A Personal Letter to President Martin
Issue   |   Wed, 10/24/2012 - 02:02

Trigger Warning: This letter mentions an incident of sexual assault.

My name is Alexis, and I’m a former Mount Holyoke College student. In 2011, I was raped at Amherst College and went through the disciplinary hearing process.

I would just like to personally thank you for being so open and willing to change both the Amherst College disciplinary hearing process for sexual assault cases and the overall culture at Amherst College. It seems misogynistic and rape culture has been a long-standing problem, not just at Amherst College, but all over the world.

I am writing to you in response to Angie Epifano’s recent article in The Student. I’m sure you have been receiving many emails regarding this article and I am glad you have been so responsive. However, I felt compelled to write to you because her story triggered much emotion and brought back many memories. On Feb. 26, 2011, during my freshmen year at Mount Holyoke College, I was raped by an Amherst College acquaintance at King Hall. I ended up reporting this incident to both my school and Amherst College and had a disciplinary hearing on Sept. 25, 2011. At first I thought that the rape was the worst day of my life. However, I was far from right. I have more flashbacks about this hearing than I do about my rape. I was appalled that Amherst College handled the matters in my case with extreme insensitivity.

The main problem with the hearing is that the disciplinary hearing committee (made up of three Amherst College students and two Amherst College faculty members) was not informed as to what rape is. They may have been “previously trained;” however, this was far from apparent. My rapist submitted 80 pages of our personal Skype conversations to the disciplinary hearing committee. Throughout the hearing the committee would constantly refer to these conversations when in reality only three (if any) pages were actually relevant to the situation. The only pages that were relevant were the ones that talked about the actual incident and the night that it happened. However, the disciplinary hearing committee was extremely focused on the nature of our relationship and the reasons why I could have “made this up.” Rape is about the actual incident and the violation that occurs to a human being. It doesn’t matter their previous relationship or how they know each other. Rape is rape. I recall a student on the disciplinary hearing committee asking me a question about if I hadn’t wanted to “have sex” with my rapist, why was I sitting on his bed a couple weeks prior? After a couple long seconds Dean Allen Hart deemed the question as “not relevant to the case.” Nonetheless, this is exactly my point. If the student truly had knowledge about what sexual assault and rape are he would not have asked this question. In matters that are so serious and life changing, it is of utmost importance to have people who actually know the nature of what they are dealing with. Additionally, a professor from your institution framed a question very insensitively asking if I had just thought what had happened to me was rape because “my friend had told me.” If she also understood what rape is she would know that oftentimes rape is not something you want to think happened to you. It is a horrific thing to happen to someone and changes your life forever. Suddenly when you become raped there is a stigma against you and you are put in the “victim” category. It is hard to admit someone was raped because who wants to have power and control taken away from him or her? Who wants to feel that someone can violate them in such a violent and brutal manner? Rape brings out many emotions, such as shame, guilt and fear. Thus, I encourage you to have trained professionals dealing with this manner. Both of these comments are the main sources of my flashbacks to this day. It is not what my rapist said in the hearing (as I wasn’t allowed to hear anything), but what “neutral” Amherst College representatives said to me. After the disciplinary hearing committee interviewed me, I remember shaking and crying to my Dean of Students (who I brought with me as my “advisor”) and my disciplinary hearing officer, who worked at Amherst College, saying over and over again, “They just don’t understand. They don’t understand what rape is.” This is not the kind of reaction rape victims/survivors should ever have before, during or after a disciplinary hearing.
Another critique I had of this hearing was the use of character witnesses. I am not sure if your institution still does these or not; however, I feel in sexual assault cases as serious as these, character witnesses should not be allowed. A great, wonderful person can do horrible things and a horrible person can do great and amazing things. Who is to judge anyway? These are all subjective and I believe these witnesses add no value whatsoever to these cases. Additionally, I feel that it is best for those participating in the hearing to be facing the hearing committee instead of each other. Part of the reason I chose a disciplinary hearing officer (besides the fact that I did not want to be completely retriggered, which happened anyway due to the committee’s questions) was because I did not want to look my rapist in the face after everything that he did. However, when it was my turn to speak he was placed on a video camera via Skype on a computer, which was right in front of me. Having his face that close to me was too much for me to handle and was completely insensitive of the nature of this case.
I chose the disciplinary hearing officer route, as I had a court-ordered harassment prevention issue against my rapist. I am beyond thrilled to hear that future students will be able to hear everything that is being said during the hearing, as I felt that only being able to hear my side and not being able to hear any of his side put me at an extreme disadvantage.

As a Five-College student, I felt extremely disadvantaged, as I felt that I was stepping on Amherst College “territory.” How dare I accuse an Amherst College student? However, I already felt unsafe at Amherst College because of what happened, so if anything, I was trying to do a favor for both Amherst College and the Five-College community. A student had taken advantage of me in a way that I would never wish upon anyone. Throughout the whole hearing process, I was constantly attacked. In addition to working with the Amherst College community, I more than urge you to work with the Five-College community on this issue as well. If the Five Colleges are truly a “consortium” students from all of these colleges should be informed as to what the process is and feel good about the process. My experience was not good and discouraged outsiders who heard my story from choosing this course of action because of the second victimization that your institution issued upon me.

On Sept. 26, 2011, I decided to transfer from Mount Holyoke College. Not because I no longer loved my school, but solely because of the way your institution handled an incident that I am lucky to be alive from. It takes a lot for a victim/survivor to not only come forward, but to actually go through with a hearing. I hope in the future, students will not be discouraged by this hearing process and will not have to feel so unsafe, unsupported and revictimized by an institution.
I thank you for your time, and I look forward to being in touch regarding this matter.

Moho 2 (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 04:34

I am sorry for what you had to go through. I was also raped at Amherst my first year. I didn't step forward because I was ashamed. Honestly after reading all this I am glad I didn't do anything else, but going to the Health Center and get checked.
I can't believe what they did to you and how they handle rape, its just unbelievable. I am glad I didn't do anything, but I regret it because that bastard could do it to someone else unless he graduated. But still.

Going through it and trying to get your life back is really hard, especially as a first year. I am glad you transfered, I am currently taking a year off, I am trying to get my mind and soul back, I've been thinking of going back to MHC, I made really good friends and I consider it a great institution. I tried to stay away from Amherst as much as possible, and I will never set a foot again at that College.
They need to change their whole system, from students mindset to faculty and people who handle all this.

Thanks for sharing.

Alexis (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 23:07

Thank you for your comment! I'm so sorry that this happened to you. If you ever need or want anyone to talk to please feel free to reach out to me!

Allison (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 06:33

Hurray to this brave young lady - and shame on you Amherst and all other institutions that consider campus rape as the new normal - I realize it is often hard to prove but it happens ALL the time and you need to treat the victims with as much respect & dignity and assumption of 'not guilty' as you do the perpetrators...

Susanna (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 09:36

Writers and publishers, Could you make sure that, in the future, proper trigger warnings precede any pieces that may refer to sexual assault? Here's a helpful site: http://privilege101.tumblr.com/triggers.html.

This is a very real, concrete way we can all stand in solidarity with people who have experienced sexual violence. Thanks!

Bri M. (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 13:06

So, let me get this straight:
You transferred from Mount Holyoke because you didn't like what happens at Amherst College? Maybe the solution to avoid leaving a school that you say you still loved is to, well, spend your time there and not at Amherst College. There's definitely more to transferring from Mount Holyoke than this incident.

A.Y. (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 21:41

In defense of Alexis and all the students who take advantage of the five-college community and classes, no one should have to stay away from any of the five colleges because it is not safe for them. Are you insinuating that she should have stayed away from Amherst because it is not her home school? That if a Mount Holyoke student feels threatened at Amherst it is her fault because she chose to spend time in Amherst's campus? What about all the Amherst students who feel unsafe on their own grounds? And what about the fact that many Amherst students also come to Mount Holyoke to take classes and socialize? My point is...everyone has the right to feel this way if any SINGLE ONE OF THE FIVE COLLEGE institutions has a repeated history of incidents like these because we all come in contact with each other , whether students like you like it or not. This issue is not about where she chose to spend her time, its about the fact that she got raped. So it would be great if you polished your reading skills and learned to identify the purpose of a piece of writing rather than blabbering about inconsequential tangents that only show your shortcomings.

Jenna (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 15:58

In response to Bri M.: Your post exemplifies the dangerous mindset that allows rape to happen at Amherst and colleges around the country. "If you don't want it to happen to you, don't go there."

Five college students shouldn't take advantage of the academia, culture, and social life provided by the other four colleges?

No. Students at the five colleges shouldn't rape.

Katie V (not verified) says:
Mon, 10/29/2012 - 02:43

In response to Bri M.

Shame on you, a WOMAN, who preaches for women not to get raped. Rape can happen anywhere, at anytime. No one should ever have to limit themselves to avoid a completely preventable crime.

As someone who transferred from my school after being raped, I know exactly how she feels. Could Alexis have spent less time at Amherst and had been happier? Possibly. But the effects of a rape are not limited to a location. Seeing Amherst logos around town, even if you're not on campus, is enough to trigger a flashback and make someone uncomfortable. It's been three years for me, and I still can't go to my old college town without breaking down.

Please re-evaluate your beliefs.

Anke W (not verified) says:
Sat, 11/10/2012 - 03:46

Are you quite certain that "Bri" is a woman? I have most often seen/heard the nickname "Bri" being short for Brian. It also sounded far too defensive to be coming from a female, given the nature of the discussion.

Lauren (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 14:54

I surely hope that you are merely trolling madame, because if not, your comment is severly insensitive and extremely unneeded in the comments. Or possibly you knew one of these "good Amherst guys" that these girls are "making lies about"... ? - For all you serious posters - that is sarcasm. Thanks to the ladies who were strong enough to stand up for all. You've done nothing wrong and I hope you continue to heal!

Normal Person (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/11/2012 - 09:04

Wow, you're an awful human being. Hopefully you'll get what you deserve.

Deanna K. (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/16/2012 - 00:54

So, let me get this straight. You don't understand why she transferred from Mount Holyoke college, and think that it's appropriate, in a letter about her SEXAUL ASSAULT, to comment about how you don't understand? She transferred because, as she stated, she was a Five College student. The Five College is a consortium of Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, Smith, and-GET THIS- UMASS Amherst and Amherst College. (Is the connection clear now?) Obviously you've never been a victim before since, perhaps there's not "more to transferring than this incident".

Another Moho (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 13:58

Dear Alexis,

Thank you for writing this. I am so sorry that you were placed in such a situation that led you to transfer, but I'm glad you spoke up in this conversation. Even for those of us who have not experienced sexual assault, the threat is always present; I felt this especially on the Amherst campus.

While at Mount Holyoke, I spent a great deal of time at Amherst for classes and events, but I always had my guard up, especially if I were alone or it was nighttime. Two friends of mine were walking on the Amherst campus one evening when a car with two men in it drove by and the men yelled out at them "You're gonna get raped!" No one in the vicinity said anything. Stories like this--as well as occasions on which students were actually assaulted--were all too common, but were routinely written off as "boy will be boys" behavior or "just a risk of partying." THIS MUST STOP.

~MHC alumna, class of 2012

No one puts the... (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 14:11

What is so offensive about asking you if you only thought it was rape because someone told you it was? That's an objective question. Just say no.

Does anyone following this situation the past few weeks realize that Amherst is being criticized for trying to approach these situations objectively?

Being a rape victim is a terrible tragedy, one that no person should ever have to experience. But in a court setting like the one above, being 100% certain of someone's guilt in that situation is essential.

Katie (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 15:50

It's offensive because if the event clearly matches the definition of a rape, and a friend said it was rape, the friend's comment isn't want is determining her outlook--it's whole being raped that makes her think she was raped. Asking if her feeling of violation is contingent on a friend's comment implies that the situation is somehow not, in actuality, a rape.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 15:28

Alexis, I am sorry for your experience with our administration's handling of the situation. However, I feel the need to respond to some of the issues you raised about the disciplinary process. Please read about some of the changes the administration has made here: https://www.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/sexual_respect. I'm note sure if it's listed there, but one of the things that has been changed is the removal of character witnesses.

I feel obliged to point out something that the Title IX expert the Amherst administration brought in, Gina Smith, mentioned in a Q and A session. Without physical evidence, it is very, very difficult to objectively determine guilt. While I do not want to make assumptions, your words imply that there was no physical evidence of the assault on the table for the disciplinary committee to evaluate. Gina, a former prosecutor, noted that there are almost no prosecutors in the country who would ever take on a rape case without physical evidence. In her words, colleges are therefore forced into an awkward position when a case that would never make it to court is presented to them; they are in fact, forced to pass judgment based on the character and credibility of the students present in lieu of physical evidence. I would therefore imagine that many of the insensitive questions (not all--I am not justifying some of the problems with the older disciplinary system) were attempts to make such judgments--otherwise, how could a fair verdict be rendered?

Rape is indeed rape, but Amherst is not alone in having difficulties determining rape in "she-said, he-said" cases without physical evidence. No matter what efforts we take to reform the disciplinary process, we still cannot move beyond innocent until proven guilty.

'14 (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 17:31

Apart from "Why were you sitting on his bed?" none of the questions asked at the disciplinary hearing seem inappropriate to me. I hate to think of the consequences for all of us if everyone, men and women included, who says they have been raped are taken for face value, no questions asked. It's hard to determine whether date rape really occurred.. Let us not point fingers at Amherst so quickly (and need I say this type of reaction isn't specific to the Amherst administration/student body?), rather let us acknowledge the complexity of the question of rape. Believe it or not, it is complex. And by denying this, we only increase confusion and may deny the rights of those who may end up unfairly accused. I am not saying that you weren't raped, because obviously, I don't know anything about what transpired. But my point is exactly that: No one but the person who says he/she was raped and the accused knows anything of relevance, so it does not make sense to ignore the account by the rapist.. Correct me if I'm mistaken here, but Ms. Myers' position seems to be that she should not have been questioned at all about the nature of events. No, the people in the committee probably did not understand what rape is, but her emphasis on the institution's faults belies the fact that "rape" is not always so straightforward.

Jim (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 18:11

More than any other crime I can think of, proceedings to address allegations of rape tend to leave the innocent party - whether s/he be the falsely accused or the genuinely sexually assaulted - with feelings of unfair treatment. Some of this stems from rules of evidence or procedure that seek to accomplish the tremendously difficult task of balancing competing considerations of fairness to each party. Some may stem from cultural blinders and biases in the culture generally and in non-party or opposing party participants in the hearing in particular.
The most important things those providing help, counseling, or therapy to rape victims must do is BELIEVE them, offer empathy, and refrain from all forms of idiocy, if not ethical corruption, of the kinds described by Angie Epifano. A proceeding to determine fact - one conducted with integrity - obviously cannot offer belief, at least at the outset. But there are many things it can do well or poorly which affect procedural and substantive justice. For all their faults, courts of law have grappled with these issues down through time. Ideally law, training, education, and experience are brought to bear. Not to maintain that all courts do a great job with rape allegations. But I do question whether academic institutions can develop and offer threshold competence in tribunals dealing with such complex matters. Where there is no alternative, so be it. The school must do everything possible, in advance, to enhance its capacity to provide justice. But if there were a real choice, i.e. all else being equal, I think the innocent would have a better experience in court than in part-time lay tribunals.

Sonam - Moho (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 21:15

Lexi, I am so proud of you. Your story shook me, and your courage blows me away. You've strengthened our community's resolve to fight back. No entity in this world can defeat you. We love you.

Stephanie (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/24/2012 - 23:38

For those of you critiquing Alexis, I think the main point of ALL of these stories coming forward is that these sexual assaults are in no way isolated incidents and stem from a culture that breeds insensitive reactions to anyone's story. Personally, I've had both wonderful experiences at Amherst (my boyfriend asked me 5 times where I was really sure I wanted to say yes just in case) and horrible ones (beaten up against the back wall of Frost by a stranger because I didn't want to go home with him - and no, I didn't report it). Mount Holyoke and Amherst are integrating communities, and if you go to Mount Holyoke it is difficult to turn down social events like birthday dinners in Amherst. Alexis has every right to leave if these things trigger her. These women coming forward aren't saying Amherst is horrible and has no hope - these women are coming forward so this wonderful school can become a leader in addressing assault and rape, just as it is a leader in so many other areas.

MHC 2013 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/25/2012 - 11:51

I was sexually assaulted by an Amherst student my first year at Mount Holyoke. It did not take place at Amherst (though a later incident would)- rather, I was in my dorm room, and had invited him in. My roommate had given us privacy. I had been involved with him in the past, still had feelings for him, and was edging closer to re-involvement.

I trusted him, and he took advantage of me. I had never had sex before.

I didn't say anything, didn't even acknowledge it for what it was (I still don't call it sexual assault outside of anonymous comments), because I knew nothing would come of it. I was a first year with previous mental health problems (that exploded after the event, and I ended up going on medical leave later that semester), and he was a star student at Amherst who was a member of their SGA and later went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa.

I didn't speak to him for weeks after. He didn't understand what was wrong. He didn't understand what he'd done, even though it was incredibly obvious to anyone who knew anything about sexual assault, even though he was a progressive, politically aware liberal who could be described as a male feminist.

My friends at Mount Holyoke congratulated me for having finally lost my virginity- at that point, I hadn't told anyone about the truth. My friends at Amherst wouldn't believe me when I did bring it up, instead telling me I was taking things out of proportion and context- though what context would that even be?- because he was nice, harmless. Every time they told me this, I would flash back to the hours after "my first time", watching TV with him because I didn't know what else to do, numbly standing in the shower for an hour, calling the Health Center to buy Plan B. In the end, it was my Amherst friends and acquaintances who convinced me to keep quiet and "let it go".

I left Mount Holyoke for an extended amount of time a year after the incident. I spoke to my class Dean about it. She brushed it off. Counseling Services believed me, but they couldn't do anything, and they were certainly of no help as a liaison to the administration when my grades suffered after I became depressed.

I felt like I had no voice, no options, no one to really turn to outside of my few very close friends when I was finally ready to admit the truth about what had happened.

So I'm immeasurably grateful for these letters and essays, the supportive comments, the conversations I've had in the last week about this apparently common problem. Alexis, I don't know you, but the nature of a small school such as Mount Holyoke means we probably passed each other on campus at least once, may have even had a class together. We were connected, in some small way. Thank you for writing this.

Alumni and parent (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/25/2012 - 13:17

Alexis, like Angie, you are a brave young woman to come forward with your story. It is women like you that can change the ignorance and stigma that too many hold about rape, sexual assault and survivors. I am sorry that you had to go through such horrible experiences, at such a young age at that. I hope that you are healing and finding your strength, despite the lack of support you found in the Five College community and despite some of the ignorant comments right here on this page.

When reading the stories of the young women that have come forth and the responses by the administration and board of trustees, I find myself confused as to why a critical question is missing from the dialogue. It is one thing for the college to have procedures in place to investigate sexual assault accusations in the service of implementing academic penalties for students found to have committed an act of sexual assault. It is another for the college's process to be a substitute for the criminal justice system. It seems to me that, first and foremost, the college should have as many of these matters handled by the professionals in the justice system. Alleged victims should be encouraged to go through the police and local prosecutor first. I understand that some students will not want to go that route - but they should be offered unbiased, unaffiliated, outside legal council that let's such young people understand their rights completely before they reject that option of legal prosecution). Only once a student has had that council and still opted not to press outside legal charges, should the college pursue the case internally for the purposes of maintaining a safe campus.

While the legal justice system is in no way perfect, the professionals there are much more skilled at, and qualified to, interrogate, investigate, record and prosecute legal matters of this nature. The justice system is less invested than the college in "hiding" the statistics. Police and investigators can handle questioning in a manner that will not contaminate the results. They can implement legal penalties that don't let rapists go home to a time-out for a semester (which seems the college doesn't even do much of that). By getting between alleged victims and the justice system, the college is actually getting in the way of justice for these young women. By the time a student would go through the college's "committee hearing," the chances of that student's case being contaminated is highly increased. Not to mention that these students are being left traumatized by the college's process itself. Can that also happen in the justice system? Yes, but that's still where it belongs and, at least, the chances of a true punishment exists when the case can be proven.

I have read about all the changes the college is making to the way it handles sexual assault accusations. I have not heard the question of whether the college should be handling them at all! Only AFTER a case has gone to the police and to prosecutors, should the college feel free to do their own internal process for the sole sake of academic sanctions when needed. Obviously, Amherst College can't put anyone in prison or on probation or on the sex offender registry. So they are incapable of truly exerting the power of the law. While the new website (and maybe the old one) says (somewhere not prominent) that students can contact the police if they choose - all of the information, the language and the tone encourages them in a different direction ... to contact the college, to let the college handle it. Even contacting "Amherst College Police" leaves the student inside the college's biased loop. Is the Amherst Town Police inside that loop as well? Re-directing students back to the campus for the justice they seek? I don't know. The point, Amherst, is that you have proven that you can't handle it. And no matter how many "experts" in the field you hire and how many workshops and meetings you design, you will continue to be invested in the results/ statistics and, hence, you will continue to be biased ... even when you don't want to be. And I know you don't want to be. I know my alma mater and know in my heart that the administration wants to do it's best for the students ... but the only way to do that is to have these cases handled by the system that our society has put in place to handle these cases. You are not a court of law, Amherst!

parent (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/25/2012 - 19:26

A college such as Amherst is legally required by Title IX legislation to respond to, investigate, and provide a grievance procedure for all complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence on it's campus, as well as provide for a safe environment from it. Please refer to the following link for more information:   http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/title-ix-rights-201104.pdf and the more detailed Dear Colleague letter:   http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201104.pdf or fact sheet: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/dcl-factsheet-201104.pdf.
A student may, as well, contact police and press charges in the legal system, however this is an expensive and lengthy undertaking. Most perpetrators will have graduated before a court decision is reached leaving the victim to suffer with attending classes on the same campus or to withdraw from the school. A students rights under Title IX are invaluable in these situations provided the school has in place an effective sexual misconduct policy and the resources and desire to enforce it.

Kind of Ridculous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/25/2012 - 15:19

Rape is a very serious crime. Short of murder, perhaps, the most serious crime out there. A friend of mine was raped at knife point. It is with that in mind, that I think most of Alexis' post and the comments on this post are misguided.

A principle legal concept is "innocence until proven guilty." Yes, if you accuse someone of such a horrific crime, which can affect their future, the Board should be able to ask serious and probing questions regardless of whether the alleged victim feels they are relevant. The nature of the relationship between two individuals in the context of what appears to be date rape, should be examined thoroughly. And yes, one might wonder Alexis yelled stop and thought she was being raped at the time, or concluded so after talking with a friend. When it comes to date rape, there have been instances where people only came to the conclusion they were raped after discussions with a friends.

Alexis was/is accusing someone of a serious crime. That person has the right to defend themselves and should be allowed character witnesses. That person should also be allowed to confront their accuser.

I find it hard to believe that everyone here assumes "guilt until proven innocence" and not the other way around. That is not our legal system and should not be the policy at Amherst.

Chris Barnes (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/25/2012 - 17:26

Why not report this to the police? The person who raped you should be in jail. The idea of a hearing with other college student represented is completely insane.

friend (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/11/2012 - 01:54

She did go to the police and was told that there was most likely not going to be enough physical evidence based on interviews with both her and her rapist. Therefore, she was recommended to go to the college because you need less evidence than in the court of law.

Smith alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/25/2012 - 22:40

Dear Amherst women:
If you have been raped, the very next thing you need to do is go to an emergency room.
Do NOT change your clothes. Do NOT brush your hair or teeth. Do NOT take a shower (as MHC 2013, above, did). Do not even wash your hands.
Drive to the ER.
If you cannot drive, call 911. Tell dispatch you have been raped. They will send officers. You can request a female officer be sent. Tell the officers you have been raped. They will take you to the ER. Tell the triage nurse you have been raped. They will use a rape kit to obtain physical evidence. Tell the doctors you have been raped. They will write this up in their report.

In a world where everyone is far too willing to chalk your experience up to a "he-said/she-said" disagreement, you need to be your own best advocate.

Mom of a victim (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/26/2012 - 21:11

...the horror and disbelief and wish to make it not so can overtake reality and a girl (or boy) will want nothing more than to get clean again and try to make it not be true. There's also uncertainty because sometimes drinking and rohypnol are involved and a girl (or boy) can't remember whether she'd said "okay" or not -- or even if it really happened (esp. if condoms are used). On many campuses sex under the influence qualifies as rape, but kids are afraid to admit to their parents that they'd been drinking when they were assaulted, especially if they're parents had warned them that this might be a consequence. No, they didn't "ask for it" by drinking -- few parents would think they had -- but they're feeling doubly ashamed, and to top it off, they may have no memory of who the assailant might be! Reading reports such as this only scares more women away. The vast majority of women on campuses who engage in sex willingly don't accuse their partners of rape (although that may change if Roe v. Wade is overturned and they need an abortion). It's time for the real grownups on campuses to grow up and regard rape victims as victims and not as suspects -- self-advocacy is not enough. It's time for campus security to work willingly with local police to catch perpetrators. It's time for rape cases to be prosecuted in a timely fashion and not shelved because they're messy. The stats about rape victims and subsequent drug abuse are horrific. The reverberations from an unsolved rape case echo for years. Believe me.

cat (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 16:10

I work with Canadian law enforcment and Im appauled to read about all of the rapes on IVY league campuses. Please take the advice of Smith Alum seriously. The school administrations should seriously wake up before they are faced not only with class action suits but crimnal charges for negligence. I am also appauled to think that the rapists graduate with honours and go on to become the leaders of tomorrow's America without the criminal record that they deserve. Something's gotta to give! Wake up America. You are the strongest nation in the world. Protect your brightest women from becoming emotional wrecks.

cape guy (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/26/2012 - 00:29

Most guys have respect but there are predators out there. Most rapists are repeat offenders. There should be an informal way to name names to warn potential victims and shame the perpetrators. If someone raped me and I knew who they were I'd make sure they got what was coming to them sooner or later. Karma will get them too. The comment about the guy who didn't realize what he did wrong proves there should be more education on the topic. There can be a mentality that guys are "supposed" to be aggressive and initiate sex and follow through and they don't understand that an actively participating partner is required and may mistakenly think the girl wants it too (sex, not being raped).
Not minimizing things at all but a guy may think a girl is shy or reluctant or passive when in reality it's rape. His intent isn't violent or offensive sex but can come from not fully understanding the situation and the implications. Which is prolly why that guy couldn't figure out what he did wrong. A guy may even think he's getting the cold shoulder because he didn't perform well. Rape is rape but there may be a difference between an honest spur of the moment misunderstanding and a serial rapists who set out to rape and target, stalk or drug and prey on multiple victims. Studies show that a small number of rapists commit a large number of rapes. These are the guys who need to be identified and locked up quickly. If there's an informal way to name names to sound a warning and the same names keep coming up.... well....
The perception that the new normal and that there's little chance of being caught or identified in public has to change.

Michael (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/26/2012 - 02:11

I cannot help but believe that part of the reason these issues were handled so poorly is due to in large part to Amherst's palpable sense of privilege and our-shit-don't-stink attitude. As a former 13-year resident of Amherst, there was never mistaking the we-are-better-than-you aura that permeated the institution and its student body. It is absolutely not surprising to me that these incidents were not handled better.

Kay (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/26/2012 - 10:31

I was a student at Amherst in the 90s, and was physically assaulted (not raped, but beaten) by an ex. The college could not have been less sympathetic. I was encouraged not to contact the police even though this man had threatened my life, beaten me, attempted to stuff me in his car and -- when that didn't work -- drove away and disappeared. I contacted the police anyway, and they took me seriously and helped me to secure a restraining order, and also provided me with protection until this man was located one week after the assault. The college insisted on taking no action against this man because he was a month from graduation and only relocated me to a different room due to police insistence. I regret to this day that I agreed not to pursue action against this man. But what angers me the most is what happened next. I subsequently went through a severe depression and became physically ill. The school insisted I leave for the remainder of the semester until I could "get myself together." The rest of my time at the school (I did return) was a blur of depression and confusion. I just managed to graduate, and then got as many miles between me and Amherst as I could. I know that feeling was mutual; the school wanted nothing more than to get rid of a student who was perceived as an unstable liability... this was made painfully clear to me through months of interaction with school administrators. It took me over 15 years to return to Amherst, and I am glad I did because it brought back everything I had loved about the school until the assault: the beautiful campus, the incredible professors, the small classroom settings. I am so glad that I was able to rediscover some of what I had loved about Amherst in the first place, and I fervently hope that Amherst takes this opportunity to educate its administration on becoming one that alleged victims (yes, I believe in innocent until proven guilty) can trust and respect. The more light that people like Angie and Alexis can shine on this issue, the more they better the school.

Male Amherst alum (not verified) says:
Sat, 10/27/2012 - 02:10

Reading about this entire incident and the broader problem behind it stunned me and made feel ashamed for Amherst. I find it amazing how cavalierly the administration has been treating this issue over the years. I am sure the administration's attitude has contributed to a sense among perpetrators that they can get away with this sort of behavior.

Dave Marcus (not verified) says:
Sun, 10/28/2012 - 11:26

Dear President Martin,

The reaction of various individuals to Angie Epifano and the way she was treated by them was abetted but not caused by the various policies of the College and was abetted but not caused by the College's enforcement of policies, lack of training, etc., and the hostile environment that the College has created for rape survivors.

Bluntly, it was people - counselors and deans - who raped Angie as much as your proud graduate. Those people who be removed from the positions of power that they have and should not have the opportunity, at Amherst or elsewhere, to do to another student what they did to Angie. Re-educating them, President Martin, is putting lipstick on a pig.

Consultants, studies, all of the things listed in your statement and the Board's statement are good things. But pigs are pigs, and while education may open some of their eyes and teach some of them also to act correctly, a pig is a pig

President Martin, your pigsty needs some cleaning and you need to hold accountable those deans, counselors, and others who spoke and acted as they did. People do not need policies and education to be decent or simply rational; do not excuse them for their actions and instead punish them.

Dave Marcus
Boston University Class of 1975

Dave (not verified) says:
Wed, 10/31/2012 - 18:27

Amherst is purported to be an "institution of higher learning". Why are students and faculty sitting in committee to analyze and judge evidence of a crime prior to a trial in a court of law? These representatives of the real academia need to remove themselves from the process of determining what constitutes rape. We have these things called hospitals with rape kits, police investigators, district attorney offices, laws, judges, juries, and trials. A person reporting rape needs to be immediately directed to an officer of the law not your ignorant 18 y/o student body representatives (they have school spirit events to plan) or fumbling faculty.

I must be comparable to corn cob chewing country bumpkin despite my graduate degree from a 3rd tier institution from Southern California for presuming an esteemed institution such as Amherst should submit itself to silly notions such as the rule of law.

Really? Really? What the hell is wrong with you people thinking Amherst's process passes for "justice" much less precedes a trial by jury. Give me a break. Your institution should be on the short list for sanctions from any and all sources of governing bodies and grantors of funds.

Right course of action to take. Population: Modern society in the USA
-----------------------------------This is the line between right and wrong-----------------------------------
Wrong course of action to take. Population: Amherst

Nora (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/02/2012 - 16:26

From another Moho, thank you so much, Alexis, for sharing your story. I know how much courage it can take to go through each of these steps - facing the aftermath, facing the shame and confusion and denial, facing each part of hearings, etc. You're not the only one who feels traumatized by the hearings and attempts at justice, and it's criminal that victims should have to relive their experiences and that they need to defend themselves over and over again to people who just don't get it. My most recent experience with sexual abuse was last year (not on campus - I graduated a couple years ago), and even though I wanted to take action, I questioned myself each step of the way. It happened where I was working, and my employer also didn't understand what sexual assault was (for clarification, I wasn't raped), and questioned me for hours, in two different sessions.

You're right on so many points: character witnesses should be irrelevant, and it's terrible when people continue to tell you that you're making it up. It's really easy to feel shame and blame yourself, even though this was something wrong that someone else did to you. My employer told me it couldn't have happened because the person who did it was a lawyer, and the police said that sometimes people are just "too friendly." After I quit my job, the unemployment office questioned me for a long time, and then took my employer's word for it that I'd left without cause.

I was so lucky that I did have other people to support me - and this is the message I want people to get. I got through each step of the way because I had help from my girlfriend, family, friends, and fellow Mohos, as well as my local Victim's Resource Center and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Because of the practical and emotional help I got, I I gathered the courage I needed to leave my job, win a hearing after being disqualified from unemployment benefits, and win a suit through the PHRC that required my former workplace to have a written sexual harassment policy. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a copy of my report as well. I had zero witnesses (even though it happened in the middle of the day - it's just that no one I worked with wanted to come forward), and no experience with this kind of thing.

I'm calling for people to help each other out. I'm not addressing victims, but the greater population. Believe someone when they tell you they've been assaulted or abused in any way. The incidences of people being falsely accused are really rare, and unreported cases are very many. The most important thing is that the person coming to you feels they can trust you. Spread information: make it easy to access help, because victims often don't have the emotional capacity to pursue taking action. Don't tell anyone they're wrong for not taking action, or for taking a shower after, or even for not telling their friends, because you have no idea what they might be dealing with. Make sure they know it's not their fault. Create communities and environments that are knowledgable about sexual assault and abuse, and that can offer emotional support. Check up on the policies of your workplaces and schools. If you have any power, advocate for change. Share stories so people can feel less alone - feeling isolated and ashamed are some of the big effects of being a victim. Stick with each other even after you think everything's been dealt with. When I heard that I'd won my suit, seven months after it happened, among the feelings of joy and pride, I also felt shame and denial - maybe it was some kind of survivor's guilt, or just not wanting it to have happened in the first place.

Thanks again, Alexis, and wishing you peace and empowerment.

Alum (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/02/2012 - 22:29

To Dave and others who've implied that Amherst is trying to substitute the criminal justice system: Cases that have been regarded as being in violation of the Honor Code, including sexual harassment, are brought to the Disciplinary Committee, and Alexis, as indicated above, CHOSE to take this case to the Disciplinary Committee.

Also, just to reiterate what some have already said, let's not assume guilt until proven innocent, and especially without hearing the other side of the story.

Alum (not verified) says:
Wed, 11/07/2012 - 09:15

Rape is, as KoR said, one of the most terrible crimes. It is unique in our society's treatment, as the only crime where the victim is ashamed. It is also one of the rare crimes that often leaves "only" mental scars. Finally, it is virtually the only crime where it is entirely possible for someone to commit the crime without ever being aware of it.

All of these elements mitigate against an easy solution or even clarity on what the right path forward is. How do you balance the rights of the victim against the rights of perpetrator? Just to point out one simple way in which this is a challenge: how do you balance the rights of an accused to face their accuser with the trauma that might cause the victim?

More importantly, and at the heart of the matter, how do you tease apart the essence of a crime that is a times exclusively in the eye of the beholder? I'm not talking about someone held at knife point or otherwise physically coerced. I'm talking about the hard cases, involving alcohol or drugs, cases where a woman changes her mind before, during, or after the act. Cases where a woman says yes, but means no. Cases where a woman says no but means yes, and then changes her mind. Half way through.

There are certainly men who can, in the midst of the act, sense their partner's change of heart. There are men who, although intoxicated, can tell that their (intoxicated) partner is really less willing than they seem or say. Women have conflicting feelings about sex, their sexuality, and what they want. (So do men.) What might seem like a good idea a two in the morning might seem like a disaster over coffee the next day.

The bottom line here is that this is not a black and white crime. It is not like getting shot or robbed. Trying to treat it as if it were does violence to all involved, from the victim to the perp and including the administrators who attempt to sit in judgement. Rape is rape. No one should be forced to have sex against their will.

But pretending that this is a simple crime that can be solved simply by improving the criminal or administrative process, educating men not to do it, or teaching women to defend themselves, can at best lessen the problem. This is a unique and dynamic social, criminal, and ethical problem that requires a new approach. Perhaps Amherst is just the place to begin this investigation.

Douglas Weber (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/08/2012 - 21:16

It is clear that those who write here have deep feeling and the violation that a rape is, is clearly deeply felt and traumatic. But I fear I must add a historical note for all to ponder and integrate in their considerations.

In the past, and not too distant, one of the best ways to get rid of a "uppity n----" in the South was to have a white woman accuse him of rape. This was certain to bring out the rope and the tree. We had a lot of trauma in the 50's and 60's to make it clear that is is unacceptable. The proper solution to this was to say that we need independent, honest, and well defined processes to determine the truth of the situation. We still find men who were convicted on witness testimony that turned out to be wrong and so rightly require that witnesses be properly examined.

I do not doubt that those who report rape here were raped. And I can understand why they feel unfairly put upon when people question their word. But we know from history that only with the proper processes will the truth come out most of the time. And the price we pay so that our freedom from the arbitrary acts of the powerful is maintained is that we must accept this process.

At times I feel that the only solution for society to this issue of sexual relations is to go back to the strict separation that we had before the 60's. It seems horrible to consider but it did resolve most of these issues. I hope we all can understand the implications of this choice of a more open society and can find a way to work together in the face of the basic fallibility of our species.

Douglas Weber 74

Abi (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 13:59

Douglas clearly you do not deserve to have evolved with the rest of our species.

Douglas Weber (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 15:39

Thank-you it is not often one gets a chance to explain rhetorical devices anymore. They seem to have been lost.

What you have done is known as an Ad Hominem argument. The idea is that the nature of the expouser defines the validity of the argument. It is probably the first refuge of the incompetent because it allows him to ignore the actual argument and still respond with something. If you disagree with what I have said, go ahead and point out with clear explanation where you disagree and why. Simply insulting the author is to concede the argument and move discussion not one inch forward. There are places where what I said is open to counter-arguments and there are certainly counter-arguments that I have not thought of. But I fear you have touch none of these. If it were not an opportunity to explain a logical fallacy it would be best to ignore you completely.

I hope the school I admire and still love is teaching its current students better rhetoric. The ability to fashion a good case is important in all the aspects of life. To recognize invalid arguments is important because they can be traps that seem worth answering but are not.

I could be the most venal of people and still my arguments can stand. They do not rest on my reputation but on their own consistency and truth. If you disagree, address those points and we can have a useful discussion. One, if not both of us, will learn from defending and refuting. But the only gainer from an Ad Homenim attack is the childish ego of the user, who feels better for having vented displeasure but is no wiser for the effort.

Douglas Weber 74

Margaret Mikkel... (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 20:15

Thank you for sharing your account. I wish I could say I was shocked or surprised by how you were treated, or by the lack of knowledge among those hearing your case, or by the continuing confusion evidenced in the comments so far about why it is appropriate to have simultaneous disciplinary and criminal processes. I am sorry for what was done to you.

As a student at Amherst over fifteen years ago, I was part of a group agitating for change. We failed. As an alum, I feel I have failed again by walking away and discontinuing any effort to make Amherst change.

Until recently, I was the director of a sexual assault prevention and intervention center (more commonly known as a rape crisis center) in Virginia. Such centers are experts on the dynamics of sexual violence, the impact of trauma, perpetrator behavior, and prevention. I encourage the administration to look beyond academia and draw upon the expertise of community agencies as they revise their policies and procedures. There is a wealth of experience available from people who have no agenda other than ending sexual violence and supporting victims.

As a final note about the need for internal procedures, people must understand that being expelled from college is not the same as being sent to prison, therefore the standard for a finding of accountability is not as stringent. It is conceivable that a student may be found "not guilty" by a court using the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard, but could be found responsible using a "preponderance of the evidence" standard appropriate to a disciplinary hearing. The same would apply to theft, common enough on campuses, and other crimes. As a culture---and I wish I understood why---we insist on treating victims of sexual violence as "liars until proven truthful" unlike any other crime victim.

Lindsay (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/11/2012 - 17:38

Alexis, I'd love to interview you for an article on rape-awareness on campus's in the Amherst area. Is this something you would be open to?

Roxanne (not verified) says:
Mon, 02/11/2013 - 23:06

Hey Alexis I think it is amazing that you are posting this and helping so many others in the pursuit of justice. It is so important that these crimes are brought to light. People may be able to bypass the courts but they will not be able to bypass the reality that they know what they did. I hope that his crime weighs on his conscience every single second of every day. You are so successful and will continue to be while he will have to live with the truth of what he did. No "character witness" can erase what really happened no matter what he'd like to tell himself or make others believe. This was a great letter. I'd like you to know that above all else you are Alexis, an amazing and beautiful person inside and out and no one can ever take that from you. Much Love, Roxanne.