This is a two-part article. *Trigger Warning- viewer discretion is advised*
Upon reading the NY Times article “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t”, we were reminded of the many stories we heard that went unnoticed at HWS. We relived a time where we fought tirelessly for reform and it was swept under the rug. We were furious and upset that the policies regarding sexual assault (NOT sexual misconduct) were still not being taken seriously.
This is our open letter to the administration who consider themselves “trailblazers” in sexual misconduct policy reform.
In my job as a case planner, they teach us to do a sanctuary check in order to express our emotions, identify a goal, and think of a person(s) who can assist us with that goal. Today, I am furious as hell. My goal for today is to make my voice heard on the misconduct of HWS’ policy, and all of you can help me by expressing yourselves as well. In 2011, the members of Women’s Collective and I connected with SAFER to have them review our sexual assault policies on campus. I created a photo campaign to assist with the push of the SAFER initiative. Robb Flowers sat with then co-leader of Women’s Collective, Josephina Ragon, to discuss the policies and fill out the proper forms for SAFER to review the guidelines of the misconduct policy. Now, in 2014, I think about that semester where we worked hard to achieve something only to have it fall by the wayside.
When I read the NY Times article, I thought about the countless stories I’d heard about students who were raped or sexually assaulted but were afraid to speak up about it because their assailant was in a Fraternity or Athletic team. I thought about the scenarios where the courageous survivors would stand up against their assailants in the misconduct hearings, only to be heard their assailants would be cleared (what does that even mean). I remembered the students who would be afraid to walk around campus because they didn’t want to be heckled or verbally abused by their peers.
When you think about these situations, what are you teaching your incoming students? When you live in a residential setting, you are vulnerable to the culture that enables peer pressure and “social suicide” (to quote Mean Girls). In 2010, during the Women’s Collective event Take Back the Night, President Gearan stood with us and spoke against the violence that students faced. He stated:
“We have the opportunity to have the ripple effect here. Everyone here can take these tiny ripples of hope and send it out to their friends and families and other people in other colleges. We are fortunate to have the leadership we have here with Women’s Collective. I’d like to take some hope from the obvious tragedies of our culture and part of it might be to send forth these ripples of hope in awareness and understanding and compassion and courage that we are all so privileged to hear tonight.”
Where does the ripple effect begin at HWS?
Some of my closest friends are survivors of rape and sexual assault. Some were afraid to talk about it. Some were brave like Anna and chose to stand up to their assailants. How can we talk about inclusive excellence if we aren’t protecting the very students who you’ve committed yourselves to educating? According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. There are over 2000 students at HWS. How many do you think have had their voices silenced?
In order for change to occur, you must begin to build from within. Establish mandatory trainings for staff and administration to attend on sexual assault. Build a well-trained, substantial committee that can hear sexual assault cases. Hire a SANE nurse for Hubbs Health Center. Renovate the Women’s Resource Center and finally open the hotline that students can call when something happens or they feel unsafe. Sexual Assault and Rape is a culture that will not go away quietly, but you have the power to minimize the conflict on our once-beloved campus.
Be the change YOU wish to see in the world. Or at least on your campus.
Gabrielle Perez, WS ‘12
I am a William Smith alumnae, and I am a survivor.
Every day of my life is like navigating through rapids going upstream; I slowly make progress but not without a few scrapes and bruises after I am hit by triggers and depression.
I still blame myself for what happened to me.
I am a survivor of molestation. While I was not raped or sexually assaulted during my times at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, it does not mean I do not know what it is like to be silenced. I have been silenced about my sexual assault for over ten years. That pain does not go away.
Anna trusted the administration at Hobart and William Smith. She thought she would receive justice for what happened to her. Instead, you silenced her.
You silenced her when you revealed her identity in an email. You silenced her when you trusted a committee with only 6 hours of training to deal with a case of gang rape. You silenced her when the committee implied that she was asking for it because of the way she was dancing. You silenced her when you questioned how drunk she was when she vomited four times on the way home from the hospital, hours after the assault occurred. You silenced her when you did not punish students for violating the no contact order.
You silenced her.
When I read the New York Times article on the morning of July 13th, I cried. I cried because it was triggering for me, and I cried for Anna. Anna did not deserve to be silenced, to be treated less than human. By silencing her, you violated her just like those football players.
And what would you do if that happened to your daughter? Michael Cragg, your daughter was a William Smith student. This could have easily been her. Would you have ignored the evidence and allowed your players to stay on your team then, even if a perfect season is in jeopardy? Mark Gearan, your daughter is in college right now. What if this happens to her when she is at school? Would you want the administration to handle her case in the same way Anna’s case was handled at Hobart and William Smith? Robert Flowers, you have a daughter. Are you just hoping things will change by the time she is in college?
I will leave those as rhetorical questions.
The semester before Anna was sexually assaulted, I had a meeting with Robert Flowers about a meme on the HWS Meme page on Facebook because a Hobart student posted a meme about a girl crying rape. Nothing was done. I was ignored. Looking back, did you even hear me Robb Flowers? Or were you just appeasing me with that meeting?
Did you listen to Josephina Ragon when she worked tirelessly on changing the sexual assault guidelines in the summer of 2011? Did you listen to the student concerns during the spring of 2011 when another case of sexual assault was brought to the student body’s attention?
Obviously you were not listening or Anna would not have been silenced.
Are you listening now?
It is pathetic that it takes an article in the New York Times to get your attention. And it is even more pathetic that you tried to defend your actions in an email.
Instead of defending your actions, you need to apologize, not only to Anna but to the other nameless survivors who have graduated from William Smith, or are still attending. 39 people messaged Anna the day the article was released about how they were assaulted and never reported it. 39 women who did not get the help they needed because they were too scared of being ostracized, labeled, and discriminated against by not only the administration but by their peers.
We are waiting for your apology.
Connie Mandeville, WS ‘12