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:

Melissa (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 15:14

Angie, you are an incredibly courageous woman and may you be blessed for your openness and vulnerability. Your courage is inspiring. Not only has it seemed to spark the change necessary at Amhurst, but across the nation people are reading your story, shedding tears with you, and praising you for sharing. There will always be those that will blame you, and try to shame you-- resist them. You are enough, whole, and courageous.

To Amhurst University, I hope that you live up to the promises that you have made this young woman and the hundreds like her. Do not give in to the pressure to return to previous patterns when the media pressure to change subsides. Set an example. Do not allow the treatment of this woman to be your legacy.

Sympathetic Skeptic (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 15:39

Angie states she was raped on May 25th, 2011. However, according to the Amherst calendar, commencement was held on the 22nd of May. Wouldn't the dorms be vacated by the 25th? Aren't all students except graduating seniors required to have moved out of the dorms by that time? Did she and her alleged rapist (and his roommates) all have housing extensions?

Angie's story is harrowing indeed, but some things don't add up. Any clarification would be appreciated.

Sally (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 16:15

I truly appreciate the fact that you have shared your story with all of us. It takes a lot of bravery and strength to do so. I am a college student on the West Coast at women's college, and although I am not a raging hyper-feminist, your story touches me indescribable ways, and instigates a host of emotions ranging from the sad and angry, to the confused and bewildered. The fact that our broken "system" refuses to take significant action against those who have violated the bodies and minds of raped individuals is disgusting, to say the least. Our higher education system, especially the elite, private schools, clearly don't have a consistent method of protecting those who are on campus; they HAVE to pause and think: without the students, there would be NO college. Then what? They have to protect their students and assist in keeping them happy and healthy. I'm proud that you decided to spit in their face and leave for a school where you are respected not only as a woman, but as a student and a citizen of the world.

Survivor (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/01/2012 - 21:59

Your story is a truly incredible one, and I thank you for sharing it. This did trigger a memory of my attempted sexual assault. I can't say for sure if he would have raped me or not, if I had not screamed in my own house where my family was downstairs, but in my heart I know the two other and separate sexual assault accusations against him were not coincidences. Despite this memory trigger your story triggered something else which is faith , hope, happiness, and strength. All the things I have finally learned to have in the past couple of years. If I could hug you and thank you in person I would. I don't know what everyone else is discussing in these comments, but to me nothing but your powerful story, being a fighter, and winning in the end is all that matters. And shame on Amherst and colleges like it where "rape" is subjected to that of pety theft, bet I know who they're voting for.

James (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/02/2012 - 08:47

my respects to the author for her courage and determination.

in response to some of the comments, and to add another dimension to this complex issue. i wish to ask the following question that may help open up some perspectives on the issue of blame/responsibilty.

what if it's 15 year old male, with no sexual experience (not even a kiss) who's curious about his own sexuality and is trying to figure out if he's gay or not. - so he decides to go into an adult film theatre, where he watches a bit of a straight film, and a bit of a gay film. he gets approached by an older man. the environment is intense and exciting, yet very grim. the 15 yr old follows the man into a private cabin, but changes his mind and tries to leave. and asks the older man to stop, but he doesnt and the 15 year old freezes, paralysed. he feels his legs trembling but can't move or talk anymore. the older man performs oral sex on the teen and the teen even ejaculates. the experience felt so awful that on the bus ride home, he thinks to himself "this must be what rape feels like". he never tells anyone about it. he finds out, much later in life, that most boys normally get an erection and ejaculate during rape. it's a physcial response and it does not mean that they're aroused and enjoying it. after a few years, he returns to this place regularly. at one time, it's even daily. he replays the same scenario over and over again with strangers and it makes him feel powerful and in control. it becomes an addiction. he even sees that same man, and this time invites him in the cabin. years had passed and he doesn't tell the older man that they've done this before. he somehow feels like he's in control this time.

was it rape? (remember, he said "no please stop" a few times)
was it statutory rape? (the teen went into the adult film place, knowing he was too young but looked older)
would it be acceptable for people to tell the teen how he could have prevented this?
is rape a gender issue?
did this "happen" to him, and did he make it happen?
if someone asks him "didnt you know it was a risk before going in there?", or "why on earth would you go into a private room with a complete stranger" - are they blaming him (is he even a victim?)? a victim of what? was the older man even a perpatrator or did he just get confused with the mixed signals?

Nico (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/04/2012 - 00:04

And yet I feel it necessary to leave a comment. This is incredibly heartbreaking, empowering, and unimaginable for me. You are an incredibly strong, and beautiful woman. It took massive strength and security to write about this, and I hope that as many people as possible can read this and learn from your story. Thank you for the incredible prowess it took to let the world hear what you went through.

Laura (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/04/2012 - 14:24

I live in Cape Town, South Africa. It is a first-world city. One of my teachers once described it as 'a little bubble of Europe.' Being in this beautiful place is not traumatizing. It is not dangerous unless you take serious risks, like in any place on Earth. I hope Angie will one day see the University of Cape Town. I think she'd like it there.

Melissa (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/04/2012 - 15:59

Not reading the comments because they probably suck. Just want to leave a comment for the author.

You're such a brave young woman, and I'm so glad you decided to leave Amherst and do what was right for you in the face of all the adversity you encountered. I have the best of wishes to you - I hope you get to travel and, if you choose to, finish your degree somewhere else where you'll be supported and happy. Unfortunately many top schools are more concerned with protecting their reputations than protecting their students. Good for you that you found your way out of one of those.

Best of luck to you - you have incredible strength and courage, and I'm sure you'll be amazing in whatever you do.

Raj (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/04/2012 - 20:10

Dear Angie,
I wish everything that happened to you could be undone -- not just the rape, but also your egregious mistreatment by the administration and the dishearteningly cruel/ignorant tone of some of the comments you've received since the publication of your letter. All I can say is that I think you have handled the situation admirably and with far more strength than I think I could muster in your shoes. That you were brave enough to write a public letter to bring all of this to light is a testament to your selflessness as well as your determination to heal. I can't pretend to know what you have gone through, not even a little, but I do think you're an extraordinary person for not only surviving but also fighting back. I don't know if you're reading these comments, but if you are, I hope it is some small comfort to see that the majority of them express sympathy, admiration, solidarity, and belief in your story. I also hope that you eventually get to study abroad and spend your future in the company of people who treat you well. You deserve so much better than what you have experienced so far.

chris (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/08/2012 - 19:03

Superb writing and advocacy: This author's courage will save lives. I sincerely hope that all Amherst applicants and their parents will read this article, see the horrifying and shameful parallels to Penn State, read Biddy Martin's disgracefully inadequate response and go elsewhere. Like Penn State, Amherst's only interest was in protecting its reputation - and the perks and power that accrued to its administrators as a result. Like Penn State, Amherst knowingly allowed a rapist the freedom of its campus, so he could continue to enjoy his taste for violent crime. Tell me, Amherst, did you do so because you were you concerned that you make the decision that was most "humane" to the predator?

I have never been more proud to be an alumna of U.C. Berkeley, where, 35 years ago, the administration did better in protecting its women against sexual violence than Amherst does today. I guess Berkeley is just 40 years ahead of Amherst.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT FOR BIDDY MARTIN: There is only one possible response to an accusation of rape, and it isn't a revamped format for an administrative hearing, as you seem to believe. YOU CALL THE POLICE. There is only one possible response to the incompetence and backwardness of the counselors and administrators who mistreated this young woman: YOU FIRE THEM. Or would that not be "humane?"

Catherine62 (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/08/2012 - 20:51

I know nothing about the circumstances in the letter-writer's rape.

But I want to ask this: how can we teach women ways of preventing rape without being labeled victim-blamers?

There ARE actually ways a woman can reduce her chances of being raped although none of these is 100 percent effective. There are ways in which people can reduce their risk of any type of violent crime, of course, that doesn't mean you won't be a victim even if you follow all the "rules" about protecting yourself.

Women need to be aware that as long as there are men, there will be a chance of being raped. Just about any woman is easily overpowered by a man determined to rape her. Change men's attitudes, sure, great idea. But don't expect this to eliminate rape.

This is an unfortunate reality.

But just because you can't protect yourself 100 percent does not mean you shouldn't attempt to protect yourself as much as you can.

This is not blaming the victim. It's about reducing the number of victims.


Brittany (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 01:03

I am so glad you told your story. What a truly wonderful person you are. I'm thinking of you and wishing you well. I hope you live the best life, one that is happy and fulfilling, and that you are able to overcome such a painful experience. Shame on Amherst but cheers to you. You are truly inspiring to women everywhere.

A dad (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 11:05

Dear Angie,

As a father of two young (under 11 yrs old) daughters and an alum of a Little Three school, I am extraordinarily impressed with your strength, honesty, and resiliency in retelling your story in print, in public, and through the exact institution which you had the fortitude to leave.

No one can begin to understand the true loneliness of your ordeal and I congratulate you for keeping your wits about you when all others--who were in position and authority to do the exact opposite--did not and continued the assault on your feelings of helplessness and self-worth. I thank you for being a beacon of light so that when women follow you in accepting admission to an Amherst, Wesleyan, Williams, or similar small college may find the environment changed for the better, more understanding of the trauma which male-initiated physicial assault and rape can and does inflict on its victims.

Seeing the world-wide response to the brave retelling of your experiences from students, administrators, parents alike, I can tell you have made a difference in thousands of people's lives and know that these types of environments (personally relevent in the future if our daughters choose to pursue them) are better from your voice, courage, and thoughtfulness. A generation of Little Three daughters thank you Angie. You're wonderful.

Naomi Rhoads (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 11:50

Under the circumstances, given that you received pretty much the opposite of support from those who should have supported you, it is amazing that there was no vigilante response. Probably a childhood of emotional abuse is responsible for that. My advice is that you start studying/practicing self defense: karate, kung fu, tae kwon do.... Visit schools in your area and pick one where you feel safe and comfortable with the teachers. It is a very excellent thing to know how to defend yourself, and it helps the emotional healing process tremendously. Learning to free fight, you will get smacked around by fellow students until you figure out about not being in the wrong place at the wrong time (and this has an amazing corollary outside of the dojo); after a while you will want to get your own shots in, and you will start being conditioned to be in the right place at the right time (and this too will be reflected in your getting all kinds of opportunities and jobs and good things happen.)

survivor (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 12:44

I can only say that time and good friends will help you through the pain and memories. You will never forget, however life goes on and so will are a survivor. STAND TALL be PROUD and live each day

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 13:38

Wow. This is sad. I went to a college in CO and they were known for covering up rapes too. Particularly when it involved their football players.

KJ (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 13:40

What a sad story. I hope the administrators of Amherst change their ways. Sadly, this kind of thing runs rampant in college administrations.

Tiara (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 14:30

I applaud you... your story is one that all girls should read. You are an amazingly strong and beautiful woman. I am sorry that you went through so much, but I am happy that you grew from the experience and are helping others with your story. When I was younger my girlfriends put me to bed after a long night out, thinking this was a prime moment, a mutual "friend" took advantage of me while I am came in and out of consciousness. I never told anyone because like you... I thought it was easier to pretend it never happened. Thank you so much for sharing this and I wish you all the best.

Survivor (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 20:32

Keep living, and enjoy your life. Take all the time, resources, and years you need to heal. Love yourself.
I walked to the edge of the cliff, and chose not to jump. After being on the edge, the rest of lives challenges are relative.

Anon (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/09/2012 - 23:25

Angie, thank you so much for your courage in sharing your story. An acquaintance of mine sexually assaulted me when we were both students at a university in Virginia. I was abandoned and put in danger both by the school administration and by people who i thought were my friends. When I attempted to report the crime to the police, I was kept in a strange room for hours and was asked questions about the underwear I was wearing at the time. The police and the school's sexual assault advocate kept reminding me over and over that i had a social obligation to report the crime, and yet, also reminded me that my chances of winning a court case or even getting a warrant were very slight. I could get no protective order and restraining orders are not available in Virginia. The magistrate would not even grant a warrant for the stalking behavior of the rapist, of which there was substantial physical evidence. Then, campus police were required to inform the rapist that a fellow student had attempted to take legal action against him, while providing me no protection whatsoever. I thought this man was going to kill me.

Angie, I am so sorry that you had to go through this, and to suffer, and to fear for your safety. I am so sorry for all of us. But it is so incredibly inspiring to find fellow survivors, and to show one another how strong we can be, and what good works there are for us to do, together, in ending this system of violence.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Frankie (not verified) says:
Sat, 11/10/2012 - 04:39

Angie, thank you for sharing this. The way you were treated by the college was appalling. Such vile, pervasive emotional bullying disguised as concern, undermining your every thought, feeling, and decision. I'm so glad to know that you got out. Be strong, be brave, and keep speaking out. It's time we all understood institutional bullying better, and stood up to it.

Alyn (not verified) says:
Sat, 11/10/2012 - 05:40

Angie, Thank you for writing your story of what happened to you, your perception of the "Help" you were offered, and above all, how you kept reaching out again and again despite mishandling by professionals who should have at least known how to be compassionate in guiding and supporting you. Well done! Your story will help a lot of people, ones who desperately need the support of an understanding soul.

You go Girl! You are truly Gold!

sauerkraut (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/11/2012 - 22:05

The tweener just read this article and asked me point-blank: "why the hell would you want me to apply to a cold place like Amherst."

I'm guessing that unless there is a turnover in the administration at Amherst that their numbers will go down this year. Maybe it's time someone start reaching out to the Trustees. Starting with me.

Michael (not verified) says:
Mon, 11/12/2012 - 06:08

Dear Angie,

I suppose that you're no longer reading these comments. And that's probably healthy. But if you are, I wanted to tell you that I believe you, that you have shown incredible bravery in speaking out against what happened to you, and that your words have not been wasted. People are beginning to work for change. And I'm so, so sorry about what happened to you.

Dave (not verified) says:
Mon, 11/12/2012 - 09:58

"Amherst knowingly allowed a rapist the freedom of its campus, so he could continue to enjoy his taste for violent crime"

What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Oh, never mind.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Tue, 11/13/2012 - 00:53

@Dave, but Amherst didn't even pursue investigations! And the greater point here is that they didn't provide Angie with proper support, but instead further victimized her.

Been there (not verified) says:
Tue, 11/13/2012 - 04:25

Why is Amherst handling rape cases and not the police? They should be required to report rape charges to the police, as they would any other violent crime. Universities have a vested interest in keeping things quiet.

If you'd ever been raped, then you'd understand that rapists are not confused. They know the woman doesn't want it. That's what they enjoy: forcing. The thrill of degrading another human being. They are bullies and cowards. Confusion is just the excuse they use when caught.

Often the rapist will make this very plain to the victim: He will even say, I'm going to rape you.

Remember, he is a rapist. He's done this before. He's much stronger than your average woman, no matter how much she struggles. He will pin her down and leave bruises all over her body. He will rape somebody else next time.

Meanwhile, she feels sick and dirty. She's lucky to be alive. Listen to her. Stop offering ridiculous advice about how she could have avoided all this. She is a hero for speaking out. I want to thank her.

ShiningBrighter... (not verified) says:
Tue, 11/13/2012 - 07:20

thankyou. thankyou so much. that's all as i can possibly think as tears run down my face. i hope that you spend eternity in happiness, and one day find a relative peace. i hope that you find somewhere you feel safe and warm and happy and you can run from the nightmares. thankyou so much

Luboman411 (not verified) says:
Tue, 11/13/2012 - 11:48

First, I'd like to thank this brave young woman for coming out and talking about her rape and the horrendous emotional aftermath she had to suffer. It takes courage to air out to the public, and in detail, something so traumatizing and injurious. I'm a male Amherst alum who knows of survivors, inside and outside Amherst. It's great to finally have all the ugly contours of the administration's shameful whitewashing of campus sexual crimes exposed to much-needed public scrutiny.

One thing that Amherst taught me, and it has stuck with me for years now, is how much male privilege I enjoy in life. I found out by simply being the only man in a few women-dominated classes offered at Amherst. One day, as we were getting ready for class (it was Jazz Dance), the instructor, a female professor from Smith, sat all the students down and started to vent her frustration at the callousness of the administration when it came to anti-woman violence on campus. She encouraged all the women to disclose or relate personal stories. To say that what I heard was shocking is an understatement. The stories I heard still stick with me years later. I heard of women being discriminated against, belittled, followed, threatened with physical harm, abused, and thoroughly ignored. The Campus Police would disbelieve women victims and make light of their plight. Here I was, a male student, completely oblivious to any of this. Up until then I had nothing but fondness for Amherst. But after having heard what I heard, I came to realize that my comfort came mostly because of my sex. I could walk about campus at any time of night and not worry about men trying to grab at me, chase me, or worse; I could get drunk at parties and never worry that someone would harm me. I thank Amherst, in the worst way possible, for sensitizing me to this life reality.

As for the deans, I had my run-ins with them. For people so well-educated they seem extremely blinkered and oddly out of touch. I'm a minority man from a poor family who was (thankfully) mentally healthy throughout my time at Amherst and some of the things that came out of those deans' mouths when I met with them for routine semester meetings were jaw-dropping. So I can relate to what the author had to encounter. I can't even imagine what they say when students are emotionally on-edge or vulnerable. I therefore strongly suspect that Amherst does not train its deans in psychological counseling, or any counseling at all. This may be the first thing that Biddy can do--send every single dean to mandatory counseling classes that last a year or so. But that's just the tip of the iceberg when resolving this deeply-entrenched problem of male privilege and the whitewashing of sexual crimes, I suspect.

A parent (not verified) says:
Tue, 11/13/2012 - 12:37

In The MIT crime club adviser's response here, The Harvard Crimson , and elsewhere, he calls out the discrepancies in the victim's narrative, and goes on even to say that her identity was used by some one else. The fact is that the Amherst college president has reopened the investigation, acknowledged that the issue was real and that there are reasonable grounds for beileving that there is truth in what she says. ( In fact, the outporing of support is because most readers, hear the ring of truth in the painful details of the aftermath. Mr. Hermes, You may be right that Angie is hiding her identity, and perhaps trying to keep her parents out of reach of media but the essence of the story is NOT that. It would be great if the MIT crime club could use their energies to help address the larger issues of a college culture where sexual assault is accepted and where the institutions reputation is supreme. You guys can help, instead of deride.

interested party (not verified) says:
Tue, 11/13/2012 - 21:40

So why haven't you mentioned his name?

MindBodyBirth (not verified) says:
Wed, 11/14/2012 - 03:28

Please know that if/when a survivor gives birth, many of these feelings can resurface. Seek out a midwife you feel you can trust and open up to her about your experience. It can be a beautiful and healing process filled with respect and trust if you surround yourself with the right support.

Unreported (not verified) says:
Wed, 11/14/2012 - 08:26

This is why I never came forward. Fear of the reaction.

I didn't tell anyone. Nobody. For years. I quietly decomposed and failed course after course, and just drifted out of college. To the human s**tsmear who just had to put "violent" before "rape"? YOU ARE WHAT IS WRONG WITH HUMANITY.

the help (not verified) says:
Wed, 11/14/2012 - 22:30

if you remember his name you should let it be known. there are plenty of people that would make sure that never happens to another girl again.

Pumpkin (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/15/2012 - 10:26

Because that would escalate matters and Angie has made it quite clear that she wishes to put this experience behind her, you facetious little creep. Real big of you to try to belittle a rape survivor by attempting to turn the words that encouraged her into rhetorical ammunition to fire back at her.

And before anyone brings it up, no, rape victims are NOT obligated to report their rapists in order to potentially protect future victims, just as one is not morally obligated to jump into a fast-moving river to try to rescue someone else. Taking that step can be mentally damaging and potentially dangerous. It is up to no-one but survivors how they decide to proceed.

And, no, future rapes will NOT be on their heads. The only person responsible for a rape is the rapist. After them, any further responsibility falls on those who side with and protect them.

Sabina (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/15/2012 - 19:12

You are very strong, i admire you.

Susan Perkins Weston (not verified) says:
Sat, 11/17/2012 - 21:12

My name above is my real name, easily verified for anyone who wishes to do so.

I am a 1982 graduate of Swarthmore College, daughter of a former dean of Berea College, wife of a professor at Centre College, mother of Swarthmore and Earlham graduates, mother of a Wooster first year student. My law degree is from Yale, as is my husband's doctorate. My father's doctorate is from Harvard. I list all that to confirm for Amherst's leadership that this story is moving rapidly through worlds they care about.

In my experience, college leaders hugely valuable the perception of their institutions, and I wish them to feel that what they treasure has been harmed.

I have read this account from beginning to end, out loud, to share it with my husband.

For the faculty at Amherst, this is now the first thing I think about Amherst. For the administrators, this is the first thing I think about you as leaders. For the trustees, this is the first thing I think about you as stewards of an ancient endowment and a tradition you wish to be proud of.

All of you would be wise to spend the next decade making sure there are no young women and no young men who have a story like this to tell.

The Intrepid Tr... (not verified) says:
Sun, 11/18/2012 - 10:40

The Human race has lost its way. Thanks to Angie Epifano for courageously and bravely leading the way Home.

"Everything Is Broken"

Broken lines broken strings
Broken threads broken springs
Broken idols broken heads
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain't no use jiving
Ain't no use joking
Everything is broken.

Broken bottles broken plates
Broken switches broken gates
Broken dishes broken parts
Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken
Everything is broken.

Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground
Broken cutters broken saws
Broken buckles broken laws
Broken bodies broken bones
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath feel like you're chokin'
Everything is broken.

Everytime you leave and go off someplace
Things fall to pieces in my face
Broken hands on broken ploughs
Broken treaties broken vows
Broken pipes broken tools
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling bullfrog croaking
Everything is broken.

BOB DYLAN lyrics are property and copyright of their owners.
"Everything Is Broken" lyrics provided for educational purposes and personal use only.

Lou (not verified) says:
Tue, 11/20/2012 - 20:21

Ms Weston and others- please remember that this "account" is just that an "account"
Rape is a crime and should be treated by the criminal justice system. If a college student believes they have been raped they should immediately call the police.
While meeting all of the Title IX requirements, college representatives should stand by the above-rape is a crime, report it to the police.

Clare Dingwell (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/29/2012 - 17:21

Angie Epifano you are my new hero! Never give up, never be silent. You will go on to do great things, I am sure of it.

Katelyn (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/29/2012 - 22:14

I am doing a rape analysis paper for college and I would love to report about your account. Is there anyway to contact you to get more information about the rape?

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 11/30/2012 - 01:22

I am an abuse victim and I am currently in yet another bad situation on campus; I am also being denied the right to leave. Because my fiance referred me to this article it made me realize that my thoughts about visiting a counselor would be very risky. I understand every word you wrote and every thought you felt with 100% personal experience. I don't feel so alone anymore.