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?”

“Yes.”

“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: https://www.amherst.edu/campuslife/letters_president/node/436469

Anchor
Comments
Melissa Marturano (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:02

I'm a graduate student now in New York, but I went to Boston University for my undergraduate degree and BU—to say the least—was exactly like this. Condoning and supporting a rampant on-campus rape culture for their own ease and for financial gain. Rape victims were and still are openly slandered and mistrusted by the boys' club administration. This brave article is being circulated widely among my feminist groups and friends and we all one-hundred percent support you. Let's bring this rape culture down and one great way to do that is to break the silence and to start holding people who promote rape culture accountable!

Elissa (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:02

You have me. You have me, You have all these other people here, in this country, across the globe, all resounding in thanks. Thanks for your courage, your bad ass-ness. Thank you for your grace. Thank you. Thank you.
You are a beautiful soul.

al chan (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:06

I m glad my daughter chose to attend Smith, not Amherst.
Thank you for speaking out.
Be brave and don't let Amherst ruins your life.

Concerned Mum (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:07

Thank you for writing this sweetie. You are immensely brave. Amherst really should take a hard look at its policies.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:08

Angie, I'm very glad that you have moved on from your anger at Amherst, but I find that I can't. I'm an administrator at a university (not Amherst), and I find Amherst's complete disregard for your choices as a rational adult disgusting and it really bothers me deeply. They compounded a terrible situation and may have done more damage by undermining your choices about your life and your freedom. Reading your story, it seemed like at every step, you acted in the most responsible way that you could, and were rewarded by having your freedom undermined and your choices questioned. Amherst is doing it wrong.

I'm very angry at Amherst, but you've reaffirmed my own values-- always trust and support the students; believe them; make them feel safe always, and help them accomplish their goals. If a crime is committed, our responsibility is to them first, not ourselves.

Susie (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:12

This is so painful to read and makes me furious that Amherst administration deliberately brushed things under the rug. Shame on Amherst. Shame.

Aaron (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:13

I would call for the immediate resignation of all complicit in this tragedy.

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

Bravery is not an easy thing to convey, especially when you are feeling so vulnerable. I too was sexually assaulted. It happened on April 7th 2012. I still have not been able to really go through the situation in my mind yet. I see him almost everyday on the Campus Loop bus and I want more than anything to stand up and just tell him how he's made me feel. My parents and I have tried to take legal action but it hasn't worked. Not even the administration will help. Oh sure, help the sainted football program and their reputation, but god forbid they help a group of students who have one thing in common. They have all been raped on their campus. there are 15 of us still in school. But i'm sure there are tons who haven't come forward. Penn State, because of it's size, tends to care about issues that affect the greater portion of their students. like sports, cafeteria renovations, and uniform upgrades. We have made zero progress on getting any recognition by the faculty, administration, or greater student body. So In summary, I applaud you and the countless others who have experienced what we have. I'm counting on you to keep fighting, so all of us can join you

Love and Respect

Becca

Georgianna Chiang (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:18

I can't even imagine the overwhelming emotions of isolation, terror, and confusion you felt during and especially AFTER the event. I praise you for sharing your story and for continuing to fight, fight, and fight. You are a role model to us all. ALSO- if you are looking to transfer, PLEASE apply to UCLA, they would GLADLY take you ESPECIALLY with the knowledge of this story.
I hope you are continuing to heal and know that all of us spread our love.

Becca (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:19

Bravery is not an easy thing to convey, especially when you are feeling so vulnerable. I too was sexually assaulted. It happened on April 7th 2012. I still have not been able to really go through the situation in my mind yet. I see him almost everyday on the Campus Loop bus and I want more than anything to stand up and just tell him how he's made me feel. My parents and I have tried to take legal action but it hasn't worked. Not even the administration will help. Oh sure, help the sainted football program and their reputation, but god forbid they help a group of students who have one thing in common. They have all been raped on their campus. there are 15 of us still in school. But i'm sure there are tons who haven't come forward. Penn State, because of it's size, tends to care about issues that affect the greater portion of their students. like sports, cafeteria renovations, and uniform upgrades. We have made zero progress on getting any recognition by the faculty, administration, or greater student body. So In summary, I applaud you and the countless others who have experienced what we have. I'm counting on you to keep fighting, so all of us can join you

Love and Respect

Becca

WestCoastLove (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:31

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has been circulating around Stanford during the past few days, and I can assure you that those who have read it have been touched and send their support. Thank you for showing such courage and strength, and good luck with all future endeavors. Much respect and much love.

At a loss for words (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:39

I am so sorry for what happened to you! Please stay strong and give courage to other survivors to speak up and make sure their attackers are held responsible. Guys like this are let off the hook way too easily. I hope you and other survivors sue Amherst so that the school will be forced to face the consequences of it (in)actions.

Also, what happened to your parents? Are they not supportive or are they no longer in this world? Even though you don't have parents, please know that we are all there for you. Sisters united!

WestCoastLove (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:40

Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has been circulating around Stanford, and I can assure you that those who have read it, have been greatly impacted by it, and send you their support. Thank you for having such courage and strength. Much respect and much love.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:43

Angie, thank you for sharing your experience, for shedding light onto rape culture Amherst College's unacceptable lack of responsibility. You are incredibly brave for speaking up ,and I am so sorry you had to go through this. Congratulations on your recovery and best wishes for the future.

MKC (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:46

You are courageous and you should be proud of yourself for coming forward and going public. In 1981 as a freshman in college I was raped. IT was and is all these years later something that has profoundly affected my life. It took me many years to face what was done to me... I never did transfer to the college of my choice (site of my assault) rather I stayed home at my local college and suffered in isolation. Women need to be there for each other - and it is despicable that any counselor would try to turn your assault into another attempt to shame and blame. It is likewise that an institution serving in loco parentis chose to sacrifice a daughter for reputation and prestige. I am so sorry that all these years have gone by and not much seems to have changed on college campuses, that young women are still victim to a college boy mentality that passes bad behavior as so much frat pack/athlete/group male aggression to be overlooked, covered up with blame placed back on the victims of assault. It is sad - very sad. I am glad that you are on the road to being free of the hold this trauma has on your spirit. I also know that it is a lifelong process dealing with the shame, fear, regret and anger. Keep at it!! I wish I could tell my younger self that it is possible to be happy and whole someday.... you are already closer to that now!! Please know that you are a beautiful and special person - who did nothing to deserve this horrible assault and you have every right to happiness and wholeness. I hope for you it finds you sooner rather than later!! Volunteer if you can.. it helps!! My peace to you... sister-friend.

Lord Jeff, Jr. (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:49

For a college that prides itself on rigourously examining all sides of an issue, this rush to judgement is nothing short of amazing. I feel for the accuser. I do. Her feelings are real, but, the facts even as she has stated them call just about everything into question. Maybe we need a new definition of rape? Just so everyone can be clear.... It would, however, need to be a real time definition, i.e. not one that can be decided afterwards.... What kind of agreement, in the real world, works like that? And, while we're at it....what kind of intelligent discourse "concludes" and condemns so much...beyond an expression of sympathy as I have done....without hearing "word 1" from the other party. Just speaking from the point of view of logic...

Anonymous '15 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 21:49

"The school's response is
The school's response is incomprehensible. It does not make any sense to try to cover for the perpetrator. Even if it is not clear whether it is rape, it does not make any sense for the school to cover one side for another. What is the point of it?"

What is the point of covering up a felony? 1) It makes the school look horrible to have high numbers of sexual assaults on campus. 2) If the offender's daddy is a rich donor at our school, bye bye endowment. It's that simple.

recent alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:00

Why are so many people so quick to treat any differences of opinion as "blaming the victim" or extremely offensive?

student (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/20/2012 - 23:13

I do think some comments that were sympathetic and innocent(but lacking in understanding) were harshly judged and just put down when it could have been just communicated mildly to help each other's understanding. But for some comments I can identify with the anger. Some people may have not said that it was her fault directly but there were some comments that were really insensitive, mean and patronizing. For example, one commenter stated that her story seems like an exaggeration. I don't think these things can be in the same category as "difference in opinion." When someone had an experience, I don't think other people who are not involved are entitled to have an opinion about that. Our society and schooling loves teaching people to have opinions and express them but it doesn't really teach when we shouldn't have opinions. Why should someone tell another person how they should have experienced what they did? Who can say all the emotional turmoil and suffering she experienced is an exaggeration? I also saw another person mention how safe she feels and how she cannot believe this happened because she feels really safe and supported on campus. Such opinions don't contribute to the conversation and don't need to be displayed on a page where someone talks about her reality in which such a horrendous thing did happen.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:00

Thank you so much for telling your story. I have been sexually assaulted but still cannot talk about it. You inspire me to finally face what happened....

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:02

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm so sorry that this all happened, but I'm glad that you're healing. I admire your strength!

The Silent Truth (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:19

I have a blog, where I have been trying to get survivors to share their stories and break their silence. Not many people want to share the things that make them feel as you described. "Shame..." I thank you for sharing your story. I have a story too, that I have not been able to tell to many people. I hope that with my own project, I will learn the strength to let it go. If anyone wants to talk please email silent.truth2010@gmail.com

Thank you.

MHC '09 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:20

I am disgusted by Amherst's bureaucratic, inefficient response to this painful incident. The administrators failed you and I add my voice to those condemning their shameful behavior. I feel for you and thank you for harnessing some deep inner personal courage to write this piece. Please know that people will indeed rally behind you and support you.

I am also infuriated by the fact that sexual violence at institutions of higher learning is continuing to rip apart the lives of young people, specifically women. I work at a small, liberal arts college that is also struggling to competently and fairly address the needs of survivors, and the inaction is beyond unacceptable.

hello (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:21

I love you. thank you.

Olive (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:22

You are amazing. Thank you for sharing this and helping others who have been in situations similar to yours. You are a hero.

yeah right (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:22

no not really. thank you for telling your story, and especially how everyone in society sucks. it is true- if you havent lost a parent or had cancer or been raped or abused you are not inclined to imagine what it is like, you are not sympathetic to the victim- this is the general public.some special individuals are there- but very very few.

Sherry (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:23

I can't even begin to explain the emotions that I felt when reading this. Thank you for sharing your story. It's an outrage that *anyone* who has been sexually assaulted is treated in this way by anyone, and the fact that this happened to you at a college is just despicable. The fact that you were treated even worse because of your lack of family makes it even more despicable, it's like they treated you as though you were less of a human being.

The more people that share their stories, the more hope I have for change over time. I'm very glad that you were empowered and brave enough to do so; you've come a long way. I don't know you, but I'm incredibly proud of you, and I hope that this encourages many more people who have been sexually assaulted to gather the courage to do what they need to for themselves and others.

Thank you.

R (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:26

As a guy, I'm incredibly sorry to hear your story. Rape is a disgusting crime, and I die a little bit inside every time I hear a story where the victim was ignored or mistreated.
However, the fact that you chose to make a stand, and to not allow yourself to be ignored, is fantastic. Hopefully Amherst will take some flak for this (and as a fellow member of the class of 2014 who grew up in Mass but went to college in Florida, I sincerely mean that), and maybe they'll get their shit together.
I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. And remember, keep your chin up and your eyes sharp. Confidence is an incredibly tool. You are strong, and you can overcome this. Good luck!

Bob (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:48

I'm glad Angie chose to write this article - I can't believe it's honesty and urgency are anything less than the truth. I suffered through four years at Amherst (over a six year period) and was never so glad as when I put it behind me. I find none of this unbelieveable - the disgusting T-shirt, the still-existing underground fraternities, the terrible smugness with which students are threatened to stay and fit in and have fun. There were awful incidents of unreported rape and rapant sexism 25 years ago when I was a student and this kind of honesty and passionate defense of self are the only things that will put a dent in the institution. It's about time!

Shocked (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:53

Just want to add my voice to the chorus - Thank you for being so brave!

KenyonCollege12 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:55

Angie- Thank you so much for sharing. Your story needs to be heard, because so many want to pretend that this and other stories like it aren't true. They pretend that rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment doesn't happen because they are afraid—afraid of having to re-examine their own actions, afraid that somehow their lives and liberties will be taken away if our culture becomes sensitive to these issues. You are helping us all move forward towards healing, towards a future that embraces humanity. Your life is just beginning, and everything that you are is going to lead you to do great things. Thank you for not only contributing to a discussion, but inspiring me and others to go out and work. Don't let haters get you down!

Jem White (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 22:57

I've been there and done that. In terms of recovery and rebuilding, you accomplished very quickly what has taken me most of ten years to do. In terms of dealing with the authorities that let you down, you have achieved more than I ever had the opportunity to. You did it without causing more harm than had already been caused, as well. I'm rooting for you, whatever you're doing now.

Alum class of '96 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:13

I'm an alum from the class of '96. Summa Cum Laude. Very proud of my college. Regular supporter. Just received this through Facebook - so I guess we can say it's gone viral. The most unfortunate thing I have to say is that this was really not that much of a surprise. I'm not going to name names here, but in my four years back in the mid-'90s, I remember hearing about a number of rape cases and how they were "made to disappear." These cases are hard to deal with. Kids make mistakes. No one wants a fascist authority monitoring students' private lives. We can't really prove anything. The consequences for the perpetrator would be too great, and the victim would remain victimized either way, so what's the point in an investigation? Amherst's reputation would suffer. A few publicized cases could cost the college its vaunted #1 rank in US News. No other college reports these things, we'd be the only one. No sense martyring the college. It sounds like some bad TV after-school special, but it's the reality a number of young women faced when I was there, and I was told by older students that they had heard the same thing when THEY got there. I love the college for many reasons, but this was- and is- a very dark spot on its reputation. It is a tragic cycle that Biddy Martin must break.

Emily (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:20

This was the epitome of awesomeness.

Great post, you're brave!

michelle too (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:21

dear angie,
i know from experience that in some ways, the emotional abuse that you suffered after the physical assault and violation of your innermost self was akin to being raped again. when i was raped and became pregnant, my mom's first remark was "i can't believe that this is happening to me"--and we won't even discuss the fact that my uterus did not react appropriately and refuse to allow a fertilized egg to implant itself --- meaning this was not a legitimate rape according to some politicians---thus assaulting me emotionally 30 years later.

i am so very impressed by your courage under fire, when all the world seemed to know what was 'best' for you even as they were deaf to the screams as your trust was violated repeatedly. the frank and matter-of-fact tone of your narrative is empowering--rape is not about sex, it's about control and violence inflicted on an innocent. thank you for taking the risk of exposing yourself to even more abuse by going public. you are creating a path to self healing that can be traveled by others traumatized by events beyond their control.

i would like to put forward my opinion that survivor is not the correct word to describe your accomplishments. you are a victor, a winner , in situations where you had no champion, no protector, and almost no one to validate your feelings and experiences or help you to heal.

no institution of higher learning, no classroom, could or should teach you the lessons you learned the hard way--and, sadly, we are still in the dark ages when it comes to coping with situations when a pill or a few palliative remarks are like trying to put a fire out with teaspoons of water.

i could not be more proud of you were you my own child--and regret that no one acted in loco parentis i strive every day to help others to be nicer to themselves than i was when my world view and self view were shattered. i pray that you will be able to leverage your victory over self-doubt and the malice and ignorance of others into a life that brings you happiness and fulfillment.

remember-- V is for victory, vindication, and value--all of it YOURS.

MoHo15 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:26

Your sisters at Mt. Holyoke have got your back! We're all hoping for the best for you, and just know that you have our full support and understanding. Lots of love headed your way from South Hadley.

Elvira (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:27

I cannot put into words how much I admire you. Thank you for touching my life.

Mikayla (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:33

You are a truly brave person to stand up and tell your story. Few people are so sure of themselves to share something like this. This and stories like these are the ones that need to be told. Because for every young person who survives a sexual assault or rape and learns to love life again, there are so many more who will never feel life is worth living and will kill themselves. I was and am a victim of sexual molestation. I say I am a victim because this will forever change my life, my molester was not punished with more than a few years in juvenile detention, then his record was wiped; all because he was a minor. I have never received closure for the events that changed my life, and I might never. All I wanted to say was that having the strength to tell your story makes you someone people should look up to. Thank you and may I have your strength through my life.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:35

Your bravery and strength is incredible. You have made so many strides in your life and touched the lives of countless others by sharing your story. I hope that this helps not only other survivors and prevents future instances but I hope that sharing this has helped you. You deserve everything in the world for the courage and bravery you have shown. Prayers and love from Wisco.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:50

This needs to be talked about everywhere. Though I can not speak for all colleges, my college handled my rape mostly the same way. He was on the football team and they didn't want him to miss games so he was basically scolded and that was it. As I was also on an athletic team, I saw him everywhere - including athletic study hall every night. It was hell and i was reminded that i should've been more careful. I went to a football party - what did i expect? Thank you for your story. Best wishes.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:50

Thank you so much for speaking out and telling your story. I was raped in college, something I wasn't able to admit to myself or speak about until two years after. I also didn't know that my case was considered rape...I thought it was sexual assault. It's scary to speak out. You get blamed. I personally blamed myself. I still think a part of me blames myself... I tried to push it out of my mind like you.

It's astounding that this sort of thing happened with the administration. Sad thing is I'm sure it happens elsewhere. It's sick.

Proud MoHo (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:55

Rape stories are sad and inspire any decent person with a sense of injustice and even righteous anger. But this isn't just a story of a rape incident and its traumatic effects; this is a story about how, to protect it's "reputation," the administration of an institute of HIGHER EDUCATION flat out PROTECTED a rapist. The hardest-hitting line is: "He graduated with honors. I didn't graduate." This woman was tormented in so many ways before she had the guts to pull herself out of the "dream school" that crushed her.

Amherst admins, you should have KNOWN that this would get out. You should have KNOWN your actions were unacceptable (and sickening). You should have KNOWN that this story will affect your reputation FAR more seriously than if you had admitted that a rape occurred on your campus. The repeated abuses suffered by women (also see the "roasting fat ones" tee shirt and the lack of reprimand by the administration) on your campus reek of misogyny and hypocrisy. Universities are supposed to move societies FORWARD. I hope you enjoy the taste of karma, Amherst admin. Crime doesn't pay, and neither does covering it up.

Wellesley (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:55

Thank you for sharing your story! You should seriously consider coming to Wellesley- we would be lucky to have a strong woman like you!

T Galliher (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 23:55

Before my sophomore year at Amherst had barely begun, I was raped. And I didn't even tell my best friend for months because she had told me about her experience at the counseling center. She had gone for depression in regards to ex-boyfriends, and what I heard was horrifying. Someone there had basically told her that what she had gone through wasn't her fault because she was too weak to do anything about it and too young to understand. And she was convinced that it was a personal failure that she had no control over. I refused to go when she recommended it. And I spent the next two years in silence, because my rapist was still there, and he was still affecting the lives of other women. And I have felt horrible for being afraid to speak up, feeling like there was nothing I could say that would make it impossible for him to hurt other women. As an alum, I feel sick to know that this persists, and I wish the school that I did not fault for what happened to me had done something less disgraceful for someone who had the courage to ask for help.

Rex (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/19/2012 - 11:03

When you fail to report - you are an enabler !!!

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/19/2012 - 00:00

Angie, I have never set foot on the campus of Amherst College. I am currently 28 and was sexually assaulted in college. Where I went to school, they followed everything by the book. I received a "rape kit" and was interview multiple times by police. I was also assaulted by an acquaintance who lived in my dorm. I lied to the police because I was scared that no one would believe me. I finally told my rape advocate the true story but decided not to press charges. To be honest, I still regret it. It's unbelievable that Amherst College could be so insensitive to something that if said man were convicted could receive up to 25 years in prison. I am disgusted with Amherst College's handling of your case. I am so thankful to you for sharing your story. I am currently engaged and have not told my finace that I was sexually assaulted in college. It's about time I broke my silence.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/19/2012 - 00:03

You repeatedly said you doubted your strength during these times. I disagree. it takes an incredibly strong person to not buy what victim shamers are selling and to know deep down that what you went through wasn't OK. It took me years to get to that place.

Gnot (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/19/2012 - 00:16

I'm sure Mt Holyoke and Smith (both nearby (w/in 20 mins) women's colleges the writer could have taken up to half of her courses even when enrolled at Amherst - 2 yrs of her college experience) would have been delighted to take the writer as a transfer student. And if their admin wouldn't help you go after Amherst, you bet the student/alum body would have. You need a female lawyer to hassle the hell out of an irresponsible administration for free? You got it. This shit doesn't happen at MHC or Smith. I'm sure students do get assaulted at Amherst/Umass, and Hampshire (though I would hope less there), and if they were Smith or MHC students the school would be on the warpath if this happened to their students.

Stephanie (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/19/2012 - 00:23

Hi, I wanted to thank you for sharing your story. Too often the victim is expected to help herself or himself without any other support - that mindset completely misses the mark that in sexual abuse (or any other type of abuse), a huge marker is a feeling of helplessness. The support network that you were supposed to have clearly did not help fight those emotions. Your article is going to - and already has - spark discussion about the role of administrative systems and society in viewing and helping victims. I wish you all the best in life.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/19/2012 - 00:25

You are an incredible woman and please do not forget it. I also want to let everyone know that people out there, as progressive and humane as they seem, are not always so. Mental illness, including ones that arise from abuse, including PTSD, are still not adequately understood even by "progressive" organizations and companies. This includes organizations purporting to help the mentally ill. I applaud your decision to come forward with your story. That took incredible bravery. Having said that, remember there are many inhumane, lousy people out there disguised as compassionate people. What happened at Amherst happens daily and every where.

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