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:

A Principal in NYC (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 09:34

Thank you for your courage to share your story. Thank you for persevering. As a survivor of date rape so many years ago, I understand some of the emotions. As a high school principal, I see the administrations response and pray that I will never make the same moves they did. I hope that Amherst and other schools take notice, and improve their sexual assault prevention and counseling programs.

Simon (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 09:44

I am amazed when I hear of colleges still treated the victim as the criminal. There needs to be a clear message sent. The "alleged" rapist needs to be immediately confronted and questioned by school authorities. Their words cannot clear themselves and fraternities and other organizations that provide a hiding places for these individuals must be closed! Send a clear message that this will not be tolerated.

The Penn State atrocities should teach schools that being only concerned with their reputation is wrong and will cost them future students and Millions in damages. I'm sure that the victims in that case will sue and win enormous settlements and maybe this is the only thing that will teach Ivy League schools how to change. So sad but true that these brave women may have to stoop to litigation to get people to wake up.

Victor (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 09:49

A question for those of you decrying "victim blaming" comments: Do you believe we should NOT teach women strategies to avoid being raped?

I wholeheartedly agree that rape is the fault of the rapist, just as murder is the fault of the murderer. I wholeheartedly agree with widespread, open education about rape for everyone as part of general sexual education, especially with good male role models for young boys, and a decrease of violence against women in media. I wholeheartedly agree with strong punishment for convicted rapists.

However, given that rapists are actually criminals, do you really believe that education will prevent all rapes? I believe it would not. After all, educating children that stealing is wrong does not prevent all thefts. Murderers and pedophiles still roam the streets.

Hopefully most can agree with that sentiment. In that case, I think it would be irresponsible of us as a society to ignore the other side of rape prevention.

Training to avoid or deal with an emergency can save your life. This is why soldiers, police and firefighters train. This is why people attend self-defense courses. And yes, as someone wrote, this is why we tell people not to flash cash in dangerous areas while traveling.

Victims/survivors - it's not your fault. Please speak out, share your story and help ensure the attacker does not create more victims.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 10:32

How about we teach MEN not to rape women?
Women cannot prevent rape. People have been giving us well-meaning advice for generations, often comparing our bodies, which we live in, which are us, with property. It doesn't prevent rape. It just makes us live in fear and limit where we feel safe to go in public.
No matter how well you're trained, you can always freeze up in a crisis. It happens to soldiers, police, and firefighters. And you know what? Except in the case of drafted military personnel, all those people signed up for their jobs. I didn't sign up to be targeted by rape culture, and I seethingly resent the implication that I have some kind of obligation to become a self-defense expert so that I am not victimized by men.
Rapists don't fit your apparent stereotype of some crazed villian jumping out of the bushes. They're fathers, brothers, uncles, sons, husbands, boyfriends, bosses, co-workers, clergy, teachers, coaches, and other men whom women are taught to trust -- and who are so often believed over their victims, because they're "respectable."
Want to prevent rape? Stop lecturing women and start working on men.

Victor (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 12:50

Kindly re-read my post. I said I wholly support education. I was very clear about this.

You did not answer my question. Do you believe we should not teach women anything about how to best avoid rape?

>Women cannot prevent rape.

Women can *absolutely* do things to reduce their risk of being raped, from walking in pairs at night to staying out of bad areas to being careful with their drinks at parties to learning self-defense. I assume you are a woman. Do you really believe women are so helpless that they cannot help themselves avoid a threatening situation?

Finally, I said nothing about any 'crazed villian' (sic), and I'm aware of the statistics you posted. However, a women trained in basic self-defense can certainly kick a boyfriend in the balls just as easily (or more easily) than a crazed villain.

You certainly didn't sign up to targeted by rape culture (culture? really?) just as I didn't sign up to be mugged when walking in an alley. However, I'd rather learn to defend myself from the mugger than argue semantics and philosophy when I'm lying bleeding on the ground.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 10:58

I am so sorry that a rapist assaulted you- to have your innocence and trust shattered and debased at a time when you should have been a fully entitled woman is an Outrage. And to think that the callous rapist gradated with honors is sickening.

Amherst's treatment of you was a second crime. As I read your story, I was repeatedly heart-broken by the cold, inappropriate responses of the individuals and institutions you turned to for help. I am so impressed that you had the inner strength to persevere! Kudos to you!

Amherst (all colleges) are not facing the real problem- that a certain percentage of the men they admit are going to be rapists and they better do everything they can to contain this reality. It's time to stop tip-toeing around the issue. We live in a patriarchal society, 1 in 4 or 5 women are sexually assaulted during their college experience (let that statistic sink in please), and historically colleges deal with their problem by ignoring it and marginalizing the crime (and the victims).

Courageous women are going to have to fight in order to fix what is really a huge Civil Rights issue. Once women are not silenced by their shame we can make changes. Articles like this are a brave start-let's hope Amherst makes good on their promises and becomes a national model. We will need more women to stand up to the challenge.

On another note, I think that once there is a "threshold of change" that a majority of men would welcome college cultures where rape is outed and punished. I must suck to be a college guy who knows who the rapists are, but doesn't feel he'd be accepted if he spoke up.

Dave (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 11:36

Ms. Epifano has performed an invaluable service telling her story, as it has raised awareness and probably given courage to others who have been similarly violated.

Janine (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 11:53

Thank you for your courage and sharing your story

Blaine Collison (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 11:54

Amherst, you have cost yourself exactly the kind of student who would have been a long-term credit to your institution and proof-positive of the value of education. The institutional failures would seem to border on malfeasance. Quite frankly, what in the hell is wrong with you institutionally and as a group of "professionals" that you would repeatedly treat one of your students (i.e., one of your clients!) this way?

Ms. Epifano, you've done a hell of a thing here. You are to be commended. Whatever institution you choose to finish your undergraduate career will be lucky to have you. Please keep at it. I can't imagine how difficult this must all have been and can imagine that it continues to be a challenge. Hang in. Ask for help when you need it. You're one of the special ones.

Jane (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 11:57

You are brave and courageous for telling your story, in the face of so much opposition. I am deeply inspired by your strength. You will probably never know how many young women you are saving--literally saving--by speaking openly about something that is too often cloaked in silence and shame.

I had a very similar experience at Harvard. When we first arrived at the school for Freshman orientation, they told us specifically not to report any rapes to the police. "You'll have to get a rape kit done, which is very invasive. You'll have to go through a trial, which is very public and often doesn't go your way. Our school has its own disciplinary system which gives you the opportunity to get justice in a private way. It's better." I know they said this, because I remember thinking later that if I'd had a rape kit done after my date rape, I would have had some evidence against my attacker. If I'd taken pictures of the bruises he left on my body, there would be no arguing about what color they were. Instead, I took the university's advice and after my rape, I went back to my dorm room, threw up, and sat on the floor of the shower for several hours, shaking and crying.

I sought out help through the university. I went to their rape crisis counselor, who told me basically what yours did. "Well, it's very difficult to take your rapist to the ad board (Harvard's disciplinary process). Are you sure it was rape?" I went to student peer counselors who looked at me wide-eyed and said, "What are you doing to do?" I learned quickly that if I was going to get through this, I was on my own. The help that was available was, simply put, not helpful.

He lived in the dorm next to mine and would come eat in our dining hall. I shook every time I saw him. I barely made it through that semester without leaving. I saw what would happen if you mentioned any dark thoughts to a university counselor. A close friend of mine was whisked away to a mental hospital at the very first mention of the word suicide. Never mind that she'd been asking for help and structure for months before that and was completely ignored.

Two years later, a woman told me about a questionable sexual experience she'd had with the same student who raped me. Knowing that he might be doing this to others made something snap in me. I decided I needed to take him before the ad board. I was discouraged from doing so, but I did have one advisor who helped me with my statements. I wrote 30 single spaced pages of material about what had happened to me. He wrote three or four, and basically all he could say was,"She's lying." I realized that he had been drinking enough that he may not have even remembered the details of what he did. I had not drunk anything that night and I remembered every agonizing moment of the multiple-hour ordeal.

At the same time, I was also finishing my senior thesis and preparing for oral exams. They would not allow me to postpone my orals, even though my ad board hearing was scheduled on the same day. "Our schedule is too busy," they said.

At the first ad board hearing, the old white men around the table asked me many invasive questions. They were allowed to do so, because of the way the ad board was run. One of the old white men actually fell asleep during my hearing while I was speaking. He had been my freshman advisor. I don't think he remembered who I was. His one piece of advice to me had been that I should take a class about Greek coins. Then he disappeared for the rest of the year. At Harvard, they are proud of the saying, "Mother Harvard does not coddle her young." It's a sink or swim philosophy put into action and it stinks.

In the end, they decided it was a "he said, she said" case and they couldn't say for sure which way it happened. That was a victory for me. They could have thrown the whole thing out, and I believe they wanted to. My rapist was a key player on a sports team and I had heard that his father was a Harvard professor. I, on the other hand, was a poor kid from out west, the first person in my family to leave their home state for college. So I felt proud of my small victory. And I felt proud that I'd stood up and spoken the truth about what had happened to me.

Moments after the case was decided, my advisor called me to ask for all of my copies of the statements in the "case." It was Harvard policy, she said, to destroy them. It was creepy. "Don't worry," she said. "You'll have copies in your school file." I had my boyfriend take the whole pile and make photocopies while I spoke to her on the phone. I still have them. I haven't been able to bring myself to go to Harvard to look at my file and see if the statements are there. I will be pleasantly surprised if they are.

As I graduated, I felt deeply cynical and even used by the institution. I felt that I had been carted in by Harvard to give privileged students a "diverse" experience before they retreated again into their families' closed worlds of wealth and connections. I was glad to have my degree and education, but it was not worth what it cost me personally. If universities are going to benefit from the diversity they create, they have a direct responsibility to take care of the diverse individuals they gather.

I am so sorry for what you've experienced. Please know that you are not alone and that life after college gets better. Lots better!

John William L. (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 12:01

This should be obligatory literature for all young men. This way rapists can at least not pretend not to have realized the immense harm caused by their acts. Ruining lives for an undeserved orgasm. Unbelievable. Pathetic. Horrible.

All the best with your recovery. May now the rapist suffer from hate mail, and who knows guilt, if he knows such a thing, for the rest of his life.

BAW (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 13:24

Angie, thank you for your courage. COURAGE. BRAVERY. FORTITUDE. That's you. It resonates far beyond this paper, this harrowing experience, this pathetic clan of administrators who showed the reverse in their callousness, cowardice, myopathy and cruelty. You have shown an exceptional core of strength to survive these ongoing attacks to your individual dignity. You are an inspiration to anyone resisting systems that oppress and devalue. This kind of bravery changes the world.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 13:44

When society constantly reminds you that you could be mugged at any time, and you severely curtail your goings-about because of it, and when men who are mugged are blamed and shamed for it and muggers released because who knows if you willingly gave him your money, get back to me.
"Bad areas"? What about poor women who LIVE in "bad areas"? What about women who have to walk through them to get to and from work? I guess they should know better, eh? And jobs in "better areas" are so easy to find these days, eh?
Are you going to now tell me that women just shouldn't relax and get drunk in the presence of men at all? Gosh, that won't leave us to deal with the whiners who call us "man-haters" if we don't trust them implicitly, right, or their aiders and abetters who tell you what a "nice guy" the whiner is? Oh, wait, that's not a big deal to you, because you don't have to deal with the social fallout from it — from co-workers/bosses and family, not just friends and acquaintances — so you can continue to pontificate about how you'd "rather be alive and unharmed."
As for kicking a boyfriend in the balls, yeah, enjoy explaining to the cops that you were defending yourself. All the Tuff Guyz who say, "Just punch/kick/shoot him" don't take into account that women are judged much more harshly for defending ourselves than men are, because "that's not ladylike."
More reading for you.
I'm so damn sick of men who mansplain this shit to women when they don't have the first clue about it and think they can extrapolate form their own experience as the gender that isn't oppressed. Check your male privilege, thank you.
Oh, and mea maxima culpa for the damn typo. I've got a cold and I'm on cough medicine.

Victor (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 01:43


First, I never said that self-defense training was the "be-all and end-all of rape prevention". I began with education, very clearly, but for some reason you're choosing to ignore that.

Second, I did not try to equate the fallout from rape with the fallout from a mugging. I did not try to equate societal views of rape with those on mugging. I feel you're being intellectually dishonest in accusing me of that.

All I did was talk about prevention of those two events, and that there are certainly things one can do to help avoid being raped or mugged in the first place. Of course it's no guarantee, but there are absolutely things you can do to mitigate risk.

Let me be clear one more time: I am not speaking about the after-effects of rape. I am not speaking about the psychological effects on victims. I am not speaking about society's blame culture. I am speaking only about the timeline before a rape occurs, ok?

Though I don't live in a "bad area", I will guess that women who do have learned to behave somewhat differently than those who don't. Again, you have not answered my question: Do you believe we should not teach women to defend themselves?

I read the link you posted (are you the author?). I agree with much of what she wrote. I especially liked reason #3, where she says 15-50% of women with training are still raped, and those that are raped despite training generally feel less-responsible. To me, that's positive news. Even if it was 99%, that's one woman in 100 who avoided rape. Isn't that a good thing??

I feel strongly that the idea that women can do nothing to prevent rape takes power away from women, and enables "rape culture" as you put it. Women are clever and strong and should be taught to make use of their skills to defend themselves.

I'll end this by saying that your anger here is misdirected. I have more close female friends than male friends, and all have been told (explicitly) to call me 24-7 if they are somewhere where they feel uncomfortable and want company walking home. If I walked in on my best (male) friend clearly raping a girl, I'd beat the shit out of him and then call the police. This isn't "tough guy bullshit", and I'm not a violent person; rape simply disgusts me.


Evan (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 13:45

Angie, you are so brave to confront the man who hurt you, the school that didn't care, and most importantly, your own self-doubt about doing the right thing. And it looks like your story is forcing the administration to admit their mistakes. I think you should go one step further and name the man who hurt you. Your story has taken on a new dimension, a public and cultural dimension, and the person who caused so much harm should not be allowed to continue living life as if he did nothing wrong. Rapists should know that they're running out of places to hide.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 13:46

"To Anonymous (if that is your real name)" isn't half-condescending and smug, is it?

dan (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 14:22

I cannot imagine a more degrading, spirit crushing experience, from the administration. To deny what happened, minimize, call your honesty and sanity into question, to not accept anything you say and micromanage every decision, taking away independance and autonomy, a one year emotional-intellectual rape.

Eric (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 14:35

A very similar story (although without withdrawal from the university) occurred to my friend at Georgetown. Her attacker graduated with honors and is now doctor at a prestigious institution since the deans did nothing to punish him. The attack occurred off campus and a jury of students (not faculty) ruled that my friend had no recourse. All they did was convince my friend to drop her charges. All she could do was obtain a restraining order with the help of a pro bono lawyer.

Charla (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 14:45

The article spoke little to the specifics of the crime. That's very understandable, it's no one's business and a deeply distressing thing to have to retell. The responses key off of that lack of detail, implying what might have happened or could have happened. I found myself doing something similar after 9-11, imagining how I might have figured a way to escape the 106th floor. It was my own fear and denial that I might somehow be a potential victim. Like the worker in the sex counseling organization, I fantasized that it couldnt possibly happen to me if I learn how to get myself out of the situation. Now that doesn't mean we all cant be cautious and learn how to deal with dire situations. But, anyone can be a victim no matter the training. The good that comes of this may be greater awareness by both men and women, better training of men to ingrain the idea that they can't assume willingness by default. It's not so much failing to say "no"; absence of "yes" can only mean one thing, lack of consent.

William L. Free... (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 16:20

Ms. Epifano,

I am truly sorry you were forced to have your horrible, truly painful [= full of pain], experiences. The misery, anguish and shame people at my Alma Mater caused you were appalling.

As a graduate in '62, I feel a "corporate responsibility" for such events and behaviors at Amherst. I apologize. (I know my apology is inadequate.)

I am sorry also, that so many responses to your article ignored you and your suffering. In the first page of Replies to your on-line "Amherst Student" article, 44 Replies were not to or about you, but were responses to the second Reply (that was 12 lines on my screen); another 4 replies were to Ed's Reply. Only one reply, the first, was to you and your article of more than 500 lines. The last page of Replies were better: 19 Replies were about other than you; 3 included one or two sentences to you in the midst of most attention being on other topics; 10 were full responses to you, 2 of them reporting a similar personal experience. (I did not read the Reply pages in between.)

Yet again, as in tour story, most Replies did not respond to YOU -- ANGIE EPIFANO -- A HUMAN BEING, A PERSON WITH FEELINGS.

Appalling, yet again. I am sad for this more recent round, and I apologize for it, too.

I know my words are not enough. I am sorry I cannot do more to respond to you.

I sincerely hope you continue to fight, and to be neither shamed nor ashamed. I wish you all the best possible.

William L. Freeman, MD, MPH, Amherst '62
Program Director, Northwest Indian College Center for Health
Human Protections Administrator
Northwest Indian College
Lummi Nation
2522 Kwina Road
Bellingham, WA 98226-9217
home: PO Box 5293 Bellingham, WA 98227-5293 360-758-2175

Alex (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 15:24

What a brave, important article.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 15:56

And Biddy's attempts for action are just a coverup.

Jack (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 16:11

The entire time I was reading the article, I kept asking myself the same question: so who is the rapist? Confidentiality and/or statute of limitation laws be damned, what really aggravates me is the fact that whoever this guy is, he was allowed to graduate, with honors at that. Talk about impunity! Sure the school is to blame, but I say expose the rapist. He needs a taste of the agony Ms. Epifano had (and still has) to go through.

Peter Alfvin (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 17:52


I, too, am so sorry for your suffering. I, too, apologize for your treatment by the college. And finally, I, too, thank you for the heroic contribution you have made to other victims and society at large by coming forward as you have. I hope your healing continues and wish you nothing but the best as you move forward in life.

Peter Alfvin '75

Marci (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 18:40

Your bravery in sharing your story with the larger world is... not even describable by other words. That so many folks have "responded" to proclaim what they think is helpful or true, to express anger or outrage against insensitive remarks by other "responders", or otherwise vent - or give advice (Lord, help us all!) - only indicates, I think, how little understanding about sexual assault is really shared among folks - and how few opportunities exist that invite survivors and those affected by sexual assault (all of us!) to talk about our experiences. You stepped out, though. And for some, it seems, that opened up a 'can of worms'; others just wanted to open up a 'can of whoop-ass'. For me, both; plus, you opened my heart. You truly are a miracle, Ms. Epifano, and we in the world are lucky that you chose to share your experience with us; I am lucky to learn of your bravery in the face of so very many layers of betrayal and abandonment. Thank you, for telling us. Thank you for letting me be a part of your story, a witness. I know that your behavior did not contribute to the crime: The rapist gave himSELF permission to sexually assault you - and so did our "rape culture", evidenced by the traumatic aftermath you told us about. I think the Dean's decision to keep you from your study-abroad experience - ESPECIALLY after putting you through the petitioning process (which should never have happened, in my opinion) - was part of that trauma, in the guise of paternalism (motivated by career and institutional self-protection, no doubt).

When our culture fails to understand the crime of rape, we are all complicit in it: I'm so very sorry about the way you were treated when you reported the crime; I only echo many others when I say that such treatment - from so-called professionals, no less! - is abhorrent, wrong-headed, and just idiotic. You are AMAZING to have withstood such emotional battering after the already horrendous physical violation - and to have persisted in your own advocacy!

It's been a few decades since I was raped, more than once - including a college campus experience. It took time and more patience than I thought I could bear for me to heal. And, those I 'knew' would support me were the ones whose betrayal I felt most deeply - because of their doubt, lack of outrage, or their silence... so I doubted my own ability to perceive correctly who was trustworthy, who really loved me: I was in an emotional shit-storm for a good while, and I re-learned trust building. But you know what? That structure is now built on solid firmament, baby! The only other so-called 'positive' outcome of my own experience is that I've been able to listen with empathy when other women (and, sometimes, men) decide to share their own stories of sexual assault. There are too many. YOURS, by itself, is "too many"! I am so sorry that rapist made you his victim. I am heartened that you have made yourself a Survivor. You will stay in my heart, Ms. Epifano; there is a safe place for you there. If you ever doubt that you are a miracle, please know that I remember that you ARE!

Lisa D. (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 19:23

Thank you, Angie, for speaking out. You have helped so many people. I hope that helps alleviate some of the pain/shame.

--- The larger community (the world) needs to face up to this reality of sexual interaction. Women in college are particularly vulnerable because they have been taught that strong women can go anywhere. They are not taught that many men are predators and extreme caution must be taken. Independence and the right to do the same things that men do is what we all want and expect. But a young woman drunk is easy prey and that's where we women have to be realistic about the nature of mankind. Some people are good and some people are bad and alcohol loosens whatever societal restraints there are!

--- I remember an angry male friend telling me that he really resents females treating him like he's a rapist without knowing him. I was dumfounded. I asked incredulously, "Since 'RAPIST' isn't written on a man's forehead how is a woman to know who can be trusted?" Trustworthiness clearly should be proven and, even then, a victim isn't necessarily safe....judging from the disturbingly high percentage of rapes done by friends and family members. But no, my friend was focused only on his own tender most of us are. That is why RAPE must be treated as a real phenomenon, one that is openly talked about, so young women can be forewarned and forearmed!

--- I also agree that men need to be taught not to rape!!! Instead, the male culture glorifies conquest and quantity. Women are objectified and demeaned casually all the time. This is our reality. So many men revel in that culture that I have no expections that men will clean it up. (Yes, an individual man can be incredibly wonderful but he cannot personally make all men treat women respectfully.) We women, on the other hand, could raise our sons to have feelings and to understand right and wrong regarding personal boundaries. "Boys will be boys" is NOT true or helpful! Research shows that boys can develop this part of themselves (and yes, research shows that girls can learn math!). We need to think bigger than we are currently.

--- For those men out there who feel like I have just slimed them all...
I am so thankful to be in a country that has supported the empowerment of women. Our larger culture is eons better than cultures like those in the Middle East, for example!!! To all the American men who have contributed to our progressive culture, I thank you! It is the right thing to do. To the REAL gentlemen, thank you, thank you, thank you! (Now please teach others.)

--- We just need to keep evolving in the right direction. Bravery like Angie's is SO important because change doesn't happen without truth being widely known. She was very lucky to have had a forum (thank you to The Amherst Student!) I too was surprised that 100 rapes a year is average for colleges. Ask yourself...why don't we know that? And why isn't it made abundantly clear to freshman girls? (or women joining our military forces, etc., etc., etc.!)

--- Of course, we haven't even scratched the surface on how many people (male and female, young and old) are horribley abused annually in this country. Somehow, it's too delicate to talk about...reputations may be damaged...

--- It's time to STOP THE COVER-UP!!!!!

Andie Davidson (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 23:00

I can't pretend to know what you've gone through, but I know how hard it is to speak up when something is wrong, and I just wanted to say how much I admire you for this. It takes an incredibly strong person to handle a horrible situation like you have, and I hope you know that you completely deserve happiness and the life you choose. It's ridiculous and sad that Amherst handled this the way it did, but you obviously have the strength and character to make the life you want for yourself somewhere else, and I wish you the best of luck in that.

sooner (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 01:08

I find your account credible and Amherst's response absolutely reprehensible (shades of Sandusky) but your prose seems to reveal a (previous to the rape?) unbalanced mind...I hope you eventually find peace and I hope that your rapist eventually finds his room in hell.
I'm sending this to my daughter at Bryn Mawr

SPD (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 03:10
edhazer (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 11:31

As bad as the rape must have been for this young lady, it was the foolish act of an inconsiderate and poorly socialized individual. He should have been punished, given counseling, and perhaps even allowed to return to the university once he acknowledged his crime.

The response by the university administration, however, was a calculated and apparently standard, conspiracy to harm a young lady under their supervision in an effort to protect themselves both from criticism and from confronting reality.

I would like to say that this brave young lady has stymied their plans, but sadly there are hundreds of girls like Angie, and a thousand Amhersts. Things will only change when those in positions of authority are held responsible for their decisions.

SHERWINO (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 11:44

The subtext to this states that it is an account of a sexual assault. However there only detail of the assault indicates a roommates on the other side of the door unknowingly talking and joking as she was held down. What are the details that both parties provided, as well as those of the roommates on the other side of the door, that Amherst reviewed?

Lana Caprina (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 05:21

Do you know what a subtext is? Did you read the article? I doubt it. Did you think Amherst subpoenaed the rapist to give his "side," or is your subtext just victim blaming? Amherst didn't support taking action- because the rapist was graduating.
You've missed the point anyway. This young woman, who could identify her rapist, was given a tissue (at least I hope so), some wrong-headed platitudes, some hurtful decisions, and a lot of victim-blaming by administrators who protected the University's reputation instead of caring for her and protecting other women on campus.
This isn't rocket science. No counselor or administrator can justify ignorance about rape culture on campus. It's unforgivable -- they know more about football! They should at least know how to find qualified, competent people, as Amherst's new President is doing. It IS a university; how can they teach change if they won't learn?
(Of course, victim blaming is comforting; it means it can't happen to YOU, or it maybe it wasn't REAL rape, sometimes called "rape rape"). It means you're safe, boys will be boys, lighten up, it's just a t-shirt!

Suzanne Z (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 14:04

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.
If you hadn't decided to let publish this, you would've been within your full right, you would've deserved every bit as much respect and love and caring... But now, additionally, you have my immense gratitude. It's because of people like you that attitudes and laws have been slowly changing for the better. Twentyfive years ago the counselor might have yelled at rape victims for being sluts - brave hardworking women changed that. Let's hope it's less than 25 years until rape victims at Amherst are told "what happened to you was an atrocity. I will do everything in my power to help you heal."

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 16:22

" express anger or outrage against insensitive remarks by other 'responders'...only indicates, I think, how little understanding about sexual assault is really shared among folks..."
And some of us are trying to correct that misunderstanding. Imagine that.
"When our culture fails to understand the crime of rape, we are all complicit in it."
No, I don't think as a woman who fights against rape culture I'm "complicit in it," but thanks for attempting to spread the blame as thinly as possible.
Lisa D.:
"Our larger culture is eons better than cultures like those in the Middle East, for example!!!"
Don't kid yourself. We have our own Taliban, but they're xtian instead of muslim. The murders of women by their significant others seldom get much attention here, unless the victim is a Photogenic White Woman... but a woman who murders is in the media spotlight for months.
Drohan: What a wonderfully passive-aggressive and derailing essay! Yes, of course, silly Angie, to feel anxious around men! I mean, it's not like there's this thing called *rape culture* mainly perpetrated by men against women, right? And rape isn't that big a deal, right, except that our society makes it a big deal? Also, waht about the menz??? ... Oh, wait, you're a Catholic... that explains much. Nice of you to elide the role your religion plays in sexual shame, btw.

Aidan Orly (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 20:30

As an Opinion's writer in the school newspaper at Pomona College, I appreciate the courage you took to write this. It exemplifies the importance of Opinions Writers as well as the power of each person's ideas and words.

Visionary Bri (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 02:31

I'm a rape survivor, too. I was made to feel the same way, too, by people who knew both myself and my rapist. I'm sorry you had to go through this, but it sounds like you've been able to turn such a horrible experience around into something positive, both in your life and with what you're sharing with the world. I hear you, sister. Seems like a lot of us do. You're not alone. All of us survivors are in this, together.

Angela (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 06:40

You're so strong and brave. Thank you for posting. Silence does have a rusty taste of shame. Thank you for putting into words emotions and frustrations that even after 12 years since my rape- they are still embedded in my brain and are hard to explain. Because that's what I felt I was doing most of the time, explaining myself ....I was the victim, going through all the proper "University of Rhode Island" channels and police channels ...but always feeling oppressed and how dare I accuse an honor student, member of a prestigious fraternity, with such high prospects of raping me.

James Herms (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 10:08

Angela A. Epifano’s parents are Anthony J. Epifano, 62, and Angela L. Epifano, 49, of Green Cove Springs, FL.  The father is a past Commander of the Air Force News Agency.


   “[I]n the Administration’s eyes I was the most base individual: a poor and parentless humanities major who was the school’s token-Deep-Southerner.…
   “You don’t have parents.  What are you going to do?”



   “Angela Epifano … recently received the Art Guild of Orange Park’s $1,000 scholarship award for 2010.  She plans to attend Amherst College ….
   “Her parents, Angela and Anthony Epifano, … also attended the award ceremony ….”



   “Air Force News Agency
   “Commander:  Col. Anthony J. Epifano”


Epifano, at paras. 108, 122.
Ridgeview’s Angela Epifano Earns Art Guild Scholarship, Fla. Times-Union, July 10, 2010, at M12.
Photochart of USAF Leadership, Air Force Mag., Sept. 2004, at 86, 93.

About this college president, Dr. Biddy Martin.  Has she or the Epifanos been asked to make state & federal rape-reporting project leaders look like gameplayers?  If so, who asked her to, and why now?

James K. Herms, Project Advisor
MIT Crime Club
(617) 491-6633

kate (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 14:43

hey angie, i am a survivor of sexual assault. it took place during winter of my freshman year of college and i never reported it. but when i depressed in grad school, years later, i was also caught up in the administration's rules about psychiatric care, like you described. i think your article brings out two really important points:

1. that survivors of rape or assault are often dismissed by everyone around them-- including 'friends'
2. that college administrators tend to be more interested in liability than in students' well-being.

i'm really glad you wrote this article; i hope the Amherst administration gets a lot of shit for it, and maybe even PROSECUTES THE RAPISTS.

keep on keeping on.

Listener (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 15:12

I was struck in reading the victim's courageous account and president Biddy Martin's response by the absolute necessity for any woman who is raped to have a rape kit done.

As a woman who was a victim of date rape many years ago, I can assure you that you will always wonder whether the rapist raped again. So don't let morning after doubts or shame deter you. If you never gave your consent—or if at any point during an encounter you changed your mind and said no—it is rape.

Even if you are ashamed and want to put it behind you, document the incident in a legal way. As this victim so eloquently demonstrated, you will find that it's impossible to put such an incident out of your mind.

Every Massachusetts hospital has the ability to gather evidence of a sexual assault (a rape kit) to use in case you choose to press charges. Be sure that you have the evidence you need so you won't be at the mercy of individuals or institutions operating in their own interests outside the legal system. Protect yourself and get to the local police department or hospital.

See these pages for more information about how to get a rape kit done in the Amherst area and in Massachusetts generally:

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 17:08

Angie, thank you for your bravery in speaking out.

I was date-raped when I was a student at Vassar College in the 1980s, and I experienced similar insensitivity from the counsellor who I went to for help. Fortunately my rapist was not a fellow student, and I was spared the ordeal of his being on campus. I can only imagine how awful that must have been. The Kafkaesque response of the administration to your academic situation was truly dreadful to read about. I'm terribly sorry you had to endure it.

Despite my relatively lucky situation, I still had a very rough time of it. Like you, I felt utterly isolated and unsupported at my school, but unlike you I didn't speak out. I threw myself into work and denial for years. I developed PTSD, which was hard on my family and extremely painful for me. Only when the symptoms became totally unmanageable did I risk speaking to a therapist again, and fortunately this time I found a talented professional who was competent to help me. Thanks to her and a lot of hard work on my own part, I have a very happy life now. Still, I can't help but wonder how the trajectory of my life might have been different, and how much suffering on the part of myself and my loved ones might have been avoided, if the person who I went to for help in the first place had acted effectively and compassionately instead of shaming me into silence for so many years.

I'm sure that telling your story so frankly and forthrightly will help you avoid some of the longterm difficulties I had to go through. It also seems that your account has made a direct impact on Amherst's administration, and hopefully that will lead to lasting change. Subjecting ambitious, self-confident young women to the type of treatment you received is a tragedy, and not only for the parties directly involved. If we drive the best and brightest of our young women out of our elite schools in this awful manner, society as a whole is bound to suffer.

Many, many good wishes to you. Your courage is so inspiring to me, and I know I'm not the only one who relates to your story.

Carol Wolf (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 19:31

I have been haunted by this account since I read it. Consider this. The statute of limitations for rape in Massachussetts is 15 years. I don't think the writer would have much trouble proving sexual assault, because the perpetrator provided witnesses. Here are some uncomfortable questions for the perpetrator:
1. What were you doing in her room?
2. Your friends were standing outside the door. What did they think you were doing in her room?
3. How long were you in her room?
4. What clothes did you remove?
5. If this was consensual sex, why were you holding her down?
6. What did you say to your friends when you left the room?
7. Did you call or e-mail the woman afterward?
8. How many times had you seen/talked to/gone out with her before the incident?
The answers to these questions, if this were a consensual, romantic interlude, would be quite different than if they are, as the writer states, a sexual assault. For example, if this were a romantic escapade, there should be some history of interaction leading up to it. Also, his friends would not be waiting outside the door. The shape of this encounter as it unfolded has distinct hallmarks of sexual assault. If the accused perpetrator and his friends were questioned under oath, I think the young woman might well get herself some justice.

George Marx - A... (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 19:49

I'm sorry! I don't want to get into a debate with some of the previous responders here. Please see: A Men's Project - - for resources that may help men (and women) related to rape (as well as other issues). The Amherst Area has some good organizations and leaders on these issues. I'm happy to be of any assistance - email: info AT (the URL of the website after the "w." . I'd be happy to help anyone concerned however I can. - The National Sexual Violence Resource Center - is the largest and best resource for much that has been discussed here. Good Luck!

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 20:21

Thank you for your courage - I admire all that you continue to accomplish on so many levels. You were right to walk away from shameful Amherst and deny them the opportunity to pursue their distorted agenda at your cost. It's your life to live; you now know that you deserve far better. You are clearly bright, you are a survivor, and have rightly earned your own trust; go forth and build the life you truly want to live. We who have read your story will be rooting for you.

Georgia (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 22:25

It feels all too familiar ... the pain, depression, and self loathing. The only thing about this story that shocked me was the DATE it occurred. Blows my mind that college rape and college gang rape continue to happen. My best to you, brave Angie. George Marx, thanks for putting me on to this story.

e (not verified) says:
Tue, 10/30/2012 - 13:40

Rape is a soul changing event. I lost my virginity unwillingly at 14 to an 18 year old "cool" kid from my school. I was trapped, alone and scared. The innocence in my soul was destroyed. I felt disgusting and for months, even every now and then to this day, I go over every event of the night and all the opportunities I had to avoid it from happening. I told 2 friends after it happened, who told people, which lead to him IMing me that he didn't rape me and I better not ever fucking tell anyone that again or else. I was terrified. It took me until I was 16 to tell me shrink, who I had been seeing for a year at that point. Now it is something I can talk about, but it is still a terrifying and disgusting event from my past and it is so easing when you know you are not alone when it comes to the emotion it instilled in you.

JW (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/31/2012 - 23:05

We're hearing you in California. I don't know what else to say except that I love you and thank you for your fierce, undying strength.

Pat (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 10:02

I read your story in horror. As a licensed social worker and psychotherapist I am horrified that you were never given the opportunity to self-determine what occurred after the rape. We in the mental health profession are given the awesome responsibility to care for people dealing with often the most traumatic events of their lives. I apologize for the poorly trained counselor on campus, I apologize for the hospital staff that did not validate your concerns and dismissed what you reported and mostly I apologize that it took so long for you to get the correct support you needed to heal. As professionals charged with helping people to emotionally heal, we must do better.

Taylor (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 13:19

As a rape survivor myself, I am so proud of you, Angie. Though I do not know you, I am the same age, am attending a private university in New York, and also experienced rape as a freshman. I never spoke out about what happened to me other than to a few friends. I never took action but healed (at least partially) in my own way. If I had spoken out, I do not know how my school would have reacted. Regardless, I wish I had been stronger and able to push myself as you did. I commend you for sticking to your guns and not giving up, no matter what anyone said or did to you. Amherst lost a strong, independent woman when you walked out the door. Through your actions, you have given a voice to all of us who feel that we cannot speak up for ourselves. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For awhile I have aspired to develop my own voice and act to prevent rape from happening on my campus. Reading your story has given me the courage to act on this aspiration. I truly cannot thank you enough.

Demma Rodriguez (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 14:22

Ms. Epifano is a brave woman whose story is a common one. When I was a student at Amherst, I knew 3 women who were raped on campus, reported it, and experienced very similar treatment. Its anecdotal, but I think its significant that when I was there 2000-2004, an average of three rapes a semester were reported. Not one made it to DA's office. That is a crime in and of itself...Rape is a crime and not just because its against the law. Its a crime against humanity to take someone's will away from them and brutalize them sexually. Reported allegations of crime should be investigated by the police, not some committee on campus. I hope this story and the testimonies on many other women are heard out and action is taken.