Two prestigious colleges, Amherst and Vanderbilt, have been engulfed by sexual assault complaints this month, with rape survivors claiming that the schools foster hostile sexual environments and failed to help them after being attacked.
Two former Amherst College students filed complaints with the Department of Education accusing the university of improper treatment in response to sexual assault, including sending one of them to a psychiatric ward.
A similar situation has erupted at Vanderbilt, where six current and former students have accused the school of failing to respond to their reports and allowing for hostile sexual environments. One of the Vanderbilt girls claimed that the school convinced her to allow the school to handle a stalking case, but failed to take action against the accused stalker, according to the Huffington Post.
Angie Epifano, who filed the complaints against Amherst College, published a lengthy op-ed in a student newspaper. She claimed that she was raped on May 25, 2011 in a dorm on campus but did not report the accident until eight months later.
When she finally decided to talk to the sexual assault counselor, the counselor said, “Are you SURE it was rape? It might have just been a bad hookup… You should forgive and forget.” Four months later, she was sent to a psychiatric ward for suicidal thoughts and couldn't resume her study. She withdrew from Amherst College in 2012 while the accused rapist graduated with honors.
The complaints against Amherst College also conclude that the college allows for a sexually hostile environment. According to the Huffington Post, male students would shout from dorms, "Give us your virgins, but only the hot ones."
Incidents of ignoring and mishandling students’ reports also occurred at Vanderbilt, one of the most prestigious colleges in the South. In the complaints against the university, four former football players were accused of raping an unconscious woman in a dorm room and were indicted this past summer.
Sarah O’Brien, the rape survivor, said that she didn’t speak up "largely due to some horror stories she heard from other students reporting.” She unveiled the truth to the sexual assault advisor during her junior and senior year, but the advisor and the university didn’t take any action or refer her any victim resources. Sarah was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress by an off-campus clinic in her senior year.
In another complaint, a different Vanderbilt student was stalked by another female student. The victim claims the school convinced her to allow the school to handle the accused stalker but failed to do so.
These incidents on college campuses throughout the nation hit home at Boston College. Although BC does not have a Greek system, one anonymous student in A&S points out that there may not be that many differences in terms of the culture on campus.
“Even though BC bans fraternities, we still have mods where people hold raging parties. We don’t really know what is happening on campus. Everyone seems to follow the same rule--everything that happens in the mods stays in the mods.”
Whether it's Greek life, a lack of administrative involvement or a sexually hostile environment, it is clear that sexual assaults on college campuses are still occurring at an alarming rate, and there is much room for improvement in dealing with these incidents on the part of the universities and the students.Featured photo courtesy of Sexual Assault Awareness/Facebook.