some very unpleasant history that has continued on your watch, you have an opportunity now to lead in a way that no other university president in the country has yet done: taking a prestigious institution from the dark ages into the modern world, from a culture of tradition-above-all-else to a culture of eliciting respectable behavior from students, and punishing crimes to the fullest extent of the law.

Students will drink. First-year students will drink even more. Most students will make some dubious decisions and engage in some risky behavior; sexually dangerous boundaries will be crossed. Dark and horrifying things will happen, and there is no way to prevent all of them. But systematic violence against women must and can be diminished.

Abolish the Greek system. You will be condemned by a generation of men — actually more; current fraternity members as well as their fathers and grandfathers, who make up a huge segment of donors. You will also go down in history as the person who made UVA safer for generations of women. You will make it a place we want to send our daughters and granddaughters to, and eventually this will more than make up the losses. Even if it did not, it would be the right choice.

Tear down the current Sexual Misconduct Board, and build something new from scratch. Find out how the best universities, in this country and abroad, handle the inevitable problem of rape. Turn your university from a haven for sociopaths into a healthy place for growth into young adulthood.

It will be painful, and there is no way to emerge from this without the lasting scorn of some party or other. Knowing that, I hope you will draw on your already evident courage, and make us proud. I lobbied for your reinstatement two and a half years ago, along with many of my peers; you earned it then. Earn our further faith now.


Kathleen A. Erwin

CLAS 1987

Don't rush to judgment

Like virtually all of the UVA community, I am deeply disturbed by the circumstances in which our beloved institution is receiving so much negative publicity throughout the past week.

First and foremost, my heart goes out to anyone who has experienced the horrors of sexual assault. As the father of three daughters, including one who is currently a first year student at the University, I cannot begin to imagine the pain and trauma experienced by Jackie or any of the other countless victims in our immediate community and those elsewhere.

It may be instinctive for many of us, including myself, who have always had such positive emotions, loyalty and pride associated with all things related to our UVA experiences, to question the accuracy and fairness of many of the troubling things coming to light in the recent Rolling Stone article. As a member of a fraternity at UVA, many of my most lasting and fond memories are indelibly attached those experiences. However, at this pivotal point in the evolution of the University, we must focus our collective response out of concern for the victims of these tragic stories and not out of loyalty to the institution that has meant so much to many of us. We must ensure that this is a moment where we rally to address and remedy obvious issues that have been exposed and pose a grave threat to the overall integrity and purpose of our University and the broader community.

I applaud the courage of those who have come forward in such difficult circumstances to expose serious, irrefutable inadequacies in the way the UVA Administration, and the entire community, have dealt with these issues. I am so unbelievably saddened that those who are the victims of these horrendous incidences do not seem to have anywhere to go within the University community. They have been let down by everyone.

If there is one thing in particular that disturbs me the most about the recent reports, it is that there, apparently, was a pattern of abuse and incidences in very similar circumstances (including repeat incidents at the same fraternity and/or multiple occurrences perpetrated by the same individual) that were reported to the administration and seem to have elicited a very ineffective and grotesquely insufficient response. I do not profess to know the facts in sufficient detail to fully opine on these matters or reach definitive conclusions as to what did or did not transpire. However, we must have a complete and fully transparent investigation into what information the administration did or did not have in respect to these matters and, if in fact these incidents were systemically discouraged and ignored in the way that has been suggested, then I sincerely hope the Board of Visitors takes necessary and appropriate action and holds the right people (at the right levels of responsibility) accountable.

It is disturbing, albeit understandable, to read so many comments from other alumni with daughters approaching college age to state categorically that they would no longer consider sending them to this University. I for one do not feel that way. In difficult times like this we must not lose perspective. We should not lose faith overnight in an institution with such a proud legacy and record of accomplishment built up over the nearly 200 years since its founding. We must, also, recognize that we are not alone in dealing with these issues. Campus sexual assault is a national epidemic. Nevertheless, regardless of how just or unjust it may be, this University will be forever after judged by our collective response to these events. While we will most certainly remain in the spotlight for the coming days and perhaps months, ultimately, we will and should be judged on the overall results of our response and whether or not we succeed in effectuating long-standing and lasting improvements in how we support victims of sexual assault, our policies and procedures for responding to accusations of sexual assault and our ability to deter and substantially decrease the level of future occurrences.

It is, most definitely, time for change. However, we must be careful to avoid a rush to judgment as to what the right actions or answers may be and calls for immediate or pre-mature action. It is far more important that we get the answers and solutions right. The stakes are simply too high and we cannot afford to be wrong. Before opining on and implementing long-term policy changes, there needs to be a complete and independent investigation into all of the recently reported events and the questions raised and these findings must be disclosed, discussed and debated in as fully transparent a manner as possible.

Joseph A. Julian, Jr.

Commerce 1989

Dean Eramo understands how to support survivors

I am writing to express my support for Dean Nicole Eramo. As someone who has worked with sexual assault survivors in the criminal justice system for years, I have witnessed the effects of her work on behalf of those students taking the brave step to come forward with their experience.

I wish I could say that reporting a sexual assault to the criminal justice system is a panacea for all the ills created by the act. Those of us working in this field know it is not. The same friends, acquaintances and members of the general public who ask such questions as “why did you drink so much? “ "Why didn’t you just leave?” Why did you wear that kind of outfit?” “Why would you go to the bedroom alone with him?” “Why didn’t you fight back?” “Why can’t you remember more details?” “Why did your story ‘change’ from the first time you reported it to the 12th time you had to tell it?” “Why wouldn’t you go get a (horrifically invasive but necessary for a prosecution) rape kit?” “Why did you wait to report it?” are the same people who populate jury pools.

Dean Eramo knows this as well, as she has attended the trials and witnessed the outcomes and aftermath. Even the best criminal justice outcome does not always equal the best outcome for a survivor. The justice system prosecutes those who break the law not only for the victim, but for the safety of the community. It attempts to hold those responsible for their crimes, but even in the best outcomes it is “a rough approximation of justice,” as we know the toll it takes on the survivor in the process. Dean Eramo knows this as well, which is why she attempts to ensure those who come to her are aware of all their options and the risks and benefits involved in each of them. I have never heard from a survivor who worked with Dean Eramo that she encouraged or discouraged them to make a certain decision. Dean Eramo understands that the first step a sexual assault survivor can take can be vital to their recovery process. She, like those of us who work with survivors who reach out to the criminal justice process, knows they must be given the power back that was so violently taken away from them, even if that means their decision is not to pursue an investigation through the criminal justice system or the university administration process. Forcing a survivor to do anything only makes us complicit in their victimization.

Dean Nicole Eramo has played a vital role in the recovery of more survivors than I can count. Even if in the best of all possible worlds it was possible to imprison every rapist, would it be worth the price of destroying the lives of those who survived the crime? It would be great if we could say that our systems completely protect the victim in the process, but despite our best efforts and years of advocacy work, we are not there yet. Hopefully with greater awareness of the dynamics surrounding the process we will get closer, but vilifying people like Dean Eramo who are doing the best they can for survivors in the worst of circumstances gets us no closer to that end.

Maggie Cullinan

Director, Charlottesville Victim Witness Program

Women of UVa, boycott fraternity parties

Dear editor:

This is a call to action for all female students on Grounds. You are not powerless. Do not wait for administrators to decide things on your behalf. I encourage you to boycott all fraternity parties until their members act like true gentlemen to ensure their houses are safe for their female friends. From the parties I remember fraternity members were effective at managing who enters the parties. There are any number of measures they could take to make their parties safer for women once inside from a no-females-upstairs-during-parties policy or something similar. They should have stronger backbones than to tolerate deviant and criminal behavior among their members. In fact, they could clearly dishonor and separate themselves from any member who sexually assaults, such that it becomes code in the organization that in this fraternity we treat women with respect. Our members are not criminals. Period. I know how intelligent the men at U.Va. are, so there is so much they could do to demonstrate their concern in this regard.

I was fortunate during my four years at U.Va. to never have encountered the sort or situation described in the Rolling Stones article. I was never even aware of anyone I knew having been a victim, but is that just because they were too scared to discuss it? I hope not. The women and men I met at U.Va. and who are still my friends today are strong, intelligent and not the type to sit by and watch injustice happen.

There are many changes that can be made from ensuring sexual assault is handled through the criminal system to the administration making University policy stringent and without any appearance of covering up. But in the meantime, students themselves can demand change from the ground up. Do not attend parties where the hosts do not respect women. Fraternities themselves should be proactive and demonstrate that they will do everything possible to ensure females attending their parties are safe. It's the honorable thing to do.

Rimga Viskanta
Tri-Delt CLAS '95

Men of UVa, you must respect women

An Open Letter to the Men of the University of Virginia:

You have been given a great gift. You have the honor of representing the University of Virginia for the rest of your life. The man you are and the man you will become is intimately intertwined with your experiences at the University. You will receive an unparalleled academic education but education is more than lectures and books. You will learn who you are and who you want to be.

Recently, several tragic and horrific events have befallen the women of the University of Virginia. The details are well-known but the reasons for them are not. While not all of these crimes were perpetrated by students, many were. That is, and always will be, unacceptable. You are all better than that.

Some of you have always been given what you want. Some of you think that you are owed. Some of you resort to taking what you want. You could not be more wrong. You have to earn everything. And you especially have to earn the trust of women.

All women are to be respected. All women deserve to be treated like ladies — at all times. Get to know them for the person they are. Learn from them. Learn with them. They are your sisters. They may someday be your wives; the mothers of your children. They need your support. They need your protection. They need your help. If you see your sister in a place she shouldn’t be or at a time that she shouldn’t be, ask if she needs help. And if she does, give it to her. Make sure she stays safe. It is what a brother would do.

You are Virginia Gentlemen. Act like it.

R. Scott Krick '80

The University cannot objectively investigate sexual assault

The University's policy on sexual misconduct should require any University employee to report any allegation of rape (or other form of sexual assault) to the police. Failure to do so should be grounds for immediate dismissal of the employee. There are multiple reasons for this.

1) The University cannot be a truly disinterested party in its handling of sexual assault cases. It has an interest in limiting publicity about such cases, since such publicity affects its ability to attract students and generate revenue, and it is more subject to pressure than is the criminal justice system.

2) Rape is a violation not only of the woman who is raped but also of the norms of the community as expressed in the criminal law. Justice requires that such crimes be referred to the appropriate legal authorities. Failure to do so contributes to further erosion of respect for the law in both the University and the community.

3) As Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman observed in an interview reported in the Daily Progress, the police and prosecutors will respect a rape victim's wishes if she does not want them to press charges unless there is a clear risk of repeat offenses by the alleged rapist.

In addition, there should be a review by mental health professionals independent of the University of the adequacy of the treatment that the University's Student Health system provides to students who report having been raped. As the Rolling Stone article makes clear, rape victims are typically plagued by flashbacks, nightmares, depression and other symptoms of psychic trauma. The independent review should ascertain whether Student Health has an adequate number of clinicians who are well trained in appropriate treatments and are adequately supervised, and whether there are procedures for referring rape victims to independent therapists in the community when appropriate.

Robert S. ("Robin") Seiler, Jr., MSW

College of Arts and Sciences 1977

University Park, MD

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