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:

@ Recent Grad (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 12:59

Dude, you have no critical reading skills. Angie (and the rest of us) are simply saying that rape victims should not be punished for being raped -- they should not be forced into mental health institutions, to change their majors, to not go abroad, to be on probation, to leave school; when they go to counseling, they should be counseled, not interrogated about whether or not it was actually rape or "just a bad hookup." No one is arguing that the accused should be unable to say anything in his defense -- we are arguing that rape victims should have that SAME RIGHT, which clearly they do not presently have at Amherst C.

recentgrad (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:02

You may be the one lacking in critical reading skills, dude. She wasn't forced into a mental institution as punishment for being raped. She was brought there because she had just told a counselor she was thinking about killing herself. Likewise, they thought it unwise to give their institutional blessing to a possibly suicidally depressed person studying abroad in South Africa. Clearly, the Administration is at fault for a lot here, and they failed utterly to give her the support she needed. But taking her to the mental health institution probably wasn't a mistake, and I'm not sure denying her study abroad application was either.

David (not verified) says:
Fri, 10/19/2012 - 12:01

Hey Recent Grad- could you explain why it is that you feel that it was reasonable for the administration to string Angie along about Study Abroad, then cancel it, and then force her to change majors and restrict her access to other institutions in the area? And why, when it was clear that her living situation was causing her distress, it was okay for them to categorically refuse to address that problem?

Your reaction makes it seem as though the only problem here is proving the guilt of the attacker (well actually what you wrote makes it seem as though the only problem in your mind is protecting what you believe to be the innocence of the attacked), when in reality Amherst College did a great deal to oppress Angie in ways that have nothing to do with her claim of assault.

KenyonCollege2012 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 12:43

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

Williams Alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 12:43

Thank you for your courage. Your account sheds a light on the longstanding culture of patriarchy in our schools; a culture that squints and frowns at strong women who tell the whole truth. As someone entering the world of counseling and trauma-focused therapy, I am ashamed by the poor listening skills, neglect, and general ass-holery of your dean, counselors, and therapists. I will pray that you keep finding peace! And keep fighting the good fight!

Maya (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 12:46

this is honestly one of the best, most beautifully-written stories i've ever read. and i've never personally been affected by rape or sexual assault, but this brought me to tears and i actually felt the anger and frustration you did, Angie. i honestly don't know what else to say but thank you for everyone who hasn't been able to speak up. you are their voice.

Kyra (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 12:50

Angie, I don't know if you remember me, I was in your sculpture class first semester last year. We had to make the gigantic feet. Your box was the one with all the film in it right? It was my favorite. I'm so sorry to hear what happened to you and I thank you for sharing. I am appalled at how the administration treated you and prolonged your suffering. I support you in your decision to leave. You are too good for this school. I hope that you are now somewhere better and that you can at last begin to heal. Keep making beautiful things, because you still can.

Martina (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 12:56

Thank you for sharing this.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:02

Thank you for sharing your story and for having the strength to write this and publish it. You inspire me with your unquenchable sense of selfhood after surviving so much. I am appalled at how Amherst treated you. I hope every prospective student reads this. I'm a survivor, too, and so my heart goes out to you. You are so much bigger than one little school. I look forward to hearing where you take your life from here.

Tashima (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:04

You're an amazingly brave human being. Thank you for speaking out. Too often as females we're raised to expect to be sexually assaulted one day. I do not know one female who has not experienced some sort of unwanted sexual advance or abuse. It only makes it that much easier for attackers to re-offend. I'm sharing this article with everyone I know.

Jon Greenberg (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:04

I don't know what to say really. Your story hit me hard. Thank you for sharing. You are one of the bravest people I know.

Daniel Freije '11 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:10


I never really knew you, but I do know we have friends in common. I am angry at and ashamed of this place I have dearly loved. I hope this bravery helps make Amherst into the what it always should have been. I'll be keeping you, and all the other brave women and men who have endured this unacceptable and oppressive behavior, in my heart and in my prayers.

Thank you, thank you.

Yours truly,

Cathy (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:12

This past spring, I went to a Take Back the Night event on campus where survivors told their stories of rape and sexual assault. The event lasted 3 hours. Girl after girl came to the stage. I so appreciate your courage and eloquence in addressing this painful issue. I hope you know that college women from all over the country thank you today (and appreciate an excellent writer). You're an inspiration.

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

this story is stunning in it's humble expression of all of the ways in which silence happens, is made to happen: how a voice itself becomes rusty with shame. as I read the comments I become concerned however that angie's story will be taken as an end in itself-- the account of someone bravely speaking up. I,m left with the question: what are you/we going to DO now that we see the complex ways in which institutions (POSSIBLY even thinking that they are doing the right/best thing) sequester and suppress??

annon (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:15

I don't presume to disbelieve you, but you seem to suggest others involved in the matter, including Amherst College and the police, at least were skeptical. So some details, perhaps to explain the disconnect, would go a long way to achieving your goal, because I don't presume to disbelieve Amherst college or the police either, nor can you expect your readers too.

If this is a story about your survival, and your goal is to inspire other victims, then you've accomplished your task. If your goal is to credibly criticize Amherst college, then without more details, you have not.

recentgrad (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:04

Based on the overwhelming response to this article, it seems pretty clear that she can expect just that.

Swarthmore Student (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:18

Hello all, and Angie,

One of the predominant messages here is a hope that the administration of Amherst can change, and that their program for helping survivors can improve. I believe that it is possible, because I have seen it at my own college. My college has been singled out for their treatment of survivors on this board, but in the past year, it has really changed for the better.

Students took complaints about treatment of survivors to the administration, and the administrators enacted positive change. The dean in charge of sexual assault, who said awful things to survivors, was removed from her post and replaced with the fantastic administrator who had been respectful and supportive to survivors and tough on their assailants. A new Associate Director of Public Safety was hired with years of experience as a Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator, and she is leading defense courses for women. Also, the college has made an increased effort to make students aware of all the resources for dealing with sexual assault, from Resident Advisors, the Sexual Misconduct Advisors and Resource Team (Faculty and Students), The Health Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Dean's Office, etc. that they make available to survivors of sexual assault. In addition, the main goal that my school is increasingly following is to create such a supportive community that survivors of sexual assault come forward immediately after an incident occurs, so that it is easier to press charges. Also, any report of an incident of sexual assault, even if it is second-hand, must be investigated, according to a new change to the title IX legislation that affects ALL colleges receiving public money.

Unfortunately, even after these changes, some of the resources the college provides are better than others. I strongly recommend that survivors at any college reach out to a trusted friend, RA, or a survivor's group on campus. These people can support you and help you find resources that will help you. These people are often also aware of which counselors make survivor's problems worse and can help survivors avoid them.

Angie, I am horrified by what happened to you, and it sounds like the Amherst administration has a misguided approach to dealing with survivors of sexual assault. In cases like that, the administration must have a change of attitude or personnel. I think your story, and the national attention it is getting, will encourage the administration to rethink their policy. I hope that the story of changes at my college gives you and the other survivors on this page some hope for the future of Amherst.

As a student who was sexually assaulted before college, and a student resource at my college, I have dealt with sexual assault resources on our campus. I have found that the people I have interacted with always have the best interests of students at heart. Unfortunately, keeping the interests of all students at heart leads to an "innocent until proven guilty" mentality that makes it difficult for survivors to obtain closure through legal proceedings. We need to remind administrations that their support needs to lie first with the survivor, and that they need to give survivors the autonomy to guide their own healing process (i.e. make sure survivors who want to study abroad have the support they need there instead of confining them to campus). Hopefully, your story will show the administrators that they should have handled things differently, and encourage them to treat future survivors better. Whether that happens or not, I think you have started a movement that will bring about positive change.

Angie, you are extraordinary.

Hampshire Student (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:19

Sending love, strength and healing to you Angie, and to other survivors who've been shamed by college administrations. This account is reaching far corners of the internet and AC cannot ignore it at this point. I hope this account brings about change not only at AC or within the Five College community, but within academic institutions as a whole. Thanks you for your account, Angie.

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

Not to editor: It's "wander" not "wonder." Regardless of the mistake it was a powerful story.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:39

If you're going to correct an editing error, try not to make one yourself...

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

Reading your story, I could not believe the way they treated you. I think it is deplorable the way they handled your assault. Unfortunately, I think this is something that does not just happen at Amherst, but at many colleges across the country. Thank you for sharing your story. It took incredible courage to do the things you did. I am so sorry you had to go through this. I hope that you are now doing well and have found a way to be happy.

Smith '12 alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:21

I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your courage to tell your story to the student body of Amherst (and subsequently the world) is inspiring. It pains me to hear that any institution of higher-education would sweep such a serious issue under the rug. <3

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:23

Thanks for writing this. I want to add mine to the many voices of support in these comments, first because your article is extremely well written and deserves praise, and second because I haven't yet found the courage to respond as intelligently as you have to my own circumstances. Maybe today will be the day, and if it is, I will have you to thank.

Wesleyan student. (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:24

Thank you Angie. This is actually a classic example of an administration's poor response to sexual abuse. Our school recently had a similar issue, however the rape was committed by a non student. The school did not address the issue in the best way possible and the victim suffered because of it. However, I must say that this is only ONE side of the story. As a kid, I was taught that every story has three sides: the victim's, the abuser's, and the truth. Rarely do all three match up exactly. This does not mean I do not believe everything Angie said, because I do believe every word. I just know that the article is clearly from her POV. We DO NOT know the story from the school. While her story is powerful, we cannot overlook that the administration has a different POV. Therefore, its impossible that we can make any judgements against the school or Angie. This is just her story. However, we MUST look at her story as a first person recall of how tough a school can seemingly appear on victims. While I don't think the school was actively trying to hurt her, but clearly they failed her. We must keep this story in mind when addressing sexual assault in school. We must remember that our actions might seem in the best interest of the victim, but can inadvertently hurt the victim even more. I am against the quick responses that villainize the school, as we do not know their story. Let us just appreciate Angie for coming forward and let her story teach us on how to approach these situations in the future. Again, I command you Angie for coming forward and letting the world know how to better address these issues. However, let's not turn this powerful, moving account into a blame game.

Casey (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:25

"Your silence will not protect you." Audre Lorde

Thank you.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:25

my best friend was recently sexually assaulted by an acquaintance. the administration of her so-called """progressive""" college stonewalled her at every opportunity. despite the fact that my friend's rapist admitted to the crime, the school felt as though it "wouldn't be fair" to punish a student so close to graduating. and my friend? the victim of all this? was called hysterical, accused of exaggeration. one of her friends became angry with her for reporting him, saying that he never wanted to know that his friend was a rapist. apparently that was her fault too.

angie's story is so not unique. it is believable, realistic, even common. and that's what makes it horrifying.

angie, thank you for writing this. you've done something really good here, and you have my unending support.

Catherine (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:27

Thank you for bravery, you have inspired many individuals to work together to speak up and fight against this injustice. This is a serious social problem not just at Amherst College and many women (and men) still refrain from reporting rape and/or sexual assault because of the lack of law enforcement and punishment from admins. These perpetrators need to be held responsible for their actions yet administrations across the board continue to demonstrate cowardice and perpetuate rape culture by failing to stand against it. Regardless of having spoken up, we feel great compassion towards you and others who have witnessed the same, remaining silent and feeling powerless from institutions which refuse to grant them agency.

Ani (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:28

I went to a small private college in the south, and heard numerous stories of similarly-handled rape cases, and knew far too many people who had similar experiences. As a woman and as a human, I am deeply ashamed at the way private schools are often able to disregard rights and manipulate their students, simply under the guise of being their own exclusive communities and administrators "knowing what's best for you." I, too, suffered greatly under an administration that caused mew a lot of emotional pain in my college years by "knowing what was best" and by curtailing my rights simply for being a student.

Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I know how deeply it hurts to do so, and how terrifying it can be, and I hope that, as more of us speak out, administrators (college and government alike) will realize that they cannot silence us.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:29

People in Maryland and the DC area are sending you love. Thank you for sharing this and you are an inspiration to us all.

Besama Alghussein (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:30

I love you Angie! You are so brave and I admire your courage. Thank you so much for speaking out and being a role model for all of us. Don't ever let anyone silence you! <3 B (Mount Hokyoke College)

unc prof (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:31

this is a particularly stunning account of the ways in which assault, institutions and the myriad dynamics of shame can isolate and silence a person who has been injured (legally the "victim"; consider even why we have all become so ashamed of being a "victim"!). I don't doubt that, in some "bizarre" way, the institution thought it was doing the right/good thing. But because they think so doesn't mean it is so. how can students educate their faculty and administrations about the effects of so-called protective policies? how to enable/require the institution to understand and act on what is really "in the best interest" of the student? telling the story is an amazing achievement in rediscovering and exercising the right to speak. now what are we/you going to DO?

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:31

I am also a Swarthmore Alum, and am embarrassed to say that I had heard of our administration's disregard for sexual assault victims, but had assumed it couldn't be as bad as was said. I assumed the name-callers were just angry, abrasive women who wanted to find the college at fault for something. I assumed wrong. I am sorry for not believing the truth when I heard it. Angie, you have made a difference with this article--you have enlightened at least one oblivious person; me. Thank you so much.

Amherst Alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:33

I'm so glad you found the courage to write this, especially knowing the variety of responses you would get.
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what you think and how you feel. This life is yours and no one else can walk in your shoes no matter how much they might want to so don't ever let anyone tell you what you should feel/think/do. This is all about you.
And while there is always a chance of a guy being accused out of malice, I think the consequences of dismissing a charge like this is too great and happens too often. If anything, it will make guys think twice before they do anything and vice versa for the girls - as this account now proves.
On a separate note, Amherst administration is out here trying to raise money probably. I think I will raise this situation, sit back and enjoy the show.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:39

Your bravery for sharing your story is incredible. I wish you the best of luck moving forward with your life and healing the wounds which the Amherst administration, incapable or unwilling to accept, thought it could simply sweep under the rug. I have had my own experience of withdrawing from an Ivy league university temporarily as a result of an emotional breakdown, and found the administration to be equally unhelpful and unable to understand what was wrong. As much as they love to portray themselves in the application brochure as your surrogate parent, these top universities will never play the role for their students during a crisis that they claim they will. I hope your story serves to evoke shame and reform on the part of these elite universities who are blind to the underbellies of their supposedly pristine campuses.

Brown student '13 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:42

Thank you for your bravery, your honesty, your conviction, your humility.

Swarthmore '14 (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:44

Keep your spirits up and your pen close. Your voice, I suspect, still has more ripples to make.

Love and Solidarity.

Smithie (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:47

You've been very brave, and I cannot begin to understand the depth of what you've been through, but I have so much respect for your bravery and endurance. Be as loud as you can and know that sharing stories like this protect others from going through the same thing.

Thank you.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:48

I go to Reed College and I am a sophomore. At Reed, sexual assault is a huge topic of conversation among students and administration, and I am so so surprised and upset that the administration at Amherst is such a failure. Shame on Amherst for clearly not understanding anything about sexual assault.

Angie you are so brave for sharing this and especially for sending it to be published. I imagine that this will spark discussion in the community at Amherst, which I hope will lead to some serious changes.

with love. stay strong.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:49

I had a similar experience at my university, I ws sexually assaulted, all hush hush, although my counseling has been helpful. Thank you for sharing your incredible story, and from the deepest part of my heart I feel for you and I hope that you are able to find your passions and happiness in the future and go to Africa. I'm in the early stages of everything, and this helps me to know that I'm not alone in not only dealing with the assault, but also dealing with the university, so you have helped me immensely.

Sara (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:50

Angie, I'm so sorry that this happened to you. It disgusts me to think rape is being swept under the rug by a college administration in 2012. This needs to be changed. You're so brave for sharing your story with the world. Thanks you.

Tiko (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:51

Thank you for your courageous testimony. Your story makes me wonder what gets 'swept under the rug' at my own small liberal arts college, and I fully intend to share it with others. Wishing you all the best.

Santa Clara U S... (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:55

Thank you for your bravery in sharing this. I can't understand what you went through or will continue to go through, but I hope for nothing but the best for such an amazing woman.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:57

Thank you for sharing your experience.
I'm so sorry for what you went through in Amherst.
I hope that you continue to stay strong & enjoy what the world has to offer outside of Amherst!

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 13:58

I really don't know what to say. After reading your story I was very sad and then nervous about walking around Amherst cause I am a UMass student. Thank you for sharing your story, I can't imagine the courage it took to write this. I hope your are happy where ever you end up traveling to. Unfortunately there are many ignorant peoplein the world who do not believe these things happen, or they like to pretend they don't but it just takes one person to make a difference. I just wanted to let you know that your strength has inspired me. Thank you

Solidarity and ... (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:00

Angie, words are almost inadequate to respond to something so powerful, but thank you for writing this. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for willingly subjecting yourself (again) to outside scrutiny for the sake of fellow survivors. It's unforgivable that you were treated like the perpetrator in a crime committed against you. I know that colleges routinely mishandle cases of rape (I take issue with the term "forcible rape" in the same way I take issue with Todd Akin's usage of the term "legitimate rape"). But I'm floored that you were prohibited from studying abroad, coerced into counseling that was counterproductive, and essentially infantalized simply for telling the truth and asking for support. College administrations should NOT have the right to make judgement calls about what counts as criminal behavior. They should NOT have the authority to deny an adult (18+) the right to pursue the studies of their choice, including study abroad. I'm sickened by what happened to you and even more so by how frequently survivors are put on trial for coming forward. This is why rape victims DON'T come forward, on small college campuses and on the whole. Again and again, misogynists and apologists question the veracity of their claims while defending the nameless perpetrator. It's a knee-jerk reaction from a culture that tells women and other survivors of sexual assault to be silent, and blasts survivors who do speak up for "ruining some poor guy's life"--conveniently forgetting the lifelong impact on the victim's life. How could ANYONE accuse a survivor of dishonesty when coming forward can be almost as traumatizing as the attack itself. Notice how the rapist's name is not included here. Nor are the names of administrators. It is Angie herself who must brave the court of public opinion; those who contributed to her suffering continue to enjoy their anonymity. It takes a lot of integrity, strength and determination to do what Angie has done. Angie, I hope you pursue a career in advocacy. I hope you continue to write. We need more people like you.

Swarthmore Alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:01

Sending you love and thanks for sharing your story. How sick is it that the supposedly strong feminist women who are the deans and faculty at our schools support the rapists over the survivors? I wish you a most luminous life--keep writing even when it hurts.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:01

Thank you so much for sharing your story. The way rape and domestic abuse is handled by college administrations is problematic and unjust on so many college campuses. I hope Amherst can refine its policies and make its campus a safer place for students to talk about such traumatic experiences.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:01

Again, thank you for your brave words. It's time for Amherst's administration to change. I know that this is unfortunately not an uncommon case, and I know that not only does it affect students at Amherst, but students across the five college consortium have had similar experiences on the Amherst campus. Thank you for shedding light on the situation.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:01

I am deeply grateful that you've shared your story. My sophomore year at a rival NESCAC school my best friend was raped on campus. Like many women who have been raped she battled with the same issues of guilt, shame, confusion, and anger that can make reporting rape so difficult and emotionally traumatizing. Additionally, because her rapist's parents were big-time donors to the school, the administration initially took little action against him, despite two other women coming forward reporting him for both rape and sexual assault. One of the women had a rape kit done to prove it. Additionally this guy had two criminal charges for drunk driving against him within his first few years at school. Nevertheless he was able to stay on campus albeit with a few suspensions here and there and continue his studies. It took getting caught for cheating on a midterm for him to finaly get expelled. He is currently finishing his studies at a nearby public university. Because our school is a private insitution this rapist's history cannot be made public. I shudder to think about the consequences this has for any future victims. The worst part is even when my friend had the strength to share her story with some of her friends, a couple of them immediately doubted her. "Wait, but he's such a sweet guy, he'd never do that, I went to high school with him", or "He was in my Econ class fall semester, seemed totally normal" At elite institutions such as the NESCACs and Ivys we don't want to think such disgusting acts can occur. There is a sense of privilage and separation from the pack that comes with being a part of the upper echelons of academia. We like to believe we're above such things. The bottom line is there's no one-size-fits-all profile for a rapist. They exist in even the most elite sects of society. My friend never ended up reporting her rape, she continues to struggle to come to terms with what happened that night and has sought counseling to grapple with the anxiety and fear caused by her horrific experience. Rape never leaves you. As institutions we need to take this issue more seriously and realize it happens here.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 10/18/2012 - 14:04

Thank you. I've never felt so...not alone among Amherst women. The only help I sought from the college was to help me recover from my eating disorder (as it happens, it developed in the wake of unwanted sexual experiences). I asked for no special treatment, no extensions, no time off. Just a solid goal-oriented program to guide me. And they sent me for bloodwork, EKGs, and had me visit a nutritionist. Beg pardon? It's not as if a multivitamin for my iron/B12 deficiencies and a few more grams of carbs per day were going to correct anything. Physically I passed all tests with flying colors, anyway.

I still remember the nutritionist telling me that I shouldn't be doing this just to look good for men. "What other reason is there?"

No. I was trying to disappear from men. I am glad I tried to explain, but there was that dubious shrug. I don't know how she believed that ravaging my body - me, a singer, putting fingers down my throat every day until the burn of acid told me I'd hit bottom - could be driven by cosmetic concerns.

I felt so disenfranchised - as if "mental health problem" = "mentally challenged." Traumatic events don't erase the fact that we are blindingly intelligent women with a lot of insights to offer.