Campus security should be taken seriously by administrators at institutions of higher learning.
Unfortunately, while some campus activities center on tasteless, sex-oriented activities, officials tasked to protect students from assaults also seem to to have taken a less than serious approach when addressing sex crimes. Allie Grasgreen of Inside Higher Ed offers an example of this tragic situation.
The freshman was raped in her dorm room as she heard his friends laugh on the other side of the door. When she finally reported it after a year of trying — unsuccessfully — to forget it, she was shunned by the very people she was told she could trust.
A college administrator. A counselor. The social worker. They said it was too late to seek a disciplinary hearing because she had no physical evidence. She couldn’t change dorms because everything was full. They asked her if she was sure it was rape. They sent her to the hospital and told her she shouldn’t come back. Then they acted shocked when, finally, she told them she was withdrawing.
This is the word of Angie Epifano, a former student of Amherst’s class of 2014, as she told it last Wednesday in the campus newspaper, The Amherst Student.
The story is devastating in itself, but equally remarkable is the response it triggered. Dozens more students have come forward with similar accounts of assaults met with victim-blaming, condescension and general apathy. Hundreds more have rallied on behalf of victims. Amherst President Carolyn (Biddy) Martin has met with students (including victims), faculty and staff to figure out what to do next. The college hasn’t disputed the account of Epifano (or those of others), and has launched an investigation into that case specifically. On Friday, Martin will also announce the members of a new committee charged with making broader, long-term recommendations for “enhancing sexual respect” on campus.
There is rarely a time when sexual assaults publicly brought to light don’t strike at the heart of a campus. But the events unfolding at Amherst could be the catalyst for unprecedented change there – thanks in large part, experts say, to the students brave enough to speak out about a system that works against them.
And the flaws of that system – and the trauma it can cause – spread like wildfire, said Colby Bruno, managing attorney for the national Victim Rights Law Center. She recalled one story of a student she defended whose own bad experience with administrators was brought up by an unwitting student in an education and rape class.
“Stories like this – they’re all over. Amherst is not unique. The one place, truthfully, I think Amherst is unique is this resounding response that Amherst is doing,” Bruno said. “Out of all the cases I’ve had, this is the one where the president has invited those survivors into her office. There’s a difference between an open invitation and a direct invitation, and that, to me, is certainly to be commended.”
As allegations fly, Amherst College tries to counter sexual assault issues (Inside Higher Ed | News)