To my fellow Terriers:
This is probably going to sound familiar.
College administrations’ mishandling of rape and sexual assault cases is old news by now, but the sentiment I’ve heard from many of the students at this school is: “Not here. Not on my campus.” I wish that were true. I wish I could say that the Boston University administration has gotten better since someone filed a complaint. I wish I could say that they care about survivors.
My story is also a familiar one: it starts at a frat party and it ends seven months later with a thick folder of official paperwork and nothing to show for it except a figurative and patronizing pat on the head. My assailant will not be punished by the university for what he did to me.
I am not going to re-hash the details of my assault here; this letter is not about the violence that occurred on that one night (nor the emotional trauma it has caused me since then). It is about the ongoing violence of administrative negligence. It is an answer to the question, “why don’t more survivors report?”
I did what I was supposed to do. I reported what happened to BU’s judicial committee. I cooperated with the investigators. I patiently told and re-told my story to them, even as my assailant changed his story. He lied about details he would later recant, telling the committee he made them up because he was “scared.”
At the end of the first judicial process, my assailant admitted to the investigators that he “made an assumption” and that he was “wrong.” The judicial committee found him responsible for rape and suspended him for a semester. I was relieved. I was proud of BU. It had taken most of my first semester, but they had come to the right decision. They told my assailant his behavior was unacceptable, and they thanked me for coming forward.
Then, my assailant was automatically granted an appeal based on no new evidence. For some reason, he was allowed to bypass a hearing board and appeal directly to the provost, eliminating any chance of appeal for me, something the Dean of Students and the investigators told me multiple times I would have. My assailant requested a stay of suspension from the provost. I sent an email to the provost asking what grounds he had for this request. She did not respond. This was on a Friday. I submitted my official response to his request on the following Monday (the time limit I was given for responding), and the provost approved his stay of suspension the next day, around lunchtime. He was once again allowed to take classes here.
My assailant lawyered up with some “white collar litigators” who compiled a nine-page rebuttal packet, including a page of totally irrelevant background information on my assailant (there was an extensive list of his extracurricular activities), followed by eight pages of blaming me for the assault. The statement that I had “never told him to stop” was bolded. The lawyers claimed that I had gone through this horrible, months-long judicial process because I “was not sexually satisfied.”
All of the appeal paperwork was submitted at the end of January. I waited. And waited. I sent another email to the provost to ask if I could be given a rough timeframe for a final decision. No response. I waited some more. The provost never asked to speak to me in person. It was not until April that I received the decision over email. Other than some gentle scolding, the provost did not punish my assailant for raping me. She revoked the suspension. She called his behavior “disrespectful” and “insensitive,” but ultimately said that my “actions” were enough for him to determine that I was consenting. What actions? I don’t know. She never says.
The provost did not even respect me enough to take five minutes to proofread her letter before she sent it, as she refers to my assailant as a “Ms.” several times. These errors were corrected about 30 minutes later in a follow-up email. The envelope that the paper copy of the decision letter came in had the wrong dorm address typed on it and the correct one crudely scratched over in pen.
Meanwhile, the leaders of the frat my assailant was pledging had told the judicial committee they dropped him as soon as they questioned him about what happened the night he assaulted me. When they brought it up to him, he “dropped to his knees and begged [them] to let him stay [in the frat].” The brothers describe his behavior as “sketchy,” “embarrassing” and “like he knew he messed up.” These are fraternity brothers saying this. The fraternity handled this case better than the BU administration.
In her letter to him, the provost tells my assailant she hopes he will be “wiser” in the future. How does she expect him to be wiser if he knows he can get away with rape? After returning to the party the night of the assault, my assailant told some boys that he “came back for seconds.” I am a person, not a meal that he chewed up and spat out. I fear for any other woman whom he decides will be his “seconds,” because now he knows he will not be punished.
I am writing this because I am left with no other options. I asked BU for justice, but I was victimized again. Their system overturned its own decision with no new evidence, suggesting at the least, a remarkable lack of training, and at worst, a system that is designed to injure those already hurt.
I was abandoned, like so many other women, by the institution that was supposed to protect me. BU puts up a pretty good front: they let everyone know when they suspend a fraternity, or when their sexual assault appeals policy has been updated (not that it did me any good), but these actions mean absolutely nothing if they let rapists stay on campus.
I am choosing to remain anonymous because I could be any person at BU. I am not the first, and if nothing changes, I will not be the last. If the administration does nothing with the cases it is given, rape and sexual assault will continue to happen. It happens here. It happens at BU.
That Girl In Your Class, In The GSU And On Your Floor