Content warnings: rape, sexual assault, victim blaming, alcohol
Last year, I was raped by someone who held a position of power over me. They held numerous positions of power on campus, in fact, and held an enormous amount of social capital compared to me, a first year student. There is no easy or succinct way to describe the amount of pain, trauma, and disgust I felt in myself and my situation—all I knew was that I needed to do something about it. I would not let this person get away with destroying my sense of security, self, and sanity.
I started the Title IX process towards the end of the winter, right before spring break, and I felt confident that my case would be strong enough to see my rapist expelled from Hampshire. However, a major source of anxiety for me was the fact that this person still held a position of significant power over me and other students in my year, despite the charges being pressed against them. I was informed early on that nothing could be done “without proof,” and I was asked to relay the horrible account of my rape over, and over, and over again to faculty member after faculty member who would respond by telling me they couldn’t do anything “until the case was decided.” These people included, but were not limited to: area coordinators, professors, academic deans, and deans of students. I decided that if they wouldn’t remove this person from their position during the investigation to ensure the safety of countless other students (both survivors and not), I would have to do something about it.
I told my story—first to my close friends for support, and then eventually to a large audience at a Survivor Speakout event. And despite indicating that I did not want my story to be spread and not even giving the name of my rapist, my story began to spread more rapidly than I could ever imagine. And with that story, the name soon came out, and that name was spread as well.
In the meantime, I gave my rapist the opportunity to step down from all positions of power, stating that I would consider not pursuing the Title IX case if they agreed to relinquish their power. Initially, they agreed to step down, but then I received an email from my support person who had been helping to mediate the situation in its early phases. The email was penned by my rapist, and they retracted their previous promise to step down, describing the situation as “very difficult for all parties involved” (as if I give a fuck about how my rapist felt after getting called out) and described my experience as “something intense.”
The email also said I was feeling “a certain way,” but that they could assure that everything that happened was consensual—which is funny, coming from the person who engaged in sexual activity with me while they were sober and I was almost blackout drunk. They also stated that they were “unwilling to compromise” anything involving their position of power because they were concerned about their future, academically, socially, and economically.
While this is really cute and nice that they were “so concerned” about their future, what about my future? What about how raping me compromised all aspects of my work, academic and social spheres? What about how I spent months considering whether or not I wanted (or needed) to drop out just to deal with the trauma? What about me, the victim in all of this?
As if it wasn’t bad enough to feel completed invalidated and trivialized by the person who had already taken so much from me through raping me, then came the administration. Then came the silencing.
I was contacted by a faculty member in the dean of students office who wanted to meet with me:
As one of the student life deans I often follow up with students regarding incidents and provide support. I need to schedule a meeting with you regarding your interim no contact order with (name). This is not a disciplinary conversation, but an opportunity to check in and review the requirements of the agreement.
I look forward to speaking with you, please let me know when you are available to meet this week.”
The official who emailed me made me believe that this meeting would just be to “check in” about the official no contact order (not agreement, this will become relevant). They specifically stated “this is not a disciplinary conversation,” and gave me very short notice of when the meeting would be. I contacted my support person, who said that they would like to be present because they were “suspicious” of this official’s motives for the meeting.
In the meeting, I was welcomed in by the dean and sat down with my support person. The official then went on to start explaining to me a situation that had occurred on the app Yik Yak in which my rapist’s name had been revealed letter by letter in the comments. They continued on, explaining that such an act could be considered “retaliation” or “slander,” and threatened that it could jeopardize my Title IX case if I was found to be complicit in the action. I had no idea about the post, first of all, and was completely blindsided by this accusation—which was strategically disguised as a friendly conversation, even though I knew I was being accused of this action. My rapist was also kicked out of at least two student groups they were a part of, which had nothing to do with the sharing of my story—people in the groups got wind of what had happened and made their own conscious decisions out of disgust and discomfort to expel him from their organizations. However, these actions were attributed to me by the official, despite claiming this was “not a disciplinary conversation.”
They then went on to discuss how my “agreement” with the Title IX coordinators and my rapist prevented me from contacting them—which is NOT what a no contact ORDER is. The latter states that the person referred to in the order may not contact the person issuing the order in any way, shape, or form, and must leave any spaces occupied by the person issuing it if they are also present. A no contact AGREEMENT is the same thing, except that both parties agree to not contacting the other and they agree that if one person enters a space that the other is already in, they must leave and give the space to the person who was already there. This language of the “agreement” they referred to implied that my rapist and I were parties bearing equal weight — that I was just as much at fault or at risk of being guilty as they were.
Appalled and hurt by this invalidating language, I asked the official if they knew why the ORDER was initiated in the first place. They said they did not know, but invited me to tell them why, so I began telling my story and explaining how I was raped — but they cut me off. They stopped me claiming “that’s not important” and saying “I don’t need to hear this, I’m not the person to tell,” actively silencing me and telling me that they basically didn’t care that I was raped, and made their allegiance to my rapist even more clear to me. They went on to cite more examples of retaliation, which basically included any form of me telling anybody about what had happened to me in which I named my rapist since it “hadn’t been proven yet” by the Title IX investigation. I was essentially told not to share my story and not to seek support — if I chose to do so, I had to be “careful” about what I said and who I told.
Lastly, I was told what possible sanctions I would face if I was found “responsible” for such “retaliation,” which was mainly probation, but loss of financial aid packages and removal from student groups was also mentioned.
In this one meeting, the administration made it painfully clear to me whose side they had chosen to take in the investigation and in my experience of being raped. The administration silenced me. They threatened me — with sanctions fit for my rapist and specifically with my (very much needed) financial aid. They told me that my story didn’t matter, and that “policy” weighed more than my experiences.
Let me make it very clear: I don’t give a FUCK about the policy. I could not care one bit about what the policy says I can and cannot do, what it says administrators can and cannot do. I sat in that office in a meeting that I was tricked into attending under the pretense that it would be a “check in” about a specific aspect of the policy that I had asked for, and instead had to sit there silently as I was threatened and belittled by an administrator. I was told that my story didn’t matter to them because the “policy” stated that my story only matters if it’s been proven.
Even now, after the investigation concluded and my rapist was found NOT responsible of the horrific act they committed upon me, I have been told that by the “policy” I am lying. I was threatened again this year under the discourse of “slander” and “retaliation,” and was even told that there may be a case opened up against ME by my rapist because I made them feel “uncomfortable” on this campus. I MADE YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE? HOW THE FUCK DO YOU THINK I FELT LAST YEAR? THIS YEAR? HOW DO YOU THINK I’LL FEEL AS I WATCH YOU GRADUATE IN LESS THAN A MONTH?
The administration and their “policies” actively silence and do not support survivors. They do not believe us unless a board of poorly trained individuals reviews and passes our cases—assuming we even choose to go through with an investigation. My rapist was concerned with their reputation being ruined, and in the case cited examples of “ostracization” and “alienation” from groups and peers, and how “difficult” it was to exist on a campus where they are hated for something they “did not do.”
To respond to those claims, I would like to provide an excerpt from the impact statement I was asked to write for the review board (which was not reviewed since my rapist was not found responsible):
“I don’t know when the panic attacks started happening, but the one I remember the most was when I was in the shower and I closed my eyes and saw their face and I stopped breathing and started freaking out. I had a similar attack during class later that week, and I had to leave the room – I locked myself in a bathroom stall for 20 minutes until I felt better.
Because of what (name) did to me, I was losing sleep, losing focus on my work, I wasn’t eating, and I was isolating myself from everyone. I was afraid to walk across campus by myself – I always had to have someone with me. During the month and a half after the incident, I missed at least two classes every week. I pride myself in being a dedicated student, but I really just could not bring myself to go to class or even get out of bed some days, because I was afraid and I felt defeated.”
But I’m sorry that you, my rapist, were asked to leave a few student groups because people were uncomfortable associating with a rapist! I’m sorry that your friends denounced you after hearing about how you took advantage of a blackout drunk student two years younger than you! I’m sorry that you’ve been finding it “difficult” to exist on this campus!
I have not gone a single day on campus since that night where I have not thought about what happened to me, about how you knew just how drunk I was but still invited me over. Where I have not woken up between 6 and 7AM in a panic, needing to make sure that the bed I was in was my own and that there was not a foreign, naked body in my bed. Where I have not felt paranoid, afraid that I may run into you. Where I have not worried that the memories may come back somehow, and I’ll have to remember exactly what you did to me in my inebriated, incapacitated state.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about how the only reason you weren’t found responsible was because they couldn’t prove I was drunk, and you used time-stamps on text messages to try and show that I couldn’t have “gotten that drunk that quickly,” even though I have several friends and witnesses who attested and can attest to my drinking that night. Where I don’t think about how you openly described every disgusting detail of our non-consensual sexual encounter, and that when I said “I don’t remember any of it,” that WASN’T ENOUGH to prove that it was not consensual.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about how my friends claimed they supported me but then said they “weren’t comfortable with how I wanted to get revenge” on my rapist, told me to have “compassion” for them (whatever the fuck that means). Not a day goes by where I don’t wonder if my friends even believe me, as I see them support and maintain friendships countless other rapists, defending and protecting them as well.
My forced silence has lasted over year, and now I’m breaking that silence. Now I’m yelling.
To close this piece, I want to remind readers that the administration DOES NOT SUPPORT SURVIVORS. That they ACTIVELY SILENCE AND THREATEN US, PROTECTING OUR RAPISTS.
Hampshire’s administration puts more effort into protecting sexual predators than it does supporting survivors.
Let me repeat that: HAMPSHIRE’S ADMINISTRATION PUTS MORE EFFORT INTO PROTECTING SEXUAL PREDATORS THAN IT DOES SUPPORTING SURVIVORS.
This story was not told for shock value, it was not told to gain sympathy or pity points. I wrote this to call out the administration for doing to me what they have undoubtedly done to many, many other students who so bravely come forward and speak out about their experiences with sexual violence, some daring to pursue Title IX cases that are ultimately rigged against them.
To all my fellow survivors that have ever felt silenced, or threatened, or belittled, or turned away, I believe you—we believe you. And to those of you who have not found the voice to tell your stories, we believe you just as much. We love you. And we will never stop fighting for you.