By Emma Kapner || Contributing Writer
To the anonymous writer of the April 22nd piece in The College Reporter: I wanted you to know that your article moved me, and I wanted to thank you for sharing your story. You are incredibly brave, and I stand with you. I wish my support was simply a matter of feminist solidarity, but I have also experienced sexual violence at Franklin and Marshall College and been left wanting by the administration’s response.
It is so important for us, as a society and as a college community, to move away from the myth of the “stranger in an alley” as the primary perpetrator of violence. I was not attacked by a faceless stranger in the dark of night; I was sexually assaulted in a fraternity bathroom in the middle of a party. Even as a selfidentified feminist, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies major, board member of the Alice Drum Women’s Center, and former president of Students Against Sexual Violence (as well as S.I.S.T.E.R.S.), it was still incredibly difficult for me to understand what had happened to me and to respond. Even though I knew better, I blamed myself, I doubted my own perception of events, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had been “asking for it.”
It took a lot of courage for me to come forward and make a report to the College. After meeting with the Title IX coordinator, I understood my options to be: filing a formal complaint with the police, filing a formal complaint with the College, having the Title IX coordinator explain to my assailant that his actions constituted sexual assault (under the conditions that my assailant must agree to confidentiality and nonretaliation), or doing nothing at that time.
I did not want to make a report to the police department, because I was afraid I would not be believed. I did not want to go through F&M’s hearing process because I did not want to sit in a boardroom in the Steinman College Center and recount being violated in excruciating detail, while sitting next to the person who had violated me, only for those conducting the hearing to attempt to throw doubt on my story or decide my suffering was not convincing enough. I was even afraid to have the Title IX coordinator talk to my assailant because I feared despite “confidentiality and nonretaliation,” gossip would spread about the incident and I would be blamed for my own assault, judged, or spoken about behind my back.
After taking a week to think about my options, I chose to have the Title IX Coordinator call my assailant into her office and explain the severity of his actions to him. By that time, my confidence had been violated by someone sharing private information about my assault to members of my assailant’s fraternity, and I also discovered that my assailant had been openly discussing the situation with a multitude of others.
Vicious rumors were spread about me; I was harassed and surveilled by the fraternity brothers of my assailant. I lost the respect of people I considered to be my friends. Every time I left my room, I felt like people were staring at me and calling me a slut behind my back. I was under so much stress that I had to take a medical leave from school. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I had flashbacks and nightmares frequently. Being sexually assaulted was an experience that left me feeling humiliated, degraded, and ashamed.
The knowledge that my personhood and consent did not matter to my assailant makes me feel subhuman, and it was beyond devastating to know that my personal trauma became a point of interfraternity debate. The culture of victimblaming is prevalent at Franklin and Marshall College. Assailants have all the power, and when victims are brave enough to come forward they do so at great risk of further harm and trauma. My assailant faced no consequences not for attacking me, and not for violating confidentiality. Because I did not go through the formal hearing process, my report was not even published with the annual sexual violence statistics. Despite my report and extended contact with the Title IX office, F&M gets to act as if nothing happened to me.
I see my assailant on campus all the time, and he always looks perfectly happy to me. I, however, will be dealing with the fallout for the rest of my life. For so many, making a report or speaking about their experiences does not seem worth it for obvious reasons. I know it certainly didn’t for me, when I was raped again this fall. According to the World Health Organization, being sexually assaulted puts you at a much higher risk of being assaulted again in the future. At least this time, I knew I couldn’t count on my institution to protect me.
Junior Emma Kapner is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.