Thursday, October 18, 2012

Surviving Rape at Amherst

It didn’t happen in Wyoming or some other Tea Party redoubt. It happened in Massachusetts, at Amherst College, a place where people of superior learning and refinement conduct their lives according to the highest progressive principles.

By definition, Amherst administrators are supersaturated with political correctness, including the latest feminist wisdom about sexual violence against women.

When Amherst College student Angie Epifano was raped in May of last year, she did not have to deal with a bunch of superannuated patriarchs. She availed herself of the enlightened assistance that Amherst provided.

As Epifano made her way through administrators, sexual assault counselors and mental health professionals, they all felt her pain. They were all worried about the state of her mind.

No one called the police.

Apparently, college campuses self-police. They prefer to stay above the riff-raff who work as policemen. They abhor any publicity that might make them look less than perfect.

They have created their own little utopias, worlds in which they wield all the power and make all the rules. To preserve this perfect social world it is necessary to cover up violent crimes, especially those committed against women.

Amherst’s record on rape is not good.

Epifano explains:

Amherst has almost 1800 students; last year alone there were a minimum of 10 sexual assaults on campus. In the past 15 years there have been multiple serial rapists, men who raped more than five girls, according to the sexual assault counselor. Rapists are given less punishment than students caught stealing. Survivors are often forced to take time off, while rapists are allowed to stay on campus. If a rapist is about to graduate, their punishment is often that they receive their diploma two years late.

Of course, no rape victim really wants to go to the police. Our criminal justice system systematically violates rape victims.  

A rape victim who testifies in court is making a sacrifice; she is not going to emerge victorious.

With rape, the best solution is to ensure that it does not happen in the first place.

When we start thinking about how colleges can better protect the more sexually vulnerable among them one is forced to say that they should first recognize that women are more vulnerable than men.

If women are more vulnerable, then perhaps they need an extra level of protection, as in, bringing back same-sex dorms.

One realizes that this is a heretical opinion. It contradicts the most blessed of liberal pieties.

Yet, separating the living spaces of men and women, giving women more protection might help the situation.

Feminism notwithstanding, women are not as strong as men. Saying so all the time does not make women any stronger than they are. It might convince them that they are stronger than they are.

Before her rape Epifano had thought of herself as “a strong, no-nonsense woman,” intensely independent.

We must ask how this sense of being strong and independent influences a young woman’s risk assessment?

Nothing excuses what happened to Angie Epifano, but if we are asking how to prevent such crimes from taking place, it might be a good idea for women to re-evaluate how “strong” they really are and conduct themselves accordingly.

Finally, when certain thinkers assert that all sexual acts between a man and a woman are forms of rape they are trivializing the crime.

Once you start thinking that way, then you will find it increasingly difficult to draw a distinction between consensual and non-consensual sex. If that is your mindset, any time you hear about a rape you will be less likely to take it as a serious crime that demands the mobilization of society’s resources and will be more likely to blame the victim for failing to get over it.

If you read through Epifano’s account of how she survived her rape you will notice two things. First, that she herself, of her own volition, tried to develop strategies that would help her to manage the anguish. Second, that her counselors thought that it could be solved in her mind, by soul-searching and medication.

First, Epifano left campus. She separated herself from the places and the people that reminded her of the trauma.

This is normal and it is healthy.

Second, when she came back to school she started seeing Amherst’s sexual assault counselor.

When she asked to change dorms, a good tactic to promote healing, she was told that it was impossible.

Third, when she told the counselor that she was considering pressing charges, the counselor dissuaded her.

Here is Epifano’s summary of her counseling sessions, which seem more interested in protecting he rapist and Amherst:

Eventually I reached a dangerously low point, and, in my despondency, began going to the campus’ sexual assault counselor. In short I was told: No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you SURE it was rape? It might have just been a bad hookup…You should forgive and forget….

I was continuously told that I had to forgive him, that I was crazy for being scared on campus, and that there was nothing that could be done. They told me: We can report your rape as a statistic, you know for records, but I don’t recommend that you go through a disciplinary hearing. It would be you, a faculty advisor of your choice, him, and a faculty advisor of his choice in a room where you would be trying to prove that he raped you. You have no physical evidence, it wouldn’t get you very far to do this.

Left to her own resources Epifano wanted to take actions that would help her heal. Her counselor opposed most of them.

The counselor went so far as to suggest that it might all be in Epifano’s mind. Given the pervasive hookup culture, she seemed to be suggesting, it was becoming more difficult to take such allegations seriously.

Keep in mind that this is what passes for enlightened opinion.

Fourth, even though Epifano had protected herself by keeping her distance from her rapist, it came to pass, as normally would happen on a small campus like Amherst, that she was forced to work with him on a fundraiser.

The trauma of being in his presence, of knowing that he knew, of enduring his gaze… was too much.

Epifano broke down and was hospitalized, against her will.

Fifth, the physician at the hospital was of one mind with the sexual assault counselor. He or she doubted Epifano’s word and tended to think that it was all in her mind. Naturally, he or she told the rape victim that with the proper medication she would be happy again.

In Epifano’s words:

On May 5th I entered Cooley Dickinson Hospital’s Emergency Room. Three hours after sitting curled up and terrified on a hospital bed I was admitted into the Psychiatric Ward for depression and suicidal thoughts. The doctor was skeptical to say the least: I really don’t think that a school like Amherst would allow you to be raped. And why didn’t you tell anybody? That just doesn’t make any sense...Your anger and sadness right now seem unfounded and irrational, someone your age should not be this sad—it’s not normal. We’ll be admitting you in a few minutes, they’ll take good care of you. They’ll get you some drugs and they’ll make you feel happy again…If you don’t willingly enter we’ll have a judge issue a court order legally forcing you to stay there. Trust us, this is for your own good.

When she was in the hospital Epifano did therapy. In fact, that was all she did.

Epifano explains:

During the day we discussed our thoughts and feelings, our inhibitions, our strengths, but more often than not we did nothing.

Sixth, at some point during this process Epifano had a realization: she could not deal with her rape because her sense of shame was preventing her from telling anyone that it happened.

Thus, she revealed the fact during group therapy. Months later she shared it with a number of her classmates. Finally, she reported the rapist… by which I assume that she is filing a criminal complaint.

With all of the counselors telling her to do nothing Epifano finally realized that she had to do something.

Otherwise she would have been martyring herself to protect her rapist.

One should be careful, however, to think that shame is always the enemy.

I think it more accurate to say that going public alleviated some of her mental anguish because it eliminated the anxiety about exposure. You cannot be fearful of other people finding out if you tell them yourself. 

Overcoming shame is not and should never be taken to be a panacea. As you read her story, you will see that it was not a panacea for her. It did, however, help her.

Epifano exposed her rape after she had run out of other options.

Seventh, when Epifano wanted to go to South Africa for her study abroad and to major in African studies, Amherst administrators blocked her.

An attuned counselor would have understood that being on campus triggered memories of the rape. Thus,  a new environment would surely have been salutary.

Her dean told her:

I know how much you wanted to study abroad and how much work you must’ve put into it, but really, it’s for the best. Africa is quite traumatizing, what with those horrible third-world conditions: disease…huts…lions! You’ll be much better off here at Amherst where we can watch over you. It will give you some time to think about…you know…that…unfortunate incident…

She finally sees how Amherst sees her:

Her comments reminded me that in the Administration’s eyes I was the most base individual: a poor and parentless humanities major who was the school’s token-Deep-Southerner. I was sullied, blameworthy, and possibly insane.

So much for celebrating diversity.

When Epifano got a job working on a Dude Ranch in Wyoming, her sexual assault counselor opposeed the idea:

Then the ranch came up: Do you realize how difficult working on a Dude Ranch will be? The people in Wyoming are different from the people at Amherst, they won’t be well-educated, and they won’t understand you. You’re going to a backwards place. Do you realize how bad it will be?

She comments:

Yes, because the rest of the US is filled with ignorant savages who haven’t been saved by the light of Amherst. How would I ever survive?


n.n said...

I will not suggest that this behavior did not happen before or even that it wasn't prominent. However, I will say that efforts to normalize human corruption, including the "friends with benefits" mentality, vaginas on parade, topless with a cause, promiscuity, homosexuality, and other dysfunctional behaviors, were not the right way to address the underlying cause of this deviance, which is correctly described as a dream for instant gratification with a [premeditated] mitigation of consequences.

This is progressive corruption; it is cultural corruption; and it is sponsoring a transgressive outcome, which is generational suicide and a general devaluation of human life.

Sam L. said...

But, but, progressives are so caring!

And they are, for themselves, and "the greater good" for which the poor unfortunates must suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.ousken

Dennis said...

The sins of the mothers are visited on their daughters. Their mothers have been the handmaidens of the Left and have created the world in which this young woman now lives. One cannot spend an inordinate amount of time on classifying one as a body part, groveling in being a "slut," "putting on one's knee pads" to keep abortion freely available for a form of birth control, giving every Leftist president, Congressional male or other power seeker a pass on sexual harassment and work place discrimination et al until it comes back to their own detriment.
One cannot degrade themselves for a "cause" and not expect negative results. There is a reason why history has demonstrated why many of the things n.n has dwelled on has done damage to society and the people who live in them. It is what happens when one does not think of the consequences of their actions and extrapolates where it will ultimately lead. Gratification comes from doing the right thing.
I would like to feel compassion for this young woman, but 50 years of radical feminism has borne its fruit. If one does not like the "bed" they have help to make then one is going to have to change how that "bed" is made. Stop blaming men for the actions your mothers took. It is not that most of us from your fathers on down have not tried to tell you about the importance of taking responsibility for your actions. How much of feminism is an excuse for avoiding that personal responsibility? What do you suppose happens when you make one half of the population the enemy. If everything is rape then nothing is rape.

David Foster said...

"Do you realize how difficult working on a Dude Ranch will be? The people in Wyoming are different from the people at Amherst, they won’t be well-educated, and they won’t understand you. You’re going to a backwards place."

If I were in a situation where I had to trust someone with my life, and my choices were (a) an Amherst professor, (b) an Amherst administrator, and (c) a Wyoming rancher....I'd go with the Wyoming rancher. A long way second would be the Amherst professor, and dead last would be the administrator...indeed, in that case I'd figure I was pretty much already doomed.

Michael said...

Forgive me for being blunt, but I think your solution just helps protect a culture in which sexual violence is accepted as a norm.

It's not that women should be protected from men; it's that men shouldn't rape women in the first place. The majority of the men I know are wonderful, generous, and genuinely good people, and shouldn't be treated as though they can't be trusted not to rape someone. (Besides, this separation of genders does nothing to prevent same-sex rape.) If we, as a culture, shamed and punished rapists to the same degree that we currently shame rape victims, we'd be much closer to a society free from such crimes.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

How did it become a culture that accepts sexual violence? That, indeed, is a good question.

It's nice to say that men shouldn't do it-- we all agree-- but I can't imagine that you would want to eliminate all sanctions against a horrific crime and replace them with: men shouldn't do it.

Same-sex rape mostly occurs in prisons, which ought not to be compared to same-sex dorms.

Dennis said...

Words are mean to have real definitions and when a society keeps adding more and more to that definition those words have less and less credibility. Take words like rape, violence, racist, sexist, et al. They have been used in a manner that has removed the importance of those words to political gamesmanship meant not to be illustrative, but to be a means to shutting up ones opponent.
When words becoming the meaning of every thing they become the meaning of nothing. They have NO value to add to one's understanding. One only has to look at feminism, race hustlers, people who shout much of interest group politics to understand why words have lost their value. Can anyone say that when many words are used that they really trust them at first?
When one makes every one the enemy then no one can ultimately be a friend. This is what happens when a society divides itself in to competing interest groups all trying to get more money and power from a government that seeks to divide us.
Again stop blaming men for the devaluing and debasing of the language we need in order to recognize good from evil. Once it all becomes relative then it is meaningless.
If one wants to know why then looking in that mirror that keeps wanting to blame every one else might aid. When a society accepts ever larger perversions as normal then it reaps what it sows.
Language is a beautiful medium only if the words are meaningful and have solid well understood meanings that lead to understanding for everyone.

Dennis said...

God, what a terrible proofreader I am! One really does see what one wants to no matter how much they try not to do it.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Dennis, you have given a very good explanation of that fascinating Confucian concept: the rectification of names.

Unknown said...

I wish to draw your attention to a detail in the report. In the middle of her narrative, Ms. Epifano writes:
"Amherst has almost 1800 students; last year alone there were a minimum of 10 sexual assaults on campus."
Assuming, for convenience, that 6 students in 10 are women, this gives an incidence of sexual assault of 10/1080 = 0.0093.

Now, by comparison, let's look at the city of Boston; In 2011, there were 271 forcible rapes over a population of 621,359. Assuming half the population is women, this gives an incidence of forcible rape of 2*271/621359 = 0.0009.

If "sexual assualt" means rape, does it sound remotely plausible to you that the incidence of sexual assault at Amherst College would be ten times the incidence of rape in the city of Boston?

I would suggest that part of the problem is that by vastly inflating the term "sexual assault", Amherst College has reduced its ability to cope with forcible rape.