Horrified. That was the first word that came to my mind after reading Cecilia and Whitney’s articles in the Huffington Post. Sickened, disgusted, appalled, heart-broken – all of these words fit, and yet none do justice for the pain of these girls and of countless others who have suffered the same atrocities.
Just like everyone else at Richmond, I have read the statistics about rape and assault on college campuses. I heard about Brock Turner and his criminally short jail sentence. I have seen the data, and yet none of it felt real until reading the stories of students I have shared classes with and have seen on my campus. They have changed my perception and understanding of this issue. I will never be able to imagine the pain that you have gone through, nor will I ever be able to comprehend the ways in which your lives have been changed because a horny college student with no respect for women chose to rape you.
Let’s be clear, those men who hurt you chose to do so. They did not make a mistake. They did not get swept up in the moment. They were not provoked by something you did. They made a conscious decision to do something they knew was wrong by harming you. To make any excuse for them is deplorable, intolerable and entirely unacceptable.
Our university has failed you, our administration has failed you, and our community has failed you, and for that I find myself ashamed to be a Spider.
Our university has failed you, our administration has failed you, and our community has failed you, and for that I find myself ashamed to be a Spider. You not only deserve to feel safe on your college campus, but you have the right to feel safe. When a man attacks a woman, it is not simply “boys being boys,” but is a criminal act and should be treated as such. Anyone who has been assaulted deserves the right to be protected and should be given access to the resources they need.
That is why I was completely stunned when I saw University of Richmond’s attempt to defend its handling of CC’s case. If a student is raped and a college administration knowingly does not act, then how can any student trust such a system? The answer is that they cannot. CC’s rapist admitted that he heard her say stop and did not. That is rape, plain and simple, and rapists belong in prison, not on college campuses.
Richmond, stop protecting rapists and casting doubt on victims. It’s not complicated; it’s a fundamentally easy concept to grasp, so it gives me deep concern that a group of PhDs and MAs cannot seem to figure it out. I never again want to receive an email from my university calling a rape victim a liar while rapists continue to walk among us, live with us in residence halls and share our classrooms.
I fully understand that sexual assault can happen to anyone regardless of gender. However, sexual assault against women on college campuses is an epidemic and we cannot continue to pretend otherwise.
To all girls, I say this: I know that I have the privilege to be able to walk alone on campus at night without fear. I can go to a party and not worry about someone drugging my drink. I can feel safe pretty much anywhere I go, but I understand that many of you cannot. You deserve to feel as safe as I do and I want to do whatever I can to help you achieve that. I am just as disturbed by the systematic failures of our Title IX procedures as you are, and I pray that Richmond College will be as instrumental as Westhampton College in developing and implementing the changes our university so desperately needs, such as a zero-tolerance policy and truly impartial hearing boards entirely divorced from athletics and any other department.
We want to be allies who can stop the pain of our fellow students and I am willing to do what it takes to be one, because it is our responsibility as students of our university to look out for one another. Our society is not equal and we all know this, but we can make progress by taking actions to protect those in need of an ally. I will never know the hardships many of you must deal with on a daily basis, but I do know this: When a rapist feels safer on a college campus than his victim, something has gone horribly wrong, and those responsible for fostering such an environment must do something truly meaningful to correct such a problem.
CC and Whitney: I am so very sorry for what has happened to you. I know that nothing I say can take away the pain. My heart aches for you that our university did not believe you to be reliable or called you a liar. I believe your stories and know that you deserve justice, not backlash from those who were supposed to help and protect you. What you did took remarkable courage and poise and you should be proud for taking a stand. I could not imagine sharing something so personal and tragic with the world as you both have done, and I am so impressed with both of you. You have provided a voice for the voiceless, and you should be commended, not condemned.
Richmond College must stand with our Westhampton College classmates, especially in times like this, for if we do not, nothing will change. We will be your allies, your friends, and your supporters. We are here for you.
The opinions presented in this article solely represent those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Forum Magazine or its staff.
Contact Forum editor-at-large Dylan McAuley at firstname.lastname@example.org.