An Account of Sexual Assault at Amherst College
Issue   |   Wed, 10/17/2012 - 00:07

TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.

When you’re being raped time does not stop. Time does not speed up and jump ahead like it does when you are with friends. Instead, time becomes your nemesis; it slows to such an excruciating pace that every second becomes an hour, every minute a year, and the rape becomes a lifetime.

On May 25, 2011, I was raped by an acquaintance in Crossett Dormitory on Amherst College campus.

Some nights I can still hear the sounds of his roommates on the other side of the door, unknowingly talking and joking as I was held down; it is far from a pleasant wakeup call.

I had always fancied myself a strong, no-nonsense woman, whose intense independence was cultivated by seventeen harrowing years of emotional abuse in my backwoods home. May 25th temporarily shattered that self-image and left me feeling like the broken victim that I had never wanted to be.

Everything I had believed myself to be was gone in 30 minutes.

I did not report the rape after it occurred. Almost immediately after the rape I flew off to California, got lost in the beauty of the redwoods, the phenomenal art, and meeting the most unique people I’d ever beheld.

I blocked the rape from my mind and tried to convince myself that it hadn’t happened; that it couldn’t have happened. But there was no denying the facts.

One week before I was supposed to fly back East, everything rushed over and consumed me. My memory had been restored and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to hold myself together for that year, let alone for the upcoming three years.

When I returned to Amherst for my sophomore year, I designed a simple plan of attack for surviving: Business as usual combined with a new mantra I will NOT cry.

First semester passed relatively well, there were rocky times, but I kept it together. I masked fear with smiles. I mastered the art of avoiding prying questions. I drowned myself in work and extracurricular activities in order to hide my personal pain. I was unnervingly good at playing the role of well-adjusted sophomore.

It was inevitable though that this masquerade would become too overwhelming and that my façade would shatter.

In February twisted fate decided that I had to work with him on a fundraiser. E-mails. Stopping me in the gym and at the dining hall. Smirks. Winks. Pats on my back. It was all too much.

My masquerade was over.

I broke down and for the next several months, he won.

I spent most of my spring semester an emotional wreck. I saw his face everywhere I went. I heard his voice mocking me in my own head. I imagined new rapists hiding behind every shower curtain and potted plant. I bandaged the situation by throwing myself into more work and by resolutely refusing to acknowledge that I was anything but well adjusted.

Eventually I reached a dangerously low point, and, in my despondency, began going to the campus’ sexual assault counselor. In short I was told: No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you SURE it was rape? It might have just been a bad hookup…You should forgive and forget.

How are you supposed to forget the worst night of your life?

I didn’t know what to do any more. For four months I continued wandering around campus, distancing from my friends, and going to counseling center. I was continuously told that I had to forgive him, that I was crazy for being scared on campus, and that there was nothing that could be done. They told me: We can report your rape as a statistic, you know for records, but I don’t recommend that you go through a disciplinary hearing. It would be you, a faculty advisor of your choice, him, and a faculty advisor of his choice in a room where you would be trying to prove that he raped you. You have no physical evidence, it wouldn’t get you very far to do this.

Hours locked in a room with him and being called a liar about being raped? No thank you, I could barely handle seeing him from the opposite end of campus; I knew I couldn’t handle that level of negativity.

When May rolled around, everything finally came to a head. My “Anniversary” was coming up and all of the terror that I had intermittently felt that year became one giant ball of horror that filled my life. He was still out there. He could get to me again. If I told anyone he would find out and do it again. No, no, no, no, no.

For my independent studies photography course I produced a series of 20 self-portraits representing myself before, during, and after the rape.

I showed them to my classmates. Their words stung like hornets: You look funny…I don’t get it, why are you so upset?

I went to the counseling center, as they always tell you to do, and spoke about how genuinely sad I was at Amherst, how much I wanted to leave, and how scared I was on a daily basis. “I should just drink darkroom developer or something…”

Twenty minutes later campus police was escorting me into an ambulance. They were even less understanding: There’s something seriously wrong with you; you’re not healthy and normal right now. No, you can’t say no. You HAVE to go, but don’t worry, you won’t have to be there too long. This is for your own good. Amherst cares about you and wants you to get better.

On May 5th I entered Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s Emergency Room. Three hours after sitting curled up and terrified on a hospital bed I was admitted into the Psychiatric Ward for depression and suicidal thoughts. The doctor was skeptical to say the least: I really don’t think that a school like Amherst would allow you to be raped. And why didn’t you tell anybody? That just doesn’t make any sense...Your anger and sadness right now seem unfounded and irrational, someone your age should not be this sad—it’s not normal. We’ll be admitting you in a few minutes, they’ll take good care of you. They’ll get you some drugs and they’ll make you feel happy again…If you don’t willingly enter we’ll have a judge issue a court order legally forcing you to stay there. Trust us, this is for your own good.

So much for not having to stay.

The Psychiatric Ward was a lovely place: the top floor of the hospital, bare white walls, Spartan furnishings, and two stainless steel locked doors at either end of the corridor making sure that anyone who goes in, stays in. Doctors and Nurse Practitioners wondered around the bare hallways checking in on myself and my fellow patients—every fifteen minutes they recorded where we were, what we were doing, and whether we looked happy. In the morning we were given our drugs; if you didn’t take them you would have to be there longer. It was in our best interest to take them, so they told us.

During the day we discussed our thoughts and feelings, our inhibitions, our strengths, but more often than not we did nothing.

When you’re forced to sit and think about yourself for hours on end, you go through four stages of existence.

Stage 1: Hysteria—Characterized by denying that anything is wrong, “I’m perfectly fine” and “I don’t belong here,” are common phrases during this stage.
Stage 2: Numb and Ornery—You have finally realized that something is wrong with you, but you are overwhelmed and confused about how to go about fixing your problem. You therefore decide not to do anything.
Stage 3: Determination—You realize that the only way you’re allowed to leave the Ward is if you “get better” and “solve your problems.” Every fiber of your being thus goes into these two tasks.
Stage 4: Enlightenment—Everything falls into place. Your mind is no longer an oppressive hell and it begins to function again. The outside world no longer seems so daunting.

You are then permitted to leave.

My Enlightenment occurred when I least expected it. Four days into the Ward, I was sitting in on an introductory Substance Abuse and Mental Health Rehabilitation meeting since there was absolutely nothing better to do. To start us off, the meeting leader decided to have everyone go around and talk about why we were on the Ward. We went around the circle: hours in rehab, drug relapses, alcoholism, abusive boyfriends, being an abusive boyfriend, and escapism from the stresses of daily life. The stories weren’t the superficial accounts that you read in a person’s medical file; they were real life. Every problem, every ounce of frustration, every personal tick was laid bare that evening. And everyone was open, not proud, just blunt and sincere; the desire to improve their lives was palpable.

Over the past four days, I had yet to touch upon “what I was in for,” my story was a mystery to everyone around me.

As my fellow patients went around the circle it all suddenly clicked. I realized why I never spoke about the rape, why I had refused to tell my school friends, why I had totally broken down, why I had steadily degenerated over the past few months. I was ashamed, and because of this shame I could not begin healing.

“Silence has the rusty taste of shame,” a fellow survivor once wrote.

I had been far too silent, far too ashamed.

That night I told them everything.

For the first time I told my story and I was not ashamed.

Later that night, as I lay in bed—still in an adrenaline induced state of wakefulness—I heard my roommate whisper my name, and then, a question.

“Are you still awake?”


“Thought so…”

A long pause. She’d been in the meeting.

What was she thinking? What would she say?

“I just wanted to tell you, I…I know how it feels. My uncle raped me when I was 15. The police never arrested him. Rape “wasn’t their top priority.” It still hurts…You’re incredibly brave to talk about it…I rarely do.”

She was 42 years old.

I did not sleep. That night I realized that from then on I could not stay silent—if not for myself, then for my roommate.

I had reached the apex of Stage 4.

I decided that once I was released I would continue with my plans to study abroad that upcoming semester; I would be rejuvenated when I returned to campus in the winter, ready to take on the world and fight for survivor rights.

I would be strong again.

From the moment I woke, this plan hit one pitfall after another; a domino effect of roadblocks that continued for the next three months.

I sat at breakfast in bright spirits, attempting to carry on a conversation with a manic depressive woman who rarely talked. I was so genuinely happy that her lack of responses didn’t even bother me—I just talked at her.

In the middle of my stimulating conversation my harried looking social worker suddenly strode into the dining room and headed purposefully over to me.

She looked grim and angry. “They’re trying to prevent you from going back.”

I was shocked.

She began rattling off the Administration’s policy regarding students released from psychiatric care. In order for students to be allowed back they had to have parental supervision while on campus in order to make sure that the student did not relapse into substance abuse again (the most common reason for student admittance into the Ward). This meant that a parent would stay in a hotel near campus and would then follow their child around for two weeks until the “all clear” period was reached. “And since you don’t have parents…”

She trailed off awkwardly and began to resolutely examine the upper left-hand corner of the dining room.

I must have been speechless for a good minute as a bizarre series of emotions plowed me over.

Shock to incredulity, back to shock, to sadness to anger, back to shock again, then back to sadness, and then an overwhelming amount of shame and embarrassment settled over me. I’m not worthy of even going back; that’s how disgusting I am. I can’t even step foot on campus…

Panic welled up inside of me.

Did this mean I was trapped on the Ward forever? God, no, I couldn’t handle that. I wasn’t crazy!

Claustrophobia and paranoia dropped on top of me and I wildly scanned the room. I met my roommate’s eyes. She was looking at me with worry: What’s wrong?

The room stopped spinning, the walls went back to their normal locations, I could breathe again, and now I was angry. I told her flat out: Let me get this straight. I was raped on their campus. I had an emotional breakdown because I didn’t feel safe and felt harassed on their campus. I went to their counseling center, like they told me to, and I told them how I was feeling. They decided that I should be sent to the hospital. And now they won’t allow me back on their campus? They allow rapists back on campus, but they won’t allow the girl who was raped back? The girl who did nothing wrong.

She told me: Well, when you put it that way…

The maniacal grin on my social worker’s face as she walked off was wonderful.

Needless to say, Amherst let me back on campus later that evening. Five days after being admitted, I was finally released from the Ward.

The car ride back to campus with my dean was, also needless to say, the most awkward car ride of my life. I looked at her: You know, I’m really glad that y’all let me back on campus, for a while there I was pretty worried and I was actually preparing an argument for why I should be allowed back…

Her response: No, no, no! That’s not what happened, you must have just misunderstood the situation! We’re so happy to have you back! Amherst is just such a wonderful place, we know you’ll be happy to be back!

A big misunderstanding, I was skeptical.

In the following days I decided that my best policy when dealing with Amherst at the moment would be “let’s let bygones be bygones.” I quickly forgave the Administration and focused on just being happy to be out. On the inside though I was still dripping with anger, shame, and embarrassment.

Several days after my release I had to defend my chance to study abroad. My chance to leave campus for the first time in 8 months, my chance to relax and heal in a new environment, my biggest chance to revive my love of Amherst, and my chance to move on in life by studying what I truly love. The prospect had gotten me through the most frigid hours on the Ward and I was convinced that it would be the perfect way to continue my healing process.

I half-heartedly murmured, Your actions were understandable. I understand your policy when dealing with depression and students coming out of the Psychiatric Ward…during the meeting that included my dean and several of the campus counselors. Relief instantly flashed across all of their faces and the atmosphere rose in friendliness.

Then: The Ward was the best thing that could have happened to me. I have re-found my love of life and my desire to heal. I will never be 100% better, but I no longer feel like a victim. I’m a survivor, I’m strong, and I think that studying abroad will help me continue healing. When I return in the winter I’ll have a greater understanding of myself and a greater appreciation of Amherst.

They responded with enthusiasm: Of course! Very coherent explanation. You seem much happier, which is wonderful! We agree that going abroad and getting off campus will do you good.

Study abroad here I come!

I felt genuinely happy for the first time in a year, and I could not wait to head out.

At Amherst though, things are never that easy.

A few weeks after my release from the Ward I had a routine check-in with my dean to make sure that I was still doing well. I was excited to be leaving soon, and I must have looked quite content, sitting in her office with a million watt smile and bright eyes. I began to rattle on about how nice the warm weather was, how beautiful commencement had been, how great life was, on and on. She seemed distracted: Nod, nod…Mhmmm…Well, excellent! I’m so glad to hear that you’re excited about the upcoming summer here. I know how much you wanted to study abroad and how much work you must’ve put into it, but really, it’s for the best. Africa is quite traumatizing, what with those horrible third-world conditions: disease…huts…lions! You’ll be much better off here at Amherst where we can watch over you. It will give you some time to think about…you know…that…unfortunate incident…

My face was blank. “I’m supposed to go to Cape Town, South Africa…” Her response broke me down: Yes dear, I know. You were supposed to study in Africa. It’s all for the best that you aren’t though.

No one ever told me flat out that I would no longer be studying abroad. Not even the study abroad dean told me. I scheduled a meeting with her for two days after the meeting with my dean.

A few minutes after exchanging pleasantries she asked: What are your plans for the summer now that you’re on campus?

For the month of June I was decrepit, nothing could perk me up. I returned to feeling the embarrassment and shame that had consumed me before going onto the Ward. If I hadn’t told anyone about what happened I’d be abroad…If I had been stronger…If I wasn’t such a failure…This is all my fault, I really am just a broken, polluted piece of shit…

Living was difficult. Each day I woke up and wandered around in a daze. At night I stared blank faced at a wall and curled up in my chair in a fetal position. I couldn’t talk with people. If I talk with them they might become infected with my dirtiness.

I stopped eating. I stopped sleeping. I secretly hoped that one day on a run my heart would just stop and no one would have to see me again. I wasn’t worth anything anyway.
I continued having to meet with my dean; she blamed my sadness on not being allowed to study abroad, but I knew that it wasn’t that simple. I could live with not being allowed to go to South Africa at the moment, the country would be there for a while, but being forced to stay on campus in a dorm populated with men I did not know, that was the real psychological issue. Every time I told my dean that I didn’t feel safe on campus, that I wanted to be allowed to leave , or at least be put in a different dorm, I received the same unhelpful responses that I had received in February. They told me: You were lucky to be given a room here this summer in the first place, housing is tight right now and you really shouldn’t complain. All of your fear is ungrounded, Amherst is one of the safest places imaginable…If we let you leave campus we won’t know what mental and emotional place you’ll exist in when you return in September; you could become completely unstable! At Amherst we can monitor you, and, if need be, strongly suggest time off when the school year rolls around…

I felt like a prisoner, or, more accurately, like a harem girl. My jail was luxurious and openair, I was free to move about, the ruling power judged my worth on a weekly basis, and I was constantly reminded how lucky I was to be there.

One night, after a particularly rough meeting with my dean (I just don’t understand why you’ve been so angry throughout all of this. You have no reason to be angry about anything.), I was curled up on my floor—I wasn’t thinking, I didn’t feel anything.

I went over to the mirror on the back of my door and stared. What had happened to the girl who had come off of the Ward so empowered and strong; the girl who decided to no longer be silent and feel shamed? Where had she gone?

I went over to my desk and picked up a brochure I had been given about a survivor center at UMass Amherst. I gave an exaggerated sigh. Might as well…I called the number and made an appointment for the next day.

I went back to the mirror and stared at myself again.

For the next 15 minutes I repeated: “Silence has the rusty taste of shame.”

I walked over to my computer, typed up an email, hesitated for a second, and then pressed send.

I had just sent my entire sports team an email-rant about my rape and subsequent breakdown at the end of spring.

It was about time people began to realize that Amherst wasn’t just majestic dorms and world-class professors.

It was about time I resumed the silent pact that I had made to my roommate on the Ward.

I will not be quiet.

The next few weeks were a blur of unending days spent resolutely working to feel better (A friend told me: You can’t help other people if you feel like shit).

I was able to sleep again. I ate more. I went to free therapy sessions. I wrote and mindlessly colored in order to ground myself. I obsessively made lists of all the things imaginable. I joined a survivor group. I cried less and smiled a bit more.

I started healing.

It took a month of hard work until I was noticeably doing better. My friends, my therapist, my coworkers, and my fellow survivor group members all started commenting on how much healthier and happier I looked. I still felt uncomfortable and oppressed while surrounded by men on campus, but I was no longer afraid to leave my room after 7 p.m. I was determined to love Amherst again.

Life was tolerable.

Early July and I had another meeting with my dean: You look like you’re doing better today. Well done, I’m so glad to see this kind of improvement! I think it’s safe to assume that you can come back next semester, and in that regard I think that it’s time that we talk about your time at Amherst over the next two years…I know you want to do African Studies through the Five Colleges, but I don’t think I can support that decision. Africa is very traumatizing and I think that studying Africa is just a way for you to relive your real-life traumas; it’s just not a good place to be studying.

Over the next thirty minutes several more restrictions were laid out: no Five College classes this upcoming year, no study abroad in the spring, definitely no senior year thesis, I would have to meet with a counselor twice a week, and friends off campus would have to be pushed to the wayside. She told me: Amherst is the only place that matters, and, really, you don’t have a family, so where else would you go? Amherst is the only place that you can be.

At the end of our conversation I grunted out a vapid response and headed straight to my room. I sat on my bed, million-mile-gazed at the wall, and thought.

What was the point of staying at Amherst? I had been stuck on campus for eleven months straight; each day had been more challenging and emotionally draining than the previous one. I had been feeling better recently, but each time I met with my dean I felt more emotionally distraught than I had beforehand. Her comments reminded me that in the Administration’s eyes I was the most base individual: a poor and parentless humanities major who was the school’s token-Deep-Southerner. I was sullied, blameworthy, and possibly insane.

I made a Pros and Cons of Amherst List.

The Pro List had seven items.

The Con List had twenty-three items.

On July 14th I made one of the hardest decisions of my life.

I was going to withdraw from Amherst.

That next week I threw myself into finding a way out. Plans were made, plans were broken, Plan B was made, and finally Plan B was successful!

I did not tell the Administration for fear that they would somehow sabotage me. It was probably paranoid, but after being prevented from leaving campus multiple times I was not going to take any chances. The conversation went similarly to this:

“I’m withdrawing from Amherst.”

That was my greeting to my dean when I met with her in late July.

The look of complete shock on her face was priceless. When she recovered: So you’re taking a semester off? That’s perfectly ok, many survivors do, I think it’s best that you do what you…

No, I’m withdrawing, permanently. I ain’t planning on ever coming back. I’m going to transfer to another school after taking a semester off to travel around.

You can’t…You…Nobody withdraws. Where are you going to go? You don’t have parents. What are you going to do?

I’m working on a Dude Ranch in Wyoming.

…I didn’t think you’d be able to figure out a plan…Well, we technically won’t withdraw you from the school until three years have passed. After three years we’ll double-check to make sure that you really want to withdraw and then we’ll remove you from our current-students system.

No, I just want you to withdraw me. I don’t want to come back, I don’t want to be affiliated with your school anymore. I’m sick of this place.

I think you need to meet with our sexual assault counselor again, you’re way too angry right now and not thinking clearly. I have a feeling you’ll change your mind and come back. Amherst is one of the best schools out there, it will be a transfer down unless you go to an Ivy…

You know, I have I feeling that I won’t want to come back, but that’s just a hunch.

As my dean suggested, I met with our sexual assault counselor a few days later. The meeting was uncharacterizeable by one word, but bizarre might be the closest description: This is a bad idea, you’re not thinking straight.

I didn’t understand this. I’d been thinking about this for quite a while; I was unhappy at Amherst and I didn’t understand why I should stay at a place where I was absolutely miserable. There are other places in the world.

The next two hours was a hodgepodge of topics: Your lack of parental support makes you emotionally volatile and prevents you from following through with decisions that you make.

Apparently I had decided not to study abroad. Then there was bizarre ‘concern:’You don’t look very healthy. Have you been eating? I think you might have an eating disorder. You know there’s a great clinic in Northhampton where we can send you for in-patient eating disorder treatment.

I don’t have an eating disorder; I used to have one, I know what they’re like. I don’t eat a lot because I can’t afford to buy food.

Then the ranch came up: Do you realize how difficult working on a Dude Ranch will be? The people in Wyoming are different from the people at Amherst, they won’t be well-educated, and they won’t understand you. You’re going to a backwards place. Do you realize how bad it will be?

Yes, because the rest of the US is filled with ignorant savages who haven’t been saved by the light of Amherst. How would I ever survive?

To the counselor’s great surprise, these stellar arguments did not convince me to stay at Amherst. I became even more resolute about my decision to leave, and decided to talk with the Victim Rights Law Center, a pro-bono law firm based in Boston that my survivor group had recommended to me several weeks earlier. My preliminary intake with the VRLC was quite eye-opening: Oh Amherst? Yeah, unfortunately I know Amherst all too well. I’ve been down there many times to deal with the administration and their constant mistreatment of survivors. Our law firm keeps trying to force them to change but they just don’t seem to understand, they keep doing the same old thing.

Amherst has almost 1800 students; last year alone there were a minimum of 10 sexual assaults on campus. In the past 15 years there have been multiple serial rapists, men who raped more than five girls, according to the sexual assault counselor. Rapists are given less punishment than students caught stealing. Survivors are often forced to take time off, while rapists are allowed to stay on campus. If a rapist is about to graduate, their punishment is often that they receive their diploma two years late.

I eventually reported my rapist.

He graduated with honors.

I will not graduate from Amherst.

The stories and statistics are miles long in regards to sexual assault on campus. My story is far from unique, and, compared to some of the stories I have heard, is tame.
The more that I learn about Amherst’s policy toward sexual assault and survivors in general, the more relief I feel in deciding to transfer. How could I stay at a school who had made my healing process not just difficult, but impossible? How could I stand knowing that the Administration promotes silence? How could I spend the next two years made to feel dirty and at fault?

I could not.

At one point I hated Amherst with an indescribable amount of fury, but I do not hate the school anymore. Amherst took a lot from me, but they gave me some of the greatest gifts imaginable: self-confidence, my closest friends, intellectual curiosity, and endless personal strength. For these things I am forever grateful. For everything else, I stand back and behold the college with a feeling of melancholia.

The fact that such a prestigious institution could have such a noxious interior fills me with intense remorse mixed with sour distaste. I am sickened by the Administration’s attempts to cover up survivors’ stories, cook their books to discount rapes, pretend that withdrawals never occur, quell attempts at change, and sweep sexual assaults under a rug. When politicians cover up affairs or scandals the masses often rise up in angry protestations and call for a more transparent government. What is the difference between a government and the Amherst College campus? Why can’t we know what is really happening on campus? Why should we be quiet about sexual assault?

“Silence has the rusty taste of shame.”

There is no reason shame should be a school’s policy.

UPDATE: President Carolyn "Biddy" Martin has released a statement concerning this article and the follow-up steps being taken by the administration regarding sexual assault:

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:30

Nate, can you provide your last name? Want to make sure I add you to the list of disgusting rape-apologists that I need to stay away from.

Thank God that our justice system makes it harrowingly difficult for women to prosecute their attackers? GO AWAY.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:21

A great deal of love from Earlham.

Molly (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:23

no offense to all of you Amherst students, but your school sounds like it needs to rework a few policies... what are you paying all of that money for? complete and utter disrespect for survivors' rights in order for the administration to cover its own ass?

angie, thank you for sharing your story. this story is outrageous, egregious, inflammatory, and above all terrifying for all women. however, after my initial feelings of shock and of sadness for you, i realized that those are not the kinds of reactions you were looking for when you wrote down this testimony. you do not need people to be shocked or sad or take pity on you. you need them to be angry, and impassioned, and inspired to make a change. i think you have accomplished that here: i am leaving this page feeling stronger because of your incredible strength, i am feeling the humble love that is shared between all of us sisters on this planet, and both of these things inspire me to go out there and stick it to the patriarchal and chauvinistic man! :)

p.s. i hope your rapist gets his dick caught in a blender.

Nada (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:25

I wish I could give you a hug! You are probably one of the strongest people ever. I know that you'll get over it, I know that you are gonna move on. You are a fighter!!! I believe in you. Also, your dean reminding you around every corner that you don't have a family needs to stop. All of those people supporting you and standing up for you are your family!!. Come to Mount Holyoke :) We'll take care of you, I promise!
Finally, never lose hope and never stop believing in your self. The people who go through the hardest circumstances are always the ones who accomplish the most. I would love to take you for a cup of coffee :) Just a new friend

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:25

My heart goes out to you. I was only two weeks into my freshman year at Mount Holyoke when I met a UMass senior at an on-campus party. I was very drunk and high and followed him to his car because my roommate was home. He raped me in the back of his car and took my virginity. My friends had seen how drunk I was and were extremely concerned when they couldn't find me, but I didn't tell anyone about what had happened because I was so ashamed and felt like it was my fault for being that intoxicated and leading him on. I tried to block it from my mind by drinking/partying/smoking pot constantly, which followed me into my sophomore year. One day, an Amherst friend and I decided to try shrooms, and we both had "babysitters" (both male Amherst students). At one point, I became separated from my friend, as he and and his sitter had wandered off, and I was left alone with my sitter in his dorm. I could tell I was having a bad trip, so I lay down on the bed. The next thing I knew, my sitter pinning me down and kissing me. I pushed him off and ran to the dorm bathroom and sat in the shower crying for what seemed like hours. I went back to Mount Holyoke and tried to overdose on Tylenol, which I vomited back up. The next day, I decided to take myself out of such a destructive pattern. I finished out the semester and decided to come home. I started seeing a psychiatrist and was put on antidepressants, and I transferred colleges (which had nothing to do with Mount Holyoke itself). It has been a long, painful journey, and I finally understand that no matter what, my rape was not my fault. I am so sad that the Amherst administration tried to brush you under the rug, and I hope that with your story and enough awareness, serious changes will be made in the college's sexual assault policy. You are strong and beautiful, and I have so much respect for your courage in telling your story. Your rape will always be a part of you, but by telling your story you are not allowing your rape to own you. Lots of love from a fellow survivor.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:26

"There are other places in the world." :-)

a.d. hogan (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:31

as another college student (at oberlin college), thank you. thank you for calling the school and the administration out on their sexist, misogynistic behavior. thank you for your bravery. thank you for your words.

Zab (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:34

Along with everyone else, I wanted to thank you for your bravery. In looking at the comments, I'm stunned and overjoyed to see so much love and solidarity from all over the country and all over the world. I'm an alum of Dickinson College, and two years ago I protested our college's sexual assault policy along with hundreds of other students (with mixed results). I hope that your story and its widespread readership sparks change at Amherst, my alma mater, and all of the other schools that have this problem.

Much love, admiration, and respect.

Joe (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:34

At Amherst? My Amherst? This pattern of minimizing and hiding victims needs to be fixed, immediately. When I was a student, I had my own problems with the Amherst system. There needs to be more transparency about the whole educational process there. But my problems were purely about the education. This poor girl suffered orders of magnitude more than I. What if that were my daughter, wife, mother or friend? This needs to be fixed and fixed now. How? Well, for one thing, the school obviously needs to hire smarter therapists and administrators. I recommend they hire young alums right out of grad school: people with brains who don't yet expect to make big bucks and might be happy to put a couple years working at Amherst on their resume.

JB (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:35

Mental health services are so pernicious. Shit is terrifying.

Also "Africa is traumatizing" ?

But thank you for your bravery.

YouSerious? (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:37

All of the critics of this story have, so far, not addressed a simple question: why on Earth would this woman lie about her experiences?

She does not mention the accused rapist's name, so this is not an attempt to slander that individual. She does not even mention the name of the dean or counselor she dealt with, meaning that we can't point out exactly who mistreated her.

It would be rather bizarre for a young woman to write about an account of rape and the hardships that followed, only to have it all be a huge lie. She gains nothing from putting this story out.

So again, to all of the people doubting her: why would she lie about this?

Bri (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:39

I am a Junior and I had a similar experience at a small liberal arts college out west. This sort of reaction by the administration is typical among small colleges. At larger institutions the care and support from their school's institutions are worse. They will not even address half the matters and the amount of things brushed under the carpet is enormous. We should still consider ourselves somewhat fortunate that the administration at our schools will acknowledge us, attempting to help BUT much more needs to be done as the story shows. Thank you for your story.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:39

Love from Middlebury too.

Dartmouth 12 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:42

I was raped while at Dartmouth by a member of the fraternity that was next door to my house, and had to take a term off to deal with the effects it was having on me, so I'm completing my last term here now. I thought that Dartmouth's administration had less than desirable policies and reactions to sexual assault and rape, but reading this story absolutely disgusts me. I was lucky to be treated with compassion and care when talking to the counselors on campus (they keep open "dean's rooms" for people to stay in when they feel unsafe in their own room or dorm), and ultimately found more support than resistance from administration and counselors here.
I'm so sorry that your healing process was interrupted and hindered by Amherst. Hopefully they learn from reading this and do a lot of thinking about how they treat their students. If I had had to deal with the things you did while attempting to recover, I'm not sure I would have been able to do it.

You are brave and full of worth. Your voices have power.
All of you, please keep telling your stories.

-love from New Hampshire

Amherst Parent (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:42

I am so surprised at Amherst's treatment of Angie and the other rape victims who have come forward. I did expect more from this progressive university. But when you stop to think about it, is it at all surprising that all colleges, and especially the most elite, have every interest in covering up rapes on their campuses or by their students? The culture must change and I hope that the new President is successful in making changes in how rape victims are treated and rapists are punished. I was raped by a student at my college almost 40 years ago and never reported it. I still am amazed that it happened to me.

Leo (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:43

My daughter was recently raped. She was in a tavern and someone slipped a drug into her drink. I'm glad I read this story because now I know in part what she must be feeling. We want to get her some professional help and now know which road to take. You are a brave young lady, Angie, and I wish you the best.

Joe (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:45

This is unacceptable. What if that were my daughter? Survivors need to be encouraged and supported in going to the police, rapists need to be criminally prosecuted, and the administration needs to hire smarter counselors and administrators.

Gray (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:46

I am so sorry to hear what happened... I know this happens to people, but this is sick. To think that a school could ever do this, whether to keep their good name or a general lack of care, I don't know. All I know is that I wish you all of the luck in the world. I truly hope you will be okay. I know shame, and though not in these ways, I see why you wouldn't tell anyone. Please keep people updated on this article and how you are doing. If this had happened to anyone I know or loved, I would be destroyed by what Amherst has done. Good luck, you have the support of many with you!

Adrita (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:47

You are a very, very brave woman, Angie. You brought tears to my eyes. Because of people like the ones you dealt with, victims of sexual assault usually hesitate to report their assault. It's like the nightmare never ends. Shame on Amherst! I am so disgusted by their actions that I feel something just crawled over me. When will society learn to stop blaming the victim and start punishing the abusers?
I am very proud of you for having the courage to come out and telling the truth to the world.

Ares Lee (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:49

First of all, thank you for sharing your story, and for your courage and persistence fighting a backwards system. I wish you the best of all luck.
Reading this makes me realize how incredibly lucky I was to get away from my's about time colleges like this stop getting away with mistreatment of victims!

Ary (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:51

Thank you, Angie, for being so strong and saying what desperately needed to be said. Rape and sexual assault are never okay, on college campuses or anywhere. The horrible reality is that Amherst isn't the only school that needs to reevaluate its policies and responses. I'm glad that this account has already triggered conversation and response.
Wherever you are now, I hope that you have found support.

Our culture of silence needs to end.

Brown Student (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:53

Unlike the so-called Ivy League student up there, please know that I support you and your actions fully.

MeToo (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:56

Don't ever forget that.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:58

Angie, your story really resonated with me. I'm inspired by your bravery and strength. Never ever ever give up your fight.

Amherst 2011 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:59

To the writer--thank you so much for this. I hope this publicity will pressure Amherst to change their policy.

I will add that I think that Amherst should change related policies regarding mental health, not just rape.

I was not raped at Amherst, but there were times when I was unhappy, and I went through some of the same parts of the process that you did. I discussed having had suicidal thoughts in the past at the Counseling Center. This was after I had started feeling better--when I was really down, I was not open to seeing a therapist. I was involuntarily hospitalized within the next few hours. The next day, I was told that the administration was considering expelling me.

I was able to get back on campus after a meeting with a group of therapists at the Counseling Center (where I tried to put my best, though perhaps not most sincere, foot forward--perhaps like the writer, I felt that they needed me to say certain things to offload their liability), but I think it also helped that I mentioned in an early meeting, with my dad sitting beside me, that we would feel more comfortable in future conversations with a lawyer present. We were also able to secure the administration's agreement to take into consideration a second opinion from a therapist who wasn't affiliated with the school if my meeting with the Counseling Center went poorly, though this was something we had to argue into the conversations.

Highlights: one month later, from the dean, something like, "So you're still upset about this?" "Yes." Dryly: "Really. You still are."
Several years earlier from another dean when I was having some problems and was taken to see a counselor, though not hospitalized: "Not fun, was it." And a smile.

This is part of why I will not be donating to this school or paying for any of my kids to attend.

Unaffiliated student (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 15:59

Thank you for sharing your story with the public. I go to school in New England, and I just want to say how brave you are and how proud of yourself you should be for being so strong and sharing your story. Don't let the haters that have inevitably appeared in the comments bog you down. You know the truth, and hold on to that. Be strong!

Wow (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:00

Literally started crying when I saw the response letter, and that is NOT something I do. My respect for Angie goes beyond words!

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:02

I am absolutely livid with my alma mater and the way that they have conducted themselves. I appreciate you sharing your story. My hope is that you will recover from this tragic incident and Amherst administration will be forced to change its ways in light of this article. You are a very brave woman and for that you should be commended. I hope that you go on and have a very prosperous future. All the best to you!

Kelly (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:03

Thank you for sharing this. I was at Amherst in the 80's and knew several women who were sexually assaulted. Women on campus bore the responsibility for avoiding the handful of known serial perpetrators. It was generally understood that there was nothing to be gained by going to administration, that the disciplinary process was a joke, and that the administration valued keeping things quiet above all else. I'm sorry to hear that things haven't changed.

Molly (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:03

Sending you love from Wesleyan University.

These schools need to gte their act together! Wesleyan University was just in the news for a high profile sexual assault that occured there in 2011 and was buried by the administration. As a Wesleyan alum, I am utterly disgusted by the actions of the administration. Wesleyan, Amherst and the hundreds of other schools that are more concerned with their public images than the well-being of their students, start respecting and protecting your students and their rights!

MHC Student (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:05

Angie, the world needs more people like you. You have turned this horrific situation around and you are helping so many people. Thank you!

Love from Mt Holyoke.

Rachel (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:07

Your story brought me, like so many others, to tears. There is nothing I can think to say that hasn't already been said, but I just wanted to be one of the mass of people to tell you how strong, resilient and beautiful you are. I truly don't think that I could ever speak about such an account as maturely and eloquently as you just have. Incidents such as these do happen disgustingly frequently, as they have happened to a handful of my own friends, and I am so thankful that your story has gained such recognition (in fact, interestingly enough, I have seen this link shared even more by my guy friends than by girl friends). Thank you so much for being the voice that so many people have not yet gained the courage to be.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:11

I have to say it takes guts to share your story so publicly and I commend you for doing it. I think it brings attention to how difficult it can be for a sexual assault survivor. As a fellow survivor, I cannot imagine what I would've done if my university had responded like yours did---I guess I feel really lucky to be supported and understood by staff at my school. Thank you for your story.

Maria (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:11

Thank you, for sharing your story. You are truly an inspiration to all people. I hope we can all find the courage that you have shown.

Barnes and Noble (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:17

So, so, so much love from a Northwestern grad. I don't know if I could be as strong as you've proven yourself to be by writing this.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:29

The comments illustrate the necessity of this conversation across campuses throughout the nation. The people who graduate from these elite institutions will go on to lead our country. How we treat each other and hold each other accountable as part of undergraduate communities matters. Ending a culture of silence and shame matters. You are a very brave person. In solidarity.

Skidmore Student (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:30

This article is appearing everywhere. The Skidmore community supports you 100% Angie! So much love to you.

S (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:32

Angie, thank you for speaking out and being brave enough to share your story. My four years at Amherst gave me the best education I could have asked for, but at such a tremendous cost to my well being, I can't say it was worth it. Freshman year i was date raped by an acquaintance while I was passed out. "friends" said that since I had been drinking, it was my fault for not "watching myself" and since the guy was popular and in td, no one would believe I hadn't "wanted it." Senior year I was verbally and physically assaulted by a classmate in the middle of a party. He was twice my size and it was utterly terrifying. I hid in my room for days afterwards, until finally a friend convinced me to report him to campus security. When I met with Ali wicks, she informed me that he (and his entire fraternity, td) claimed I had assaulted him, and that I was not allowed within 400 yards of him the rest of the year, was not allowed at senior week, and was not allowed at any other senior events. In spite of the fact that 50+ people witnessed a 240 lb guy shove, berate and cower over a 120 lb girl until 3 friends had to hold him back. I will never give a dime to Amherst after my experience. The notion that the administration is not aware of the vast number of sexual assaults on campus - both reported and unreported - is complete and utter bullshit. I hope the public shame that befalls the school due to this article finally ignites real action and change. It's about time.

K (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:33

Thank you for sharing this. Not only is it incredibly brave to write and submit this article, but it seems that you have found a new sense of strength that many victims have yet to achieve. Hopefully others who have been victim of sexual assault can learn to turn what they perceive as a weakness into an incorruptable will as you have accomplished. Again, thank you for this. Take care of yourself.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:33

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you: my sister was raped at her university and it crushed me that I wasn't able to protect her. This is a problem at far too many college campuses. Thank you for speaking out, thank you for emboldening others to share their stories. I hope this inspires colleges campuses to start cracking down on these cases a lot more seriously.

Patrice (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:33

Thank you for speaking up on this. Your experience is horrific, and everyone needs to know about the disgusting way your school deals with sexual assault. Shame on Amherst for punishing a victim! Shit like this needs to stop!

Ari (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:34

Angie, thank you for sharing your story. I am grateful to have heard your story, your bravery and outspokenness is inspiring. The Dean's response is absolutely inadequate. But at least people are talking. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to talk about my own experience of sexual assault. Silence absolutely has a rusty taste of shame.

Williams '12 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:34

Thank you for saying what I could never say.

Thank you.

:) (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:42

It takes so much courage and strength to share a story such as this. I'm sorry that you had to go through this, and it's painful to read about everything you went through. Wherever you are now, and whatever you're doing, I wish you the very best. Only know there's more strength to come. You're really a strong woman

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:45

I once heard a statistic that 1 in 4 women are victims of rape. At the time I thought that number was absurdly high, but now I realize it's disastrously accurate. I'm a Hampshire grad who was raped several years ago (on May 25th as well) by a (then) UMass student. I didn't report it or even fully allow myself to realize what had happened for about 6 months. I didn't seek any help or talk to anyone about it, so I can't fault either school for not offering support.

You were so much braver than I could have ever been, and it disgusts me to see how Amherst responded. It is truly horrifying, and it is a testament to your unbelievable strength that you have pushed so hard in spite of the school.

miasopapia (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/20/2012 - 01:03

A previous comment began with "I once heard a statistic that 1 in 4 women are victims of rape." The statistic in question actually says that 1 in 4 women in the US will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, not that 1 in 4 women are victims of rape.
As for the article. Absolutely amazing and brave! I'm so glad to see such encouraging responses from so many. I also particularly enjoyed your description of psychiatric wards. Thankfully I've never had to be forced into such a stark environment, but my best friend did. Repeatedly. When I visited her or wrote her letters, we would talk about how to overcome the "Spartan walls" and bare bones facility. I'm shocked that the university took the measures they did. I actually had no idea that universities had any right or capacity to do something like that and am stunned there hasn't been more discussion or outrage over such actions.
Of course, hopefully there will be more discussion about Amherst's approach to supporting victim's of sexual assault that could lead to clarification's about their policies.
The other amazing point you raised concerned parents. I think those of us that have supportive parents often forget that privilege. I imagine the policy makers also forget this privilege. I'm sure more policies than this one discriminate against students who do not have supportive, present, and/or alive familial units. Hopefully that changes soon.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:53

Thank you for being so strong.

MHCalum (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:58

Dear Angie,

Thank you for sharing your story. You have the MHC community behind you! This story was even on the Confessional last night.

Good luck to you.

This is an important reminder to colleges that they have the responsibility to protect their students who are harmed...not those who inflict harm. Someone can have stellar grades and lousy personal skills. There should be a no tolerance on sexual assault.

Mike (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 16:59

Thank you for sharing your story. After recent sexual assaults here, our campus is on edge about the best way to find and prosecute offenders. I only hope that if such information was readily available it would be used to bring justice upon the offenders and assist our survivors. Love and respect, Angie; good luck and safe travels.

private school sux (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 17:04

I'm sorry you went to such a shitty fucking school. Wyoming is beautiful, btw. Maybe people are ignorant and backwards, but they at least know right from wrong.