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A Harrowing Tale of Sexual Assault at Amherst College

goldenboy8784goldenboy8784 Registered User Posts: 1,698 Senior Member
edited October 2012 in Parents Forum
DISCLAIMER: This is a very painful read and it isn't for the faint of heart.

An Account of Sexual Assault at Amherst College | The Amherst Student

Here's what the President of Amherst had to say in response: https://www.amherst.edu/campuslife/letters_president/node/436469

This terrible story got me thinking about the knowledge that parents have regarding the sexual assault response guidelines and statue of limitation policies that the school their son/daughter is matriculating to. Is this something any of you have investigated as part of the college search? Do you spend time reading the Student Handbook with your kid about how to respond to these sorts and situations and where to seek guidance?
Post edited by goldenboy8784 on

Replies to: A Harrowing Tale of Sexual Assault at Amherst College

  • stemitstemit Registered User Posts: 575 Member
    The president is investigating. Not outside independent counsel; not the police. The president is investigating her employer. Did Amherst not learn anything from Penn State?

    In her open letter, the president acknowledges that several more reports have passed her desk since the article first appeared, yet the president is only investigating the incident recounted in the article. Again, did Amherst not learn anything from Penn State?

    The president can convene and create all the committees she wants to change the future; but the deeds of the past should be investigated by an independent body. And that isn't the current president.
  • GeLinsueGeLinsue Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    I believe the girl's doing the right thing.

    as for Amherst, the president IS investigating. I mean, what did the officials do earlier? Simply saying "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."

    I liked it when the girl wrote "I will not be quiet." She shouldn't and doesn't need to be.
  • HarvestMoon1HarvestMoon1 Registered User Posts: 5,988 Senior Member
    Nowhere in the Amherst's Action Plan do I see reporting the alleged rape to police or authorities. Seems like they want to keep theses incidents within their own jurisdiction. As far as I know, rape is a crime. Women need to report rape to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. That allows the appropriate testing to be done to support their allegations.
  • sally305sally305 Registered User Posts: 7,604 Senior Member
    To answer the OP's question: with my son we didn't specifically look into sexual assault guidelines, but we did pay attention to each school's honor code (if they had one). Since he was mostly looking at very small colleges, it was pretty easy to get a sense of the culture of each one. I did take note of campus safety overall, though.

    With my daughter it will be a very different story. In addition to the above I will be seeking an environment where women are respected and there isn't a Greek- or sports-dominated culture. Which will be a challenge, because that will rule out a lot of schools she might be interested in.
  • twomoosetwomoose Registered User Posts: 99 Junior Member
    I'm not sure it's accurate to equate the Greek- or sports-culture of a college with an increased prevalence of sexual assault. To my knowledge, Amherst is not known for fraternities or sports.

    The account of how this young woman was treated by the sexual assault counselor is truly hard to fathom. I'm both incensed at the lack of compassion and baffled by the response from a presumed professional.
  • absweetmarieabsweetmarie Registered User Posts: 1,905 Senior Member
    I know many victims of rape are fearful of reporting it, but this story is a perfect example of why you should report rape or any other crime immediately after it occurs ... to the police.
  • M's MomM's Mom Registered User Posts: 4,562 Senior Member
    Friend told me about another case at the school her kid was attending: They handled it quite differently and I think much better: In this case, both parties had been drinking, and both had previously had sexual relations with each other. On this particular occasion, the girl reported she was raped the next day. The boy said she had consented - but acknowledged they were both drunk. The school acted without hesitation - he was gone. The sexual assault policy at that school was very clear: If she can't give consent (because she's too drunk or otherwise incapacitated), it's sexual assault. They note that their standards are not the local legal standards - they are much stricter. His drunkenness was not a mitigating factor. (I have a son by the way and have made a point of talking to him about this. I want him to understand that not only does 'no mean no' but sometimes 'yes' doesn't mean 'yes' either.)
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,011 Senior Member
    A critical element in this story -- and it is a really sad, moving story -- is the woman's failure to report the rape, to anyone, for almost a year. I understand completely why that happened, but I don't know if it will ever be possible to come up with a system that deals fairly with offenses that are not reported. Obviously, Amherst needs to do more to encourage reporting, but in this case it looks like the barriers were all internal. The woman had no idea how she would be mistreated until after she reported her rape, but it's hard to separate the mistreatment from the delay.

    It's heartbreaking to realize that, because of her shame, and because of her unusual family situation, this young woman really had no one to turn to, no one to help her. Other than Amherst, to which she turned far too late, and which responded with a mix of paternalism, institutional self-protection, and smugness that would be comical if the situation weren't so tragic. But it's no tragedy that she has left Amherst. In the end, she's 100% right about that: there are other places in the world. Why should she spend time in a place where she is not comfortable?

    All of you who are so in favor of reporting to the police ought to take a deep breath and face reality. This woman actually gives us no details about her rape other than she was in the man's room and his roommates were on the other side of the door. Those two facts alone make it about 95% certain that she would get absolutely no vindication from the criminal justice system (and her delay in reporting the rape would move it up to 100%). In a criminal process, she wouldn't merely be the victim of well-meaning paternalism and self-satisfied denseness; she would be crucified. For better or worse, college internal disciplinary processes are much better suited to dealing with date rape between students than the criminal justice system. You can argue for reform of the latter, but don't hold your breath.
  • dodgersmomdodgersmom Registered User Posts: 7,304 Senior Member
    M's Mom wrote:
    The sexual assault policy at that school was very clear: If she can't give consent (because she's too drunk or otherwise incapacitated), it's sexual assault.

    M's Mom - Are you willing to share the name of that school? Sounds like they got it right.
  • MomofWildChildMomofWildChild Registered User Posts: 21,806 Senior Member
    JHS- thank you for that post. I completely agree and was trying to formulate my own post along the exact same lines but now all I have to say is +1.

    While nothing changes the horror of the whole ordeal for this young woman, all hands were pretty much tied by the long, long delay in coming forward.
  • ThisMortalSoilThisMortalSoil Registered User Posts: 928 Member
    What a terrible, awful place. There's one school I'm gonna make sure my sister doesn't attend.
  • absweetmarieabsweetmarie Registered User Posts: 1,905 Senior Member
    Thanks, JHS, for that perspective. So I will amend my post to say she should have reported the rape immediately to the campus authorities. Additionally, if the young woman's account of the rape counselor's response is accurate, that counselor's behavior was unconscionable. Regardless, discerning the facts of the case would be exceedingly difficult at this time. And let's not forget that the alleged perpetrator deserves an opportunity to share his version of the event. At this point, we know nothing except what this young woman has shared. I am neither discounting her account nor accepting it as prima facie evidence of the guilt of the young man she is accusing.
  • MarianMarian Registered User Posts: 12,526 Senior Member
    Amherst's president, Biddy Martin, is a good person. And this didn't happen on her watch.

    Let's give her a chance to make sure that future incidents are handled better.
  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 14,210 Senior Member
    "I am neither discounting her account nor accepting it as prima facie evidence of the guilt of the young man she is accusing."

    I agree, and I would expand that to include prima facie evidence of the guilt of Amherst and its employees. The counselors can never share what they remember because of confidentiality. Speaking as a counselor working with students, if you asked some of my students a year after the fact what I said to them when they were in emotional extremis, their recollection might be very different from mine. They can come away with completely warped (in my view) versions of the conversation even in the short term and when we were discussing something much more prosaic than rape.

    An example of what I'm talking about:

    My synopsis of the conversation: "You've done a fantastic job in high school. I think Harvard is a super, super long shot for you. I'm excited about your chances at Michigan and UChicago, and I know that you're going to have a fantastic experience if you end up at either one. Great work!"

    Student's description of the conversation to parent: "Hanna said I'm not good enough for Harvard! She doesn't believe in me!"

    I agree with the Amherst president that it is clear from the account that Amherst's staff failed to make this student feel that she was important, listened to, and cared about. But how that failure occurred, and whether it could have been prevented, we will likely never know.
  • fishymomfishymom Registered User Posts: 1,849 Senior Member
    Originally Posted by M's Mom
    The sexual assault policy at that school was very clear: If she can't give consent (because she's too drunk or otherwise incapacitated), it's sexual assault.

    What determines one is too drunk to give consent? Is there a rule, 1 drink, 2 drinks? And who makes this determination, especially when the incident is not reported until the next day? Both of these young people were drinking, they had a previous sexual relationship, why is the boy expected to be responsible but not the girl? And why does the school get to act as judge and jury? I would never allow my child to attend a school with this policy!
This discussion has been closed.