Letters to Editor, Opinion

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Response to 2015’s “Open Letter: How BU fails sexual assault victims”

Letters to the Editor do not reflect the editorial opinion of The Daily Free Press. They are solely the opinion of the author.

To the prospective Class of 2020 (and their parents):

It’s that time of year again. As Commonwealth Avenue pulses with freshly warmed spring air, prospective students see a particularly bright version of Boston University. As you all make your final decisions for attending college in the fall, I urge you to consider the following matter:

This time last year, my friend wrote an anonymous letter to the editor disclosing the details of BU’s mishandling of her rape case. BU did not take her letter seriously.

My friend reported what happened to BU’s judicial committee. Her assailant was found guilty before being allowed to return to campus as if nothing had happened.

I chose to forego the traditional option of reporting to BU’s judicial committee after seeing how it failed my friend. One year later, nothing has changed in regard to BU’s callous policies.

I will not rehash the details of what happened to me. The BU administration will use such information against me to protect my assailants. You may be thinking, “How do you know if you haven’t tried?”

By the time you finish reading, I hope you’ll understand.

The Monday before spring break, I had a panic attack in my dorm due to flashbacks and consistent nightmares of being raped and murdered. A concerned neighbor called BUPD. Three white cops, two male and one female, arrived and entered my room. I was on the phone with my mom trying to end my panic attack, but their unwanted entrance rattled me.

I handed my phone to the cops so my mom could speak with them. I continued to cry. BUPD asked me if I wanted to see someone at SARP or SHS. I declined. BU counselors spent more time asking me if I was suicidal than understanding that I was raped and then left for dead by the administration.

I told BUPD that they were failing women on this campus every day and that I refused to file a police report. One cop attempted to coerce me into filing a report, insisting it could somehow help. I knew better and refused. In an effort to substantiate myself as an intelligent human being, I did, however, disclose my knowledge of their mishandlings:

BU is under federal investigation for mishandling rape cases, along with more than 100 other schools across the nation.

In the fall, BUPD sent a text to the student body regarding a rape that happened in the residence hall across the street from the BU police station. The suspect was not apprehended — in the building across the street from the police station.

I told BUPD I did not want to go to the emergency room. They called the paramedic anyway. Knowing that I had no choice, no autonomy, I walked to the ambulance and climbed in myself.

I arrived at the hospital in the afternoon. After sitting on a stretcher for hours next to someone who had peed their pants, I was moved to a closet-sized space. I waited.

A few hours later, a doctor came in. I explained that I was raped on a campus that locks up victims in the ER during panic attacks. I told him that I wanted to get out of the hospital as soon as possible.

Hours passed and he finally sent a psychiatrist into the room who described the symptoms of bipolar disorder and asked if that sounded like me.

I’m not a doctor. I can’t diagnose myself with anything. I described my trauma to him. He concluded that I had PTSD from being raped.

No s—, Sherlock.

A family friend was contacted and soon arrived for my release. We were held in the hospital for hours, waiting. I wasn’t released until after midnight.

I spent the night at a friend’s. My room was polluted with BUPD’s power to remove my bodily autonomy.

Spring break came, and I was all right until I had another panic attack at the end of the week and missed my flight back to school. By the following Wednesday, Dean Elmore had sent a letter to the entire BU community discussing the rape epidemic on campus along with an optional rape survey, only days after learning that I did not return from spring break due to rape trauma.

Dean Elmore reached out to my family before that email was sent. The email was a slap in the face. It did not discuss new sanctions for rapists and did not define the act as inexcusable or punishable.

My story is different from the one that came out last year in many ways, and yet, still so similar. At a time when BU could have respected my wishes and left me to deal with my panic attack with a trusted family member, it hospitalized me, booked me as an involuntary transport and stripped me of my bodily autonomy.

To the administrators who routinely ignore Sexual Assault Awareness Week (SAAW):

Even BUPD shows up — on your behalf, to police survivors.

Dean Elmore and Katherine Kennedy were extended handwritten invitations for the SAAW “Let’s Talk About It: Open Mic Night,” which takes place tonight, Thursday, April 7, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Morse Auditorium. Should they choose to actively ignore the invitations this year, the message will become loud and clear: They don’t care about survivors on this campus.

Whatever support systems that are in place for survivors are only for show and inadequate. Campus rape is a daily occurrence at BU, not a rarity.

The survivor-shaming climate of this campus has only gotten worse in the year since the last letter to the editor. I can’t understand how a dean with a black daughter could turn a blind eye and a cold shoulder to women just like her who have been violated on his campus.

Luckily, I will be on my way out of here soon. I am no longer a scared freshman, bullied into silence. I am learning to reach out to the part of the BU community that is concerned for the well-being of all women within it.

I choose to leave this behind as I exit. As I watch eager young women of color tour campus, I must provide the information you will not receive from your tour guide, Multicultural Community Weekend, orientation week or the Howard Thurman Center: #ThisCouldBU.

As you make your decisions this month in regard to where you will attend in the fall, please understand my warning: Once you step foot on this campus, your odds of being raped increase dramatically underneath a negligent administration.


The girl in your dorm whose smile never reaches her eyes

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  1. BU has had a storied history of mishandling sexual assault claims, but what seems to have really happened here was a student and sexual assault survivor had her PTSD triggered and was having a breakdown in the Residence Halls. She was offered multiple resources (SHS, SARP) and declined. She was then transported to the hospital for her breakdown. This has nothing to do with a mishandling of a sexual assault case so much as responding to a mental health crisis on campus. Indeed, we are not able to know if the administration would have mishandled it because she refused to file a report with the school or the police. The EMTs always give the option to decline transport unless they felt the student was a risk to herself, so I don’t understand how BU is responsible for taking away her autonomy here when they gave her multiple options and the EMT took the situation out of their hands. There’s also no evidence that BUPD has mishandled anything, so blaming the response of the administration is unfair. That they couldn’t catch a perpetrator in a building full of possible suspects with no cameras in the hallways is not an indictment of BUPD’s skill. The critique of the survey email also seems out of line.

    • Janet–I can’t imagine how you, a third party is able to deduce “what really happened here” and if you read the same article I did, she said she declined the services like SARP&SHS because they are lacking in the quality of their counseling, because “BU counselors spent more time asking me if I was suicidal than understanding that I was raped and then left for dead by the administration.”

      My own experience of BU SHS is similar, it felt like I was only seriously being listened to when my symptoms became severe enough to warrant emergency services rather than the multiple other previous times I had sought help before things ended up so bad.

      From my experience as a consumer of these services it’s clear: SHS begrudgingly takes you for a short period of time and then when you’ve finished whatever they consider the appropriate amount of local counseling they push you off campus. Then if you ever come back wanting to have services locally again, they only act when it’s an emergency and push you into an emergency room.

      SHS’s only goal is to move students off campus, not create an environment on campus for healing. (this is probably due to budget restraints, and individuals in SHS cannot be held solely accountable. THAT is why the author cites administration as culpable because it is them and the board of trustees who decide where the money goes and despite the rapidly growing need the funding just doesn’t come.)

      To me it sounds like you aren’t qualified enough to reach an informed conclusion about this instance. Your opinion is invalidating someone else’s experiences which will always be more valid than your thoughts on the matter. Your opinion is one of many that shame and subjugate survivors instead of working to improve our community. You can still change that, though, if you start listening and stop telling. Start now.

  2. I wonder how many people are bold enough to share this because it actually matters…

  3. My heart is in great pain for the author and other women of color whose health is so often disregarded or not prioritized.

    As a white woman, I stand in solidarity with you and hope that we can create the community that SHS is unable to provide that is necessary for healing. I trust you to make the best decisions for your healing because black women and other women of color have never had the institutional support like I have and have to make creative choices on how to treat themselves (aka talking to moms because that person was more qualified to give the right support than BUPD or SARP/SHS).

    I have noticed too often us white people seem to think that because an institution like SHS or SARP exists it means it will be unilaterally good at providing services. My experience as a WW navigating those spaces was hard, but it is probably extremely different from the experience of a WOC. We need to put the funding and care into these institutions but also do the work within our own communities to help survivors in the ways they see fit.

    We need to stop telling survivors what they need.

    We need to start listening.

    If we all make a concerted effort this change will happen, but only if we do the work to change ourselves and our communities to prioritize and support survivor’s voices and choices. No amount of funding can do that–it’s priceless.

  4. Shaken Female Student

    Last year two adult males seemingly on drugs broke into my dorm room at 5am. Mortified and shocked, I screamed for help and told them to leave. They proceeded to throw food at me and step further into my room near my bed. They ran out as soon as I began to reach for my phone. I locked my doors and shook in terror. 10 minutes later, they returned. They clawed at my door and shook it vigorously. As soon as they left, I stayed in my room, fearful that they would be out in the hallway waiting for me. I told the Resident’s Life office in the next hours. They told me that there was not much they could do. They told me I could write a long explanation of what exactly happened and the details about the previous night’s incident. They added that my letter would be then reviewed by higher authorities, but not much more action would be taken beyond that. Hearing this news was a huge disappointment to me. As a female student, I felt disrespected, helpless, and felt that BU did not take my incident as a particularly serious one. The situation thankfully did not have any detrimental consequences and I was not hurt. However, with the dire outcome that could have existed, BU should have taken further measures to ensure that their students are safe against such incidences in the future. I do not understand why we do not have more surveillance in campus dorms. Hallway cameras would be a small investment for our school, an investment that could better protect and ensure the safety of their students.

  5. Concerned Terrier

    Considering how much press last year’s letter to the editor received, I wonder who BU hired to ensure damage control on this one. They are more concerned with potential students’ perceptions of BU than the actual safety of the campus.

  6. Sexual assault is a problem on this campus as well as on other college/university campuses. Unfortunately, sexual assault whether fondling or rape, is stigmatized and overlooked. Yes, the school offers resources, which is commendable, but just because those resources exist does not mean they are always helpful. Have you guys ever listened to the way people talk about rape? The jokes they make, the side comments. I have. I have listened to people make rape jokes and have had to stay quiet so as not to respond in anger. I have had people judge me because of the way my PTSD affects me. Rape culture on college campuses exist and unfortunately, the people who either try to diminish the problem or are uneducated as to what it is like as a sexual assault/rape victim perpetuate such stigmas and stereotypes. It is a difficult problem to tackle but one that deserves recognition. I commend the woman who wrote this letter. It takes tremendous strength.