Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Trigger Warning: This article deals with issues related to sexual violence.
After filing a complaint with the federal government against Swarthmore College for violating the Clery Act, Hope Brinn ’15 and Mia Ferguson ’15 are preparing to file a second complaint with the Department of Education (DOE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for violating Title IX.
“The College seems to think we are above the law, that the administration is above the law, and that perpetrators of assault on this campus are above the law,” Ferguson said. “Students remain at the college that are an active threat to other people’s safety, and that’s been brought to the administrations attention, but it hasn’t been addressed.”
Brinn and Ferguson filed their first complaint early yesterday morning with testimonies from ten other students who say the College violated their rights under the Clery Act.
The Clery Act, signed in 1990, requires all colleges and universities to document and publicly disclose reports of crime on and near their campuses. The Act came in the aftermath of the tragic rape and murder of Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery in her residence hall in 1986.
In their complaint they state that the College has systematically discouraged students from reporting their crimes to local law enforcement and from going through formal judicial proceedings. They also claim that the College has consistently underreported incidents of sexual misconduct to the Annual Clery Security Report and to the College community in campus wide communications.
This comes three days after President Rebecca Chopp announced the College would hire an external review board to conduct an independent evaluation of the College’s policies and procedures addressing sexual assault.
Students say they cannot trust the administration to fix a problem they played a leading role in. Brinn, Ferguson, and the ten other students who provided testimonies for their complaint say they believe that only through putting external pressure on the College through a federal complaint will the administration make significant change.
According to Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate for the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), within the next two months the Department of Education should announce the investigation and send a letter to the College outlining the nature of the incident. Should the DOE decide that Brinn and Ferguson’s complaints merit an investigation, the DOE will send a four person team to campus within six months to determine if the College is in violation of the Clery Act. If the panel of investigators determines that the College is in violation of the act, they will publish their findings publicly and send their report to a second panel to determine if the College should be fined. Issuing fines is the only legal action the DOE can take when they find a college in violation of the Clery Act.
Brinn and Ferguson say that they became concerned with how the College treats survivors of sexual violence a few months ago, after hearing more and more students talk about their frustrations and sometimes traumatic experiences with members of the administration.
Then, two weeks ago, while they were chalking for the referenda against Greek life, a staff member approached them and asked them if they knew about the “sexual assault cover-ups.” They didn’t.
They say that the staff member told them about hearing stories of the College systematically not documenting or investigating reports of sexual assault and, in one instance, destroying evidence associated with a sexual assault case. The staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Daily Gazette they had not witnessed these events first hand, and they happened more than four years ago. They have not been substantiated. But this information motivated Brinn and Ferguson to find out more about how the College addresses sexual assault.
“That sparked my and other students’ concerns about how the administration was handling sexual assault,” Brinn said.
They both had their own experiences with the administration.
Brinn says she was a victim of continued verbal and sexual harassment by a male student. When she finally reported the harassment to the College, she says they were indifferent to her concerns. One administrator, she says, even laughed at her. She says they told her it was probably just a misunderstanding.
“Ultimately the College refused to call it sexual harassment even though it fit all the criteria for sexual harassment,” Brinn said. “They would only call it harassment by communications.”
To resolve her complaint, she says the College told Brinn and the accused neither one of them was allowed to contact the other.
Ferguson says she was sexually assaulted the fall of her freshman year. She did not report her assault to the administration but she did report it to a Residential Advisor (RA), who she trusted. Later she found out that this RA did not, as is required, file her assault as a statistic for the Clery Report.
RAs are supposed to be educated and trained to address reports of sexual assault and must report them to Clery and the Title IX coordinator.
After speaking with other survivors, they decided they needed to take legal action.
Brinn logged on to LinkedIn and reached out to Andrea Pino, the student who co-wrote a complaint with 4 other students against the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNCCH) last January. They became friends on Facebook and then started talking on the phone. Now, they text almost everyday.
After filing complaints with the federal government against UNCCH for violating the Clery Act and Title IX, Pino and the lead complainant, Annie Clark, reached out to students Dana Bolger from Amherst College and Alexandra Brodsky from Yale University. Together, they formed a team of informal consultants that help students understand their rights under Clery and Title IX and help them submit formal complaints to the DOE. It has grown into a vast underground network of survivors from dozens of universities, spurring a domino effect of complaints filed against colleges and universities across the country, of which the complaint against Swarthmore is now one.
Brinn and Ferguson say the group helped them understand the Clery Act and file their complaint against Swarthmore.
In an interview with The Daily Gazette, Pino says their motivation for forming this group was not only to help disseminate information to fellow survivors but to help the country see this problem as a pervasive, national issue.
“We’re coming together and we’re framing the bigger problem so more schools are likely to connect with us because they’re able to see that what’s happening in our school has been happening at their school as well,” Pino said. “What survivors are going to find out is that they’re a lot less alone than they ever even imagined. We never want people to go through what we went through.”
In filing their complaint, Pino says they struggled not only with understanding their rights under Title IX and Clery but also how to illustrate how their university’s pervasive culture of sexual assault constituted a violation under those laws.
Just yesterday, Pino says they launched a national campaign called Know Your IX to educate all students about their rights under Title IX by the beginning of the fall semester.
Yesterday, The New York Times reported students at Occidental College, who also worked with Pino and Clark, joined the ranks with students from Swarthmore in a growing national movement against systemic Title IX and Clery violations. According to the Huffington Post, 7 other colleges are currently undergoing major reviews of their sexual assault policies, including Amherst College, Yale University, and the University of Notre Dame.
The DOE’s investigation of UNCCH is still underway and will be for a while.
Pino has been subject to severe backlash for filing the complaint against UNCCH. Her email has been hacked, her dormitory door graffitied, and a knife left in front of her room. The University didn’t take action to address these instances of retaliation until a fellow student wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily Tarheel, the campus newspaper.
“When it first happened no one really thought it was a big deal,” Pino said. “It was very difficult to process that but it really just affirmed for me just how bad the culture is for things like this to be accepted. It’s more than just sexual violence. It’s more than just vandalism. It’s really about this culture that makes this okay.”
An unsafe and silencing culture is exactly what Brinn and Ferguson are going after Swarthmore for in their complaint.
“I don’t want this to be about my case,” Ferguson said. “The Clery Act is not looking at specific perpetrators. It’s looking an entire culture and an administrative system that allows for sexual assault to occur and persist. We’re looking at a structural problem.”
Brinn and Ferguson’s complaint argues that a mistrust of the College among students has created an environment that discourages students from reporting their assaults. This is where the Clery Act and Title IX converge–and it’s unclear under which the complaint against the “hostile environment” belongs.
While the Clery Act’s central purpose is to ensure colleges are documenting and reporting crime on and near their campuses, it can also be extended to ensure that survivors of sexual assault are not discouraged or hindered from reporting their assaults.
Title IX is meant to protect students from discrimination based on sex. The “Dear Colleague” letter, published by the DOE in 2011 reminding colleges of their obligation to uphold Title IX, clearly states that failure to adequately address instances of sexual harassment, which includes acts of sexual violence, creates a hostile environment for women and a barrier to their right to an equal education.
Goldstein says these unclear demarcations between Title IX and the Clery Act have prompted the DOE to consider merging the two investigations.
“The Clery violations are going to come with Title IX investigations because a lot of the things students are alleging are really Title IX violations and not Clery violations,” Goldstein said.
“Clery is about how you count the crime whereas Title IX is about how you determine wrongdoing,” Goldstein said.
This is why most colleges, including Swarthmore, have had complaints filed against them for both Title IX and Clery violations. A joint investigation by the DOE, however, may still be a couple years down the road, if at all.
“They’ve made provisions for doing the investigations jointly, but that may not actually come to fruition,” Goldstein said.
The main distinction between the two, Goldstein outlined, is that investigations of Clery violations have a broad view. They look at how larger systems hinder survivors from reporting their assaults. The College as a whole is the main focus of the investigation, not individuals or individual cases. This investigation is usually focused on records and how the College has documented and communicated reports of sexual assault.
Title IX, on the other hand, focuses on specific instances of discrimination. This is why Title IX complaints have a 180 day statute of limitation while the Clery Act does not have one.
Part of the reason the are students filing the complaint against the College is that they do not trust an external review by an independent consultant will force the College to make significant changes.
“We’ve gone through the regular routes to get support. We’ve had conversations with the administration about this. It feels like there’s very little trust we can invest in them,” Ferguson said. “I trust many administrators with many things. I don’t trust them when it comes to sexual assault.”
In an interview with The Daily Gazette, President Rebecca Chopp says she knows the survivor community is distrustful of the College and in going through an external review; she says she hopes the College can address the issue holistically, looking at everything from personnel and procedures to policies and education.
“I think there is an incredible amount of trust we’re going to have to build. I think it’s going to take time, and it’s not going to be easy,” Chopp said. “We have to get the culture right. Trust is about how you live in a culture. It’s not just about what the administration says or something the students do, it’s about a whole cultural fabric.”
In an email to The Daily Gazette, one student who wrote a testimony for the Clery complaint said she is suspicious about how effective an external review will be and whether their findings would ever be anything more than recommendations.
She writes, “I want a review of the way sexual assault has been treated to be based on the voices of students and survivors, not the findings of the CJC or the testimony of accused assailants. Part of me is hesitant to bring potential legal action against the College before the administration has had the chance to respond to the findings of the external review but at the same time, this action is spurred by a history of inaction that can’t continue to be ignored or excused because nobody knew it was going on.”
Several students who filed the complaint shared their stories with The Daily Gazette. One said that she was afraid to report her sexual harassment to the administration. She even set up an appointment with one of the deans. Then she didn’t go. She says she’s felt too unsafe. Another wrote testimony that she was told not to report her rape.
During the first six weeks of her freshman year, she says a male student led her to the basement of one of the fraternities houses and raped her in front of other people. She says she ran home and didn’t tell anyone about it. Later, she made an appointment with a counselor on campus. She says the person asked her numerous inappropriate questions about her drinking and what she was wearing. By the end of their conversation, this survivor said the counselor had convinced her that she probably had consented to her perpetrator.
She says the counselor, who no longer works for the college, told her there was nothing she could do about it, and that she shouldn’t report it because no one would believe her. She didn’t talk about it again until this year, three and half years later.
These students’ testimonies will stay confidential and anonymous. The DOE’s findings, should they choose to investigate Swarthmore, will not be.
The complaint is filed confidentially with the DOE, meaning only the Title IX Coordinator and select administrators will be able to read the complaint in its entirety. Reports of violations of the Clery Act are posted publicly on their website. They explicitly state the offense, the required action of the college to be in compliance, and the college’s response to the finding.
If the panel of investigators can determine from their visit to campus that an individual staff member has misreported or not reported a crime, they can name that individual in the public report, though this doesn’t happen frequently. Goldstein says the panel could determine that an individual has committed a crime if a student reports having filed a sexual assault report with the College and that report is linked to a specific individual who either did not report or misreported the student’s claim.
DOE investigations are not criminal suits; they aren’t decided in a court of law. Therefore, they can’t impose penalties on individuals or force the College to change its policies.
“There’s no individual penalty under Clery, it’s the institution that’s facing a fine, but in terms of an individual’s longevity at an institution or finding a job in higher education, having the DOE report that you failed to correctly report a crime is not a career-enhancing move,” Goldstein said.
The maximum fine the DOE can impose is $35,000 per violation. However, they are not required to fine a college that’s found to have violated the Clery Act. The College does have the opportunity to appeal such a fine, and the Secretary of Education has the power to reduce the fine the fining panel suggests but cannot raise it. The fine depends on how the DOE counts the violations.
“The DOE has the discretion to count violations in a lot of different ways,” Goldstein said, describing a hypothetical situation. “If [the DOE panel] looks back to 2010 and in 2010 the College reported 5 sexual assaults and they counted actually 15 reports while they were there, how many violations is that? The first time they visit they may count that as one, the second time they visit they may count that as 10, and then, if they have to visit after that that could actually end up being 20 violations because of 10 failures to put it in the crime blotter and 10 failures to put it in the school’s report.”
According to Goldstein, the DOE has the authority to inspect anything and everything the College has. There are no privacy rights that allow the College to refuse providing any documents the investigators need. These could range from recordings of survivor testimonies or minutes of College Judiciary proceedings.
With high personnel turnover in the last several years associated with the start of the Chopp’s tenure as president and inconsistent procedures for addressing student reports of sexual assault, it is unclear how much documentation of its actions the College has.
When asked how many students inquired about going forward with College Judiciary Committee (CJC) hearings during her time serving as “observer” to the process, Associate Dean of Student Life Myrt Westphal said she could not provide a definitive number because she did not document those conversations.
“I don’t keep records of people who come and talk to me. Before the Title IX change came you did not have to discuss this with anybody,” Westphal said.
Since the College overhauled its sexual assault policies, every report to a non-confidential reporting source outlined in the wheel of resources, must notify Title IX Coordinator Sharmaine LaMar of the incident, who begins an investigation. As part of her role as Title IX coordinator, LaMar is required to document every single report and look for patterns to see if the College needs to take action. For example, if multiple students claim independently that a single student has assaulted them, LaMar can take that student to the CJC without the survivors having to testify at the proceedings.
According to Associate Dean of Student Life Myrt Westphal, since changing its policies the College has also drastically improved its ability to report assaults under Clery.
“The Clery reports are going to look much different this year than they have in the past,” Westphal said. “Every second-hand report even is now documented.”
Joanna Gallagher, associate director of Public Safety and deputy Title IX coordinator, said she was not able to release the entire crime report for 2012 because it hasn’t been made public yet, but she was able to share that Swarthmore reported 11 sexual assaults to Clery. In 2011, they reported 6. In 2010, they reported 2. In 2009, they reported 4.
Gallagher attributes the hike in numbers to students feeling more comfortable about reporting their assaults to the College.
“People are reporting it more,” Gallagher said. “There has been increased awareness, education, and support around sexual assault. [The College does] a lot of awareness.”
According to the Clery Act even confidential reporting sources, excluding mental health professionals and clergy, are required to file a report for Clery’s crime statistics. Mental health professionals and clergy are not required to file reports but are able to.
Low-reporting of sexual assault in the Clery Report is not a phenomenon unique to Swarthmore.
In statistics pulled from Clery, in 2011 186 sexual assaults were reported from a set of 129 private, 4-year colleges with 1,500-2,000 students, about 225,000 students total. That means roughly 1 in 604 women reported being sexually assaulted in 2011 at small private colleges. This statistic is an extremely inaccurate illustration of the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses according to a study cited by the “Dear Colleague” letter. That study found that 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault while at College. And while the Clery statistics appear to be completely useless in understanding the pervasiveness of sexual assault, they can describe, it seems, just how underreported sexual assault is.
In an interview with The Daily Gazette, Dr. Chris Krebs, who co-authored the study, said sexual violence is the most underreported of all crimes.
“Many of these women who report being victimized in our survey would have never come forward and never become an official statistic that would be reported to the F.B.I. or would be reported in state crime numbers or local crime numbers or certainly to Clery Act numbers,” Krebs said. He did say there are also institutional barriers to reporting, which includes what survivors have heard about reporting sexual assault to officials at their colleges.
“Some of those institutional barriers have to do with how they think they’re going to be treated,” Krebs said. “A lot of women on campus, even if they haven’t been victimized themselves, know someone who has been victimized and maybe that person wasn’t treated very well when they came forward.”
Ferguson said these statistics are also reported alongside college rankings and could be a deterrent to prospective students and parents if a college’s statistics are much higher than its competitors. She says there’s an institutional incentive to keep these numbers low.
“Nationally we have this issue that we have absurdly unrealistic data and absurdly unrealistic analysis about where our problems lay,” Ferguson said. “We’re saying our crime rates are really low, our sexual assault rates are really low, but that’s not the reality.”
In filing the complaint against Swarthmore, Ferguson says she hopes that survivors feel more safe reporting.
“We’d be doing the right thing and that would allow for other colleges to follow suit,” she said.
This is not the first time Swarthmore has faced this kind of legal action.
During the fall 1993, Alexis Clinansmith ‘97 accused fellow freshman Ewart Yearwood ’97 of sexually harassing and stalking her after she refused to go out with him. When Yearwood broke a deans’ order to stay away from Clinansmith, he went before the disciplinary committee. The vote deadlocked 3-3 on whether he had sexually harassed her, but the Committee did decide he violated the deans’ order.
Yearwood, who was kicked out of an elite private high school for sexual misconduct, claimed Clinansmith misinterpreted his advances as intimidation. He is a Latino from East Harlem and Clinansmith is white, and from a Michigan suburb. The claim he made was that cultural differences between him and Clinansmith caused a miscommunication between them.
In January of 1994 she filed a criminal complaint in Delaware County.
To mediate the conflict, then-President Al Bloom proposed that Swarthmore pay for Yearwood, at the College on a full scholarship, to attend another college for the spring semester of 1994. Then he would potentially be invited to return to campus.
According to news reports from the time, President Al Bloom conducted his own investigation and said he did not believe Yearwood sexually harassed Clinansmith but that he did “severely scare” her, other students, and members of faculty and staff.
He spent the spring of 1994 at Boston University, and was invited back to Swarthmore for fall of 1994 after undergoing counseling.
In the meantime, Clinansmith applied to transfer. She was accepted to Harvard University, but decided to stay at Swarthmore because several administrators assured her that Yearwood would not return to campus, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
When she heard that he was invited back in September 1994, she filed a federal lawsuit to prevent him from returning to campus. Included in her suit was $100,000 in emotional damages. Finally, late that year she charged Swarthmore with failing to report harassment and assault, filing suit in federal court once again.
However, Yearwood decided to stay at Boston University, his tuition there paid by an unknown donor. Vice President Maurice Eldridge ‘61 says the anonymous donor was affiliated with the College and hoped to give Yearwood a chance to earn a college degree.
Clinansmith dropped the federal suit against Yearwood, but sued Swarthmore for discrimination in December of 1994. She claimed Swarthmore practiced discrimination against women in failing to take any action to uphold their policies meant to protect students against sexual harassment and violence. She claimed Swarthmore failed to act in numerous cases involving reports of sexual assault and rape.
According to an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer on December 23, 1994, Clinansmith dropped her original suit and filed a new one. This time, the filing against the College was for discriminating against women by not acting to protect survivors when they reported their assaults.
The Philadelphia Inquirer writes, “The suit contends that Swarthmore failed to take meaningful action in numerous other cases involving allegations of sexual harassment and even rape.”
But the paper trail ends here. No more court documents. No more newspaper articles. Neither Eldridge nor Westphal nor Dean Karen Henry, who were all at Swarthmore during Clinansmith’s time, can remember what happened. Eldridge says he believes she later transferred to Harvard, but he can’t remember what happened with the case. It seems the charges were dropped.
Unlike a civil case filed in court, if the DOE decides to investigate Swarthmore for Clery Act and Title IX violations, the complaints will not be dropped.
“I want to put the administration in a place where they can do the right thing,” Ferguson said.
As Swarthmore faces a potentially long investigation and undergoes an external review, Brinn and Ferguson say they hope to continue building a national movement to address sexual assault at universities across the country.
They welcome others to reach out to them at email@example.com. Pino and Clark also encourage students who are interested in connecting with their network to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Survivors need to know it’s okay to share their stories, it’s okay to come out, because there are people across the country that are going to watch this story,” Pino said. “In terms of those survivors that are still silent, that are still feeling silenced, now is the time to share your story because everyone across the country is participating in this conversation and none of us are alone.”
This story comes in the middle of The Daily Gazette’s series “Brought to Light,” on sexual assault at Swarthmore College. Read part one here and part two here.
Photo by Max Nesterak/The Daily Gazette
What is the difference between the Clery related complaint and the Title IX related complaint?
The short answer is that the Clery Act obligates schools to correctly collect and disclose crime information (or face penalties), while Title IX requires institutions to maintain environments free from gender-based discrimination or harassment (or face penalties). While the two dovetail in the area of sexual assault, they really are two very different things most of the time.
The longer answer… let’s say you’ve got a major metropolitan police department with task forces devoted to major crime areas. You’ve got the Organized Crime Task Force, which normally investigates racketeering claims; and you’ve got the Computer Crimes Task Force, which normally investigates hacking claims. (Obviously this is extremely simplified but you get the picture.)
Every so often, you’re going to have a case where there’s an organized crime ring that uses hacking in its crimes. At that point, you might want someone from the OCTF to investigate the racketeering and someone from the CCTF to investigate the hacking.
Sexual assault cases are the place where Clery Act and Title IX violations will tend to overlap. An awful hypothetical to illustrate the overlap: imagine a victim reports a sexual assault and the security officer tells her to go home and think about it because he’s seen more than a few girls who lie. That’s a Clery violation for a failure to update the log and a Title IX violation for a gender-based deprivation of rights.
Before the meat of my comment, I would like to say how very appreciative of this series of articles I am, and really would like to commend Max’s reporting.
Reading about these personal testimonies (especially the story of the girl being dragged down to the basement in this piece) makes me feel physically sick. As a woman on campus who has, except for one experience, felt safe on campus in all different spaces including the fraternities, I am so upset that other members of our community have not. I have been concerned with sexual assault on campus (ever since a particular story and milk-throwing incidence in Sharples not too long ago…) and am so glad that we are finally seriously addressing the college’s policies and attitudes.
I do wonder how we can think more holistically about ‘rape culture.’ I think the official complaint and invoking the Clery Act and Title IX are substantial ways to check how our institution deals with these issues. And, while I understand the argument that changing an institution can change norms and behaviors (and thus affect ‘rape culture’ that way) I also feel as though these measures still deal more with what happens AFTER an act of assault has occurred.
Do people have thoughts about any other ways to eradicate or mitigate sexual misconduct on campus? Something that comes to my mind is perpetrator ‘motivations.’ I have always understood rape to be about power and control but it seems that the motivations of perpetrators of all the different types of sexual misconduct (i.e. assault, harassment, violence, rape–and hopefully I have my terms correct here) might not always be categorized as such? It seems like the lines do get blurred when you know the perpetrator (NOT that that means the victim is at fault at all–I can speak from personal experience with having been sexually assaulted by a guy I knew on campus but I never reported it because I thought of him as a friend and believed I had blurred the lines which I now know is absolute B.S. as “NO don’t do that means NO don’t do that ALWAYS”). Whether we can also begin to think about why perpetrators think they can act this way interests me.
So, the bottom line of my comment: I am totally in support of the federal complaint and believe this an important step forward, but am also wondering if we can think about any other efforts to change ‘rape culture’ on campus. This leads me to think about alcohol policy, education like the consent workshops (such a great thing to have done recently on campus!), lighting in party spaces, and more.
Any thoughts, Swatties?
What milk-throwing incident?
“During the first six weeks of her freshman year, she says a male student led her to the basement of one of the fraternities houses and raped her in front of other people. She says she ran home and didn’t tell anyone about it. Later, she made an appointment with a counselor on campus”
GO TO THE POLICE.
You were raped in front of other people. You have witnesses. The statute of limitations on rape is 12 years. The state prosecutes rapes, so you don’t have to hire a lawyer. I really, really, really don’t understand why the police aren’t contacted. If your car were stolen, would you go to the deans? If you were stabbed by someone at the frats, would you go to the deans? This is insanity, go to the fucking police.
You have to understand why a survivor might not go to the police. There is a stigma surrounding sexual assault that does not appear in cases of theft or non-sexual assault.
Please do not question a survivor’s actions when you didn’t live through the experience. It is invalidating and only serves to put pressure on them and not the people that deserve it: the rapist and those who didn’t intervene.
Yea, it’s hard, but that’s how our criminal system works. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you get to ask for a lower standard of proof or that they be punished extrajudicially, or that you get to anonymously chalk that such-an-such is a serial rapist. We have a criminal law system. The school is not our legal system. Don’t pretend like this is a big deal and then not utilize the system that’s in place to protect you – either you were raped and can go to the police, or you don’t think it’s a big enough deal to pursue criminal action. Again, if you were stabbed or had your car stolen, you’d go to the police first.
Yes, the school should be helping, not hurting this process. But it’s still absolutely insane to me that anyone would let an administrator’s dismissive tone prevent them from going to the police when they’ve been raped in the small basement of either of our frats with plenty of witnesses.
to address your comparison between rape and getting stabbed or robbed – which i hope you realize is COMPLETELY inappropriate – no, if i was stabbed, i would not necessarily go to the police. not if my attacker was my friend or family member or classmate or lived next door to me and i genuinely feared retaliation. if you have been reading max’s other articles or any of thr daily gazette op-eds in regards to the referendum, you would know that reporting a rape does not just stay between you and the college (or police) at that point. a survivor does not want to be targeted by others for “ratting on their friend” or looked at a different way forever because everyone in sharples heard about what happened (you should know stigma surrounding sexual assault is a problem if you’re gonna preach from your high horse around here). if you say the survivor should just leave school in that case, then you are making an assumption about people that they would rather prosecute than finish their degree or stay with their friends and go on living – for many, that is not the case. finally, THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM DOES NOT ALWAYS WORK. you must be a prosecution lawyer or something because you talk about law and justice like an infallible system that will always protect those who were wronged and punish those who have done wrong. moving away from assumptions you have made about hope’s case, in general there are often not witnesses or “evidence”. the survivor will be asked about their alcohol consumption, sexual history with this person or others, clothing, how they acted that night – and what if nothing comes of it? as someone who has not been through this, you cannot understand how difficult it would be to go through that process with absolute strangers and have nothing come of it.
You wouldn’t go to the police if you were stabbed? I sure as hell wouldn’t go to the deans. And I don’t think the analogy is flawed, I think your’e giving in to the stigma that you hate so much. Think about what you’re asking for:
You want a low burden of proof, no evidence required, and you want the finger pointing to be all that’s required for conviction – you apparently can’t ask questions about how much had been drank, how well you knew the person, etc., but these are the details that make you not willing to go to the police – are they material, or not? One of Max’s articles highlighted the survivor (P) taking issue with her assaulter filing an appeal. Are you kidding me? that’s called process. The article also blasted Henry for asking a girl how much she’d had to drink, and then telling her that it’s a lot for someone her size. Maybe that’s the truth? maybe Karen Henry is just trying to make you realize that there’s a reason we’re not allowed to drink and drive, or that you can’t go to work drunk, etc. – your judgment is impaired, as is your memory, if you binge drink, and maybe in the future you’d be better off if you didn’t drink with impunity. Not that assaults are deserved, but if you and all your friends and everyone else around are totally shitfaced, what do you want the system to do when there is a he-said/she-said and we’re unwilling to go to the police to have a rape-kit done? You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
What is the procedure survivors would like? Do you want to be able to point a finger, not tell a story, and get an expulsion? Should we promote a justice system that advocates anonymous finger pointing such that no accused person gets to know the nature of the case against them? Max’s article repeatedly discusses that the girls didn’t want to have to face their assaulter in a CJC hearing – again, what?! Yes, it’s real hard, but actually stop a second to think about for what you are advocating. Where is the respect for process that these girls want so badly? I can’t figure out what exactly they would like to happen, other than to have not been assaulted in the first place (which is a completely different discussion than what should happen after the assault has occurred).
Just wondering, what would be the sort of rape that warrants going to the police?
I want to be able to nest comments more than the current system allows, please! This is actually a reply to Confused as shit’s response to thir teen.
I’d be more inclined to consider your points if you’d bothered to talk about these survivors as if they’re adults.
Do not call them girls, they are grown-up women. If you’re casually chummy with them, if you’ve known them forever, if you’re an older relative, and maybe there are a few other circumstances, then it might be ok to call them girls.
But in this circumstance, it only comes across as belittling and delegitimizing. Oh, those girls, who even knows what they want, silly girls! Yeah, no.
We owe it to them to take them seriously as adults.
Reply to Sara ’12
I apologize, it wasn’t meant in a belittling way, but I could see how that comes across. But please don’t let that detract from substance, as that sort of sensitivity ruins any ability to hold a real dialogue… as evidenced by the fact that you apparently won’t even consider my points due to my use of the word “girls.”
Also can we stop using the term frat boy? It’s pejorative, so we should start using frat men.
Your comment reminds me of an important point that I think has not been explored enough in this discussion on sexual assault policies.
We must also ask if the Swarthmore police department will actually be helpful to victims of sexual assault and not just dismiss them.
Solving this problem of how sexual assault is handled must be a holistic process and we need to see what role the Swarthmore police should take.
I would like to see a police department that is receptive to sexual assault victims and takes these cases seriously.
If victims are afraid to report sexual crimes to the police, them there is clearly a problem.
Agreed, but that’s an entirely separate issue. Last I checked the school did not play a role in training the borough police force.
It’s not a separate issue though, if the response given by so many commenters is “go to the police instead.”
Let’s imagine a world with a witch-doctor and a hospital. People who don’t believe the hospital works go to the witch-doctor, who also doesn’t work. While the people would be much better off fixing the hospital, a small group of people who weren’t cured by the witch-doctor believe their efforts are better spent finding the cure via voodoo, and demand a new witch-doctor. If the hospital is broken, a new witch-doctor isn’t going to fix it.
A broken police system is not Swarthmore’s fault. The misplacement of blame is atrocious and makes me wonder why we don’t demand that every student take a logic course during their time at Swat.
I did a ctrl F and found that Adam Goldsten and Senior ’13 both used the word “girl,” but nobody seemed to mind because they supported the groupthink. Hooray high horses and double standards.
How much of this is Swarthmore being bad at this vs. all colleges being bad at this? I can’t tell is Swarthmore is unusually bad at this, or middle-of-the-pack.
Considering that stories are coming out and legal actions are happening at various other schools, this seems like a widespread issue.
I guess I don’t really have any way of really knowing where Swarthmore actually falls on this issue, compared to other schools, but my sense (and maybe it’s just my hope) is that a) it’s possibly a bit better than most, at least in terms of intent, and b) it’s more open to real change.
But we won’t really know until all these investigations and reviews and so forth are completed and responded to, so…now we wait, although we should keep talking. Let’s not let our attention slide away, there’s been way too much of that already.
We don’t expect Swarthmore to be “middle of the pack” for educational standards; why should we give it a pass if it is middle of the pack on response to sexual assault?
Agreed. Swarthmore ain’t your run of the mill school. We are a vocal community that is not afraid to tackle very difficult issues like these.
I’m not in any way suggesting we give Swarthmore a pass on this — I’m just curious as to how we compare.
you guys need to just stop. its getting old.
the administration is out to get you!!!! file 35 federal complaints, wont do a thing. but hey must be nice to have your picture on the front page of an online newspaper at a small liberal arts school!!
People who come forward and share their experiences of sexual assault routinely face all sorts of disgusting treatment from communities and media, ranging from dismissal and victim-blaming to outright threats.
So risking all of that, all the while constantly talking about and remembering bad memories, is a very brave thing to do, and is so, SO not a publicity stunt.
As another survivor, I just can’t understand their motivation for this level of publicity. I personally wouldn’t want my story publicly exposed, and the whole thing just reeks of the want for national, personal attention…one of them posts facebook statuses about being interviewed for the NYT and how ‘excited she is’.
If you’re really about making things better for survivors at this school, this just isn’t how you do it in my opinion…I guess it’s better than accusing people through anonymous chalkings (started from the bottom now we here) or at least not how I personally would go about it. You’ve left no room for negotiation with the admins before filing a national lawsuit…and if you’re comfortable sharing it in the national media, why didn’t you just go to the police? It’s basically the same result. The admins seemed relatively receptive at the meeting, so why play all your cards now? This is some white female privilege shit that they’re pulling, as far as I can see…between Swat being probably middle of the road in terms of fucked-up for dealing with issues surrounding sexual assault and rape…I read somewhere that the Cleary allegations, if found to be legitimate, might force Swat out of financial aid…so there’s that to marinate on as well.
I just hope this all turns out for the best. I DO appreciate their goal, even if I take issue with the way they’re going about it…and clearly have some strong feelings there. I also recognize they’re brave to share their stories and the people will deal with this kind of stuff in different ways. Personally, though, I just don’t get it…though this might be because my incident occurred before college and I didn’t have to deal with Swat’s admins, I’m frustrated and angry with them but I think we could have worked with them and made this better together without officially going to this level, but holding it over their heads for later.
Although I strongly disagree with your critique of the methods of the survivors, sharing an alternative view about the optimal negotiating strategy is a valid part of the conversation. However, impugning the motivations of the survivors by saying the whole thing “reeks of the want for national, personal attentions” is not okay at all. In the fight to improve Swarthmore’s sexual assault policies, we should be able to express tactical disagreement without personal attacks. Whether or not you agree with the exact timing of the complaint, these 12 survivors are putting themselves through a tremendous ordeal to create a safer and juster campus for us all. They deserve our support and our solidarity.
not quite sure why you called this movement “white female privilege shit”
I’m really glad another survivor is adding a sort-of dissenting opinion. At the end of the day, community is not uncomplicated or easy, and hopefully Swat’s survivor community can hold a multiplicity of view points with grace and love.
I think trying to play survivors filing federal complaints as a stunt for attention gets into really gross narratives about survivors — how we are all “crazy,” how we’d do anything to get people to notice us. A lot of the time that rhetoric feeds into people saying, “He/she/they weren’t really raped; they just want attention!” I think there’s room for dissenting opinions without getting into that territory.
Additionally, just to speak to two of your other points:
1. I don’t know how involved you’ve been with the survivor community or the administration. There have been multiple negotiations, granted none with the threat of national exposure and legal complaints. However, in 2012, there were multiple meetings with administrators I attended, both about sexual assault and the fraternities and the queerbashings. The administrators always “seem” “receptive,” but ultimately all administrators I interacted with hedged their position on the issues and refused to actively DO anything about any of the problems. Maybe you weren’t here, but it took a petition for them to speak to a death threat made about queer students. That was AFTER one of those meetings. By the end of my senior year, after three years being intensely involved with the survivor community, it was my personal opinion that only national exposure and severe external pressure would actually create change.
2. It is never a privilege to be a woman in this society, sorry. I agree that there will be time and space soon to look at this grassroots movement more critically (survivors only for that project, obviously) and to question and think about why the majority of folks filing are white cis-women (they might all be, I’m just not sure; I also hyphenated cis-women not because birth assignment is tied to our genders but because it seems relevant to me that all of the women are cis, which is predominantly the demographic society will actually recognize as victims/survivors) and where coalitions and outreach can be done to include even more “invisible” folks who also need the support of their institution.
I realize all of this national attention is going to make Swarthmore a very difficult place for survivors, particularly if some/many survivors did not want this level of attention or were at a place to deal with it.
I’m sending you thoughts of strength, healing and love in community.
“For example, if multiple students claim independently that a single student has assaulted them, LaMar can take that student to the CJC without the survivors having to testify at the proceedings. ”
But she doesn’t.
incredibly impressive reporting here
Just FYI, the RAs ARE trained to Cleary Report by the school. Researching the Cleary report and familiarizing ourselves with the forms was our homework on the first day of RA training. We then covered Cleary requirements in two separate lectures about Sexual Assault Response and working with Public Safety on the second and third day of training. Sexual misconduct was the first topic we covered after introductions.
I am deeply saddened to hear that a fellow RA did not do their job, but I do not believe it reflects on the administration’s work to train the RAs to respond.
With respect, I think it does reflect on the administration if their trained employees don’t do what they’re supposed to. Either the training or the hiring process was faulty, whose fault is that if not the administration’s?
With respect, I think it reflects poorly on the student body for opting to go to a school that has rapists. We shoulda screened our school selection better, apparently.
The ability to screen our schools accurately through Clery reporting is exactly what these survivors are fighting for.
So does the complaint say nothing about by what process the CJC should conduct their hearings? Is it just “the school’s reporting is wrong, but the process is fine?”
Seems like they’ve made up their minds about how frequent rape is nationally, such that it won’t vary school to school. Would these girls really believe another school that claimed lower numbers? Oh, Swat/Occidental’s numbers are too low? Must be underreporting.
You don’t know anything about the process, do you? The RAs are not selected by “the administration”. They are selected by Rachel Head, the second year RAs, and the RA selection committee. All in all, that’s more than 20 students and one administrator. I hardly think that we can blame “the administration” because 20 students picked the wrong person.
As the RAs, we are not faceless pawns of the administration. We are trained well to respond to emergencies, but whether we actually do is based on our individual character and experiences. As a survivor and an RA, if I found out that a resident was sexually assaulted, I would follow all protoccol and then sit outside the administrative offices until someone listened. I would lecture any administrator that treated a student badly. However, this is because of my response to training, and other RAs may have a different one.
I am so impressed with the work of everyone who has been involved with filing this report. Hope, Mia, and the other 10 students are doing incredible work. I am glad that something is finally being done about something that has been a rampant problem for so many years now–major props to the students making it happen.
My daughter is a victim who is not one of the 12. She is sorting through all of the ramifications and will be joining the (growing) list.
This may or may not be a larger problem at Swarthmore than elsewhere. That matters little. That is happens at all at Swarthmore is shameful. In my daughter’s experience, integrity was sorely lacking by the administration. The powers that be must be held accountable by all means available, sooner rather than later. It is already way past late enough.
We want rapists EXPELLED. What a crazy thought! /sarcasm
Then you need to prove it. I don’t think that Swarthmore can be faulted for not sending more alleged victims to the police if these same alleged victims don’t want to report to the police, get physical evidence documented, go to court, etc.
I realize from other threads that you don’t want to put yourselves through the criminal justice system, destroy lives by going to court and risking these other students getting time in prison, etc, but on the other hand, kangaroo courts of justice within a college are not acceptable, either.
I think that the Swarthmore administration needs to tighten up their reporting documentation.
So if an alleged victim refuses to report to the police, then this person needs to sign a legal statement ascertaining this.
On the other hand, if the college is required to report any alleged sexual assault to the police, then it needs to do so, which means the alleged victim will then have to follow through with statements to the police, rape kits, etc. (Or refusing to do this is this is a legal action.)
Any discussion with students about anything personal or criminal needs to be documented by the RA or Dean or faculty member or whomever is representing Swarthmore, and then I would assume the student can review it within 24 hours and sign it as an agreement, or amend it.
The faculty, RAs, Deans, etc, need to have a strictly kept chain of command for any personal conversation that takes place.
Legally, any counselors at the health center will have to know their responsibilities if anyone speaks to them about a possible crime on campus.
Alleged sexual assault is very serious and needs to be treated as such, to protect all involved.
Students, upon arrival at the college, need to be thoroughly briefed about all of this, and warned of the ramifications of their actions with others.
Attorneys need to be easily available to consult with the accuser and accused. I assume the college will pick up these fees.
Swarthmore expels people for plagiarizing, but not for rape/sexual assault. It’s sick and disgusting. Why doesn’t Swat value the mental, emotional, and physical health of its women?
Karen Henry, Liz Braun, and Myrt Westphal have caused enough problems and bullied enough young women. I’ve heard too many stories of Karen Henry’s nastiness and bullying. I know they’ve finally removed her as bully in chief, but the fact that she’s still there really bothers me. Maybe it’s time for all three sexist administrators to go?
I do not buy that Myrt Westphal et al haven’t kept records. I think they likely have, but have carefully shredded them over the years. It would be highly irresponsible if she didn’t–more reason for her to resign. Those of us who are professionals know that we can’t just tell our clients, “Sorry, i didn’t keep any records for you.” We’d lose our licenses. It’s unethical and unprofessional.
I know Dean Karen Henry for her years of advocacy work for women. She counseled the very toughest cases, the ones no one else could handle. She is a very kind and very experienced counselor and advocate. The stories in this series are very sad and I am sorry to see anyone suffer. However, it also pains me to see mean-spirited comments, which we all know are very common on the internet, about people like Dean Henry, who are really committed to healing.
they “can’t remember” what happened
They can’t remember what happened
THEY CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED
THE CAN’T F****** REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED
I am feeling the same way. “Can’t remember” — just laughable. Does the Dean’s office think that Swatties are idiots? The classic lie that you can smell a mile away. As Dean, if you are suddenly forgetting things, you sure as hell are not doing your job properly. I am disappointed.
My friends who brought their sexual assault cases to Karen Henry had TERRIBLE experiences and felt that she was very unsupportive and insensitive. Strange, I know, for a Dean who herself is a survivor of sexual assault. In theory, she would be the ideal person to deal with this, but my friends’ experiences were NOT isolated instances of people having bad experiences with Karen Henry! This is a pattern of many students, over years, feeling unsupported and dis-empowered as a result of coming to her for help! Just because you like her as a person and think she is a “kind and experienced counselor and advocate” doesn’t mean we should discount the experiences of those who ACTUALLY received counseling from her. After seeing how bad she has been in counseling survivors of sexual assault, it should be clear that she never should have been placed in that role.
I would appreciate someone answering a few questions, if possible:
1. How can these alleged sexual assaults be prevented, so where are they happening? In public bathrooms? Dorm rooms? Local apartments? Outside in bushes?
2. Is it safe on walk on the campus alone at night? In the college town where I attended university, there were chalkings on sidewalks that said “A rape occurred here”. Is this similar on the Swarthmore campus?
3. Would you then recommend either only walking in groups at night? Not going into a room alone with a male? Discussing all of the possibilities with him before doing so?
It is difficult to put all this in perspective. During my affiliation with Swarthmore I was unaware of all of these sexual assaults.
I also live in a city where rapes happen basically wherever it is dark (or even in daylight to women and children walking home from work or school), and often at gunpoint, in schools in stairwells, etc. So this is my context. How does this compare to Swarthmore?
Todd: Since you are a male, your perspective may be different. You are assuming that all sexual assaults in the Swarthmore area are by other students. Women walking alone at night anywhere are open to being attacked. The reference to being chased through the tunnel may have been by a student or nonstudent. This is reality. Nonstudents would go through the criminal justice system, not to a hearing in front of a dean.
You say: “I don’t think it is productive to imply that it is an irresponsible decision to walk alone at night, because that implicitly places the blame for an assault that might happen on the victim, rather than the assailant.”
I am not implying anything except that rape and other crimes happen, and there is a higher rate when a woman or a man walk alone, especially at night, but even during the day in certain areas of the US and abroad. Abductions of children and women happen more often to females and males who are alone.
I would hope that you would not imply that the world is perfectly safe.
In many parts of the world, males and females are much more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted when walking alone.
It is incredibly naïve to think that all crime is preventable. There is something to be said for being smart and aware of real risks. Maybe you have never lived in a city, so in that sense, this view of yours may be excusable.
You mean 73% are non-strangers? Or are you allowed to spew shit data too?
Also 43% occur between 6PM and midnight, and women are assaulted at a ~6:1 rate compared to men, which seem to support the rest of what’s being said. So, Uhm, what was your point?
Uhm: I am just saying that it is not safe for a woman to walk alone at night. From your cite:
“•While walking, try to have a friend with you wherever you go. At night, travel in groups and walk the Brightway Path. Use the Women’s transit (453-2212), Saluki Express or call a taxi for transportation.
•Make sure someone knows where you are and whom you are with. Do not study or work alone in deserted or isolated areas. In your car, do not get out if your car breaks down. Lock your doors, sound the horn, and wait for help to arrive.”
Also this is interesting from your cite:
“Be aware that alcohol and drugs are directly related to acquaintance rape. They compromise your ability (and that of your date) to make responsible decisions. Make sure you are around people you know and trust before you start drinking. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink responsibly. Be able to get yourself home and do not rely on others to “take care” of you.”
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…
Not directly replying to Uhm, just adding to this general thread.
I am quite a fan of this angle on rape prevention, which puts the onus where, frankly, it belongs:
How does the college police private sexual conduct to determine whether it is consensual or not?
Awareness and Education is More Important and Womans are standing up shoulder to shoulder.This Evil thinking must be Punishable in society in groups in worship places n dirtyness to be dealt with stringent Law!!