I attended Georgetown University in the 1980s. It was a Catholic university: had I actually been Catholic, or known more about the church, I might have thought twice about that decision. In addition to the restrictions on health care imposed by Catholic affiliation, the university had just admitted women about a decade earlier. At the time I attended, it was clear that some members of the administration and faculty were still not entirely comfortable with our presence. But, on the whole, I suspect that the campus atmosphere was not so very unusual for the time.
Though alcohol flowed freely on and around the campus (the drinking age was 18 in the District of Columbia at that time), there was no contraception or even contraceptive counseling available on university grounds. The student-owned convenience store wasn’t even allowed to sell condoms. I have no idea what the administration thought would happen when they started our college careers by driving a beer truck with taps coming out of the side to student orientation. But they clearly didn’t feel responsible for any consequences.
If there was a rape crisis center or hotline on campus, I certainly never knew about it. I don’t remember any posters, flyers, or any other information about what to do if you were sexually assaulted. Fortunately, I never needed these particular resources, but I am sure there were women who did need them. How they coped, I have no idea.
Fast-forward to 2012. My daughter also attends a “party school,” the University of Virginia. As a state institution with no religious affiliation, it is miles ahead of my alma mater in terms of contraceptive counseling and availability. This is a good thing. But the hazards of being a young woman on a campus awash in alcohol and young men have, if anything, increased. And the university’s method of dealing with the problem of sexual assault on campus has not kept up with the times.
Back in the day, we hardly knew about AIDS, which was still considered to be a “gay” disease, relatively rare in the heterosexual population. Back in the day, Rohypnol and other “date rape” drugs were unheard of. But when I dropped my daughter off at UVa, along with several other motherly admonitions I had to warn her to never, ever drink anything she didn’t see come right out of a tap or a just-opened bottle. So, along with pregnancy and AIDS, now we have to worry about our daughters being drugged and raped while unconscious. Awesome.
My daughter told me a story last week . A friend of hers was raped in just this way about a year ago. She accepted a drink from an acquaintance at a club meeting on campus, and woke up the next morning naked and in pain, a clear victim of sexual assault. The university’s response was jaw-droppingly inadequate, more what I would expected in the 1980s than in 2011. On the other hand, we’ve all learned a lot over the past year or so about how many people still hold these medieval attitudes about rape, so I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.
My daughter’s friend has written up an account of the rape and her subsequent physical, psychological, and legal ordeal. I have decided not to reprint it in its entirety here, because it’s just too graphic for this blog. But I would encourage anyone who wants to know more to read it: Anatomy of a Rape Case at the University of Virginia.
This account, by the way, was originally posted on her lawyer’s Facebook page. Many UVa students suspect that either the lawyer or Facebook were leaned on by the university to take it down. Here is UVa’s statement on the matter. Fortunately, in 2012, it is impossible to completely erase something like this from the Internet. This story needs to be told.
The short version is that my daughter’s friend was, unbelievably, asked not to report the rape, but to instead attend a mediation session with the rapist. She understandably refused. So, this is what I should expect from UVa if, God forbid, my daughter is raped on campus? She should just “talk it out” with the rapist? WTF?
A week later, after a grueling series of medical follow-ups,and with no support from the university, this brave young lady gathered up the courage to report the rape to the police. The case was dropped in a week due to lack of “evidence,” and the prosecutor informed her that it was “just bad sex.” WHAT?
Though she was understandably devastated by this decision, as well as suffering from PTSD, with the encouragement of a sympathetic member of the university administration, she filed an official complaint with the school in order to at least get the rapist removed from the campus community. The rapist, however, proved to be a good manipulator–surprise!–and despite what certainly sounds to me to be fairly convincing evidence, managed to persuade the adjudicators that he was the victim. Conclusion: “We cannot punish someone for being a jerk.” HUH?
The rapist (who has been accused of drugging other women) remains on campus. He has apparently even been made a teaching assistant, putting him contact once again with younger women. Only now he has some nice leverage to work with, doesn’t he? HEAD SMACK.
Yeah, I know. It’s incredible. Even though this guy has not been convicted, one would think, at the very least, the university could look at the clear signals that this guy is at minimum a major creep, and very likely a rapist, and get him off campus. If for no other reason than to avoid future trouble for themselves! Are there no women participating in these decisions? Because, seriously, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the “band of brothers” at Georgetown handle a sexual assault case this way back in the day, but I would frankly expect women to know better, then and now.
To top it off, there was apparently an alternate method of prosecution that the university never mentioned to this young woman. She could have filed a civil complaint against her rapist and possibly forced him to leave the university. The burden of proof is lower for this sort of case than for a criminal case, and the chances of prosecution are higher. The potential for embarrassment to the university is higher as well, which may explain why they pushed the in-house adjudication procedure instead. D’ya think? More about this situation in a Cavalier Daily article by a doctoral student at the university.
On the positive side, it appears that the university is updating their procedures, at least somewhat. The new advice to victims of sexual assault does include civil suits as an alternative, though I note it does not appear as one of the first two options, which remain criminal charges and university adjudication. Because, you know, that clearly works so well.
As a University of Virginia parent, I welcome any progress on this front. But, I remain dismayed that as late as 2011 this series of events could take place at a secular, state-sponsored institution of higher learning. And I recognize that only public pressure, a persistent lawyer, and a very brave young woman managed to accomplish this much.
I sincerely hope that the university administration is willing to take a good, long look in the mirror and address the underlying attitudes that led to their own sorry behavior in this case, because they need to change. Now.
I can’t believe we still have to protest this sh**.
That is f**ked up! Seriously. I am angry, but sadly not surprised. (I have been around too long and heard this story too many times.) I applaud this young woman for her bravery. It takes courage to tell this story.
This makes me so angry I could scream. My husband went to UVA and while it is a beautiful school in a city I love, this is the second time in the last year that the administration there has messed up royally and ruined lives in the process. Ugh, that poor girl, I can’t imagine what she must go through first being raped in the first place and then having everyone around her in power deny it.
Unfortunately, a topic very near and dear to me. The entire American system on this subject sucks, basically. The main problem is that unless the girl/woman reports it immediately, it is incredibly difficult to have evidence and to prosecute. And even with certain evidence, the law doesn’t always see it as such as you’ve already pointed out. Sadly, many still believe that rape is about sex. It is not, by any means, about sex. It is all about power. Sex is the weapon. It is unfortunate how incredibly naive, misinformed, and ignorant so many are on this subject. I also applaud the woman at the University for attempting to pursue this. Even if she gets nowhere, I pray that she finds help and is able to heal sooner than later, because her life has forever been changed. Thank you for sharing this!
I couldn’t agree with you more!