A disturbing tale of a then 18 year old Hobart and Willam Smith Colleges freshman girl brutally raped at the hands of up to 8 fellow college attendees after a night of drinking at a September, 2013 Kappa Sigma frat house party and consequently vilified by her school comes this morning via the NY Times.
The exclusive comes off the back heels of an announcement by the U.S. Department of Education which names Hobart and William Smith as one of four colleges in New York that is under investigation for its handling of sexual abuse complaints
The feature article offers a sobering reflection of the school’s failure to take the freshman’s claims seriously, it’s failure to offer her solace, preserve her anonymity, the inefficient internal judicious process it came to adopt and most importantly it’s failure to protect her and bring her assailants to justice. Ironically it would be the girl who would be vilified at the hands of the school board who in the end declined despite insurmountable evidence to bring her assailants to justice. Which raises the horrific question. Why?
nytimes: In the early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had their cellphones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.
Sitting and laughing. Not attempting to bring the calamity to a stop. Not once questioning if the sexual abuse that this young woman was enduring ought to concern them but then again perhaps that comes with the territory when young college women are nothing but ‘sluts’ to be had, sexual objects to be conquered and let’s be honest. ‘She was just asking for it anyway….’ And then again when it’s the football team, one ought to never question the integrity of such valiant souls…
Later, records show, a sexual-assault nurse offered this preliminary assessment: blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.” The student said she could not recall the pool table encounter, but did remember being raped earlier in a fraternity-house bedroom.
The football player at the pool table had also been at the fraternity house — in both places with his pants down — but denied raping her, saying he was too tired after a football game to get an erection. Two other players, also accused of sexually assaulting the woman, denied the charge as well. Even so, tests later found sperm or semen in her vagina, in her rectum and on her underwear.
Faced with the daunting task of whether to report her sexual assault to authorities, Anna decides instead to confide to her university, hoping that they in turn will provide her with anonymity and the type of support police will not. A decision ultimately that Anna will come to regret.
Offers the nytimes: With no advocate to speak up for her at the disciplinary hearing, panelists interrupted her answers, at times misrepresented evidence and asked about a campus-police report she had not seen. The hearing proceeded before her rape-kit results were known, and the medical records indicating trauma were not shown to two of the three panel members.
One panelist did not appear to know what a rape exam entails or why it might be unpleasant. Another asked whether the football player’s penis had been “inside of you” or had he been “having sex with you.” And when the football player violated an order not to contact the accuser, administrators took five months to find him responsible, then declined to tell her if he had been punished.
And yet the school board perseveres, insisting it has ‘no tolerance for sexual assault,’ that the student will be offered a fair hearing and her anonymity.
Yet instead of preserving the secret of the woman’s identity, the school incredulously proceeded to disclose the name of the woman anyway as they sent dozens of letters to students.
And then there’s this disturbing revelation: While the school explained to Anna that talking to the police was an important option, she said, she decided against it after a school administrator said it would be a longer, drawn-out process. When she changed her mind six months later, the district attorney, R. Michael Tantillo, said he had “virtually nothing to work with” and quickly closed the case.
Nothing to work with? This despite rape kit assessments? This despite witness testimony? Documented blunt trauma? The changing of testimony by the accused?
From there we find out how a school board came to adjudicate its decision with no lawyers present, acting as a courtroom without the customary checks and balances that allow courts of law to function without prejudice and with the strictest confidence. But like most school board renderings in such matters, the panel came to act as ‘prosecutor, judge and jury, questioning students and rendering judgment.’
Tells the nytimes: The panel had to answer several basic questions: Did Anna give consent, was she capable of giving consent, and did the senior player violate the no-contact order either directly or through his friends? The standard of proof, mandated under federal guidelines, was preponderance of evidence — was it more likely than not that the students had sexually assaulted Anna?
Several hours after the last witness, the panel announced its decision clearing all three athletes on all counts.
From there an appeals process followed which in the end would prove to further humiliate and vilify the freshman whilst Anna would also come to find herself receiving physical threats and obscenities on her dormitory door, being pushed in the dining hall and asked to leave a fraternity party. Her roommate moved out with no explanation.
Emotionally battered, Anna later took a leave and returned home, ‘I do not recognize myself — I have become someone that I hate,’ she said. ‘It was such a toxic environment that I needed to be home and try and find myself again.’
Yet against her parents’ wishes, Anna plans to return to Hobart and William Smith in the fall.
In the end one wonders if Anna should have just went to the police directly, one also wonders why given the gravity of the ‘purported rape’ why she didn’t go to the police in the first place, something that the panel may have held against her. One also wonders about the prevailing culture of rape and the insurmountable attitude that women are ‘always just asking for it’ (which is what the defense effectively argued) and why on some level young women like Anna are forced to deal with an archaic school judicial process which in her case did little in offering her the justice she sought but the emphatic reminder that she is a sexual object to be had, despite what appears to be overwhelming evidence to the contrary…
Since the publishing of the nytimes article, the school perhaps non surprisingly and aware that it is about to take a serious dunking has issued this ‘interesting’ statement this morning:
Writes Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Mark D. Gearan in part:
July 13, 2014
Dear Members of the HWS Community,
Earlier today the New York Times published a story about a sexual misconduct case at Hobart and William Smith that led to a complaint being filed by a student with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The article reports on one student’s experience and the issues of sexual misconduct hearings in an academic community. This is a difficult article to read and for any student to be left with this perspective is disheartening. It is clear to me that even though we believe we handled the circumstances fairly and within the constraints of the law, and that we made decisions based on the evidence, there is no sense of satisfaction other than the knowledge that we treated everyone with compassion, kindness and respect. Our primary concern is to provide the student with the opportunities and support she needs to have a successful experience when she returns to our campus this fall……
And then there were these samplings of comments by readers that made me wonder:
Hobart knew that they would risk losing all the free PR and flow of money that follows successful sports teams if they “lost” suspended, expelled, or imprisoned football players.
As a high school teacher with over 14 years of experience, the “hands-off” policy towards male athletes starts much earlier than college. “Alternative” discipline policies to avoid suspensions which may jeopardize eligibility and potential college recruitment are the norm. Pressure put upon teachers to have special “leniency” towards grading athletes are used conjunctionally. This system is supported by alumni, administration, coaches, and parents who all benefit from “their boy” making the big time and the big money of course. Is it any surprise that these athletes believe that they are immune to standards that others are held to?
Rape is a crime and should be treated as such. The victims should report it to the police, not the college. It’s not the college’s job to provide police protection or adjudication of crimes. Colleges are not equipped to perform either role. We have other institutions for that.
Many men (and too many women) do not view rape as a crime, more of a mistake in judgment. The woman is equally to blame if she was drunk or dancing or wearing a tight t shirt or kissed him. These poor men have no control over themselves and it’s the woman’s fault. Her very existence is a temptation they cannot resist. If she suffers, well she should have stayed in her room and studied.
This problem will not disappear until women are viewed as men’s equal, not only in ability, but in their right to live a full and rich life.
Every aspect of our culture reinforces the idea that women exist primarily to please men. Women are supposed to take pride in their ability to please men; men are to take pride in their abilities.