‘I’VE LOST FAITH IN THE SYS­TEM’

Wo­man who says she was raped on Em­manuel Col­lege cam­pus writes open let­ter ac­cus­ing school of pro­tect­ing it­self in­stead of her.

Metro USA (Boston) - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS CAE­SAR @MetroBOS chris.cae­sar@metro.us

A for­mer Em­manuel Col­lege fresh­man says she won’t be re­turn­ing to cam­pus this fall af­ter the school’s con­duct board found a fel­low stu­dent she ac­cused of rap­ing her not re­spon­si­ble for sex­ual mis­con­duct.

The wo­man, Joanna Vandyke, announced her de­ci­sion in an open let­ter on Facebook that’s since been shared over 1,500 times. In it, she says she was raped by the man dur­ing the sec­ond half of her fresh­man year and re­ported it to school officials.

Vandyke said she was en­cour­aged by an ad­min­is­tra­tor to han­dle the al­le­ga­tions through the school’s in­ter­nal dis­ci­plinary code. In June, af­ter a hear­ing and in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the col­lege said there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to find the ac­cused re­spon­si­ble.

“My rapist is able to live on cam­pus with­out a slap on the wrist,” she wrote. “You are fully aware of how he vi­o­lated me sev­eral times and did not think a rape kit and count­less ac­counts of the night was suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

“For this reason, I have de­cided to not re­turn to Em­manuel in the fall. It is clear to me that you value your rep­u­ta­tion more than you value your com­mu­nity. The compassion that you spoke so strongly about in the be­gin­ning of my time with you was

only skin deep. You host events that ‘em­power’ women like my­self to speak freely of is­sues like sex and race, but th­ese are just empty words.

“I hope this let­ter reaches any young girls who are seven­teen and ea­ger to be­gin their col­lege ca­reer with you,” Vandyke con­cludes. “I just want them to know that you were not on my side and cer­tainly will not be on theirs.”

Vandyke said in a phone in­ter­view that she didn’t ex­pect the note to be­come so widely shared, but was happy that it was get­ting at­ten­tion.

“My orig­i­nal in­tent for the let­ter to be on Facebook was to ex­plain to my friends why I wasn’t go­ing back,” she said. “Over and over again I’d have to ex­plain why I wasn’t com­ing back in the fall and it be­came emo­tion­ally ex­haust­ing.”

Be­tween a dozen and two dozen women reached out to her to share their own sto­ries about be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted on the cam­pus, she said.

“I have 250 un­read mes­sages in my inbox from peo­ple that are just say­ing how much they love me and sup­port me,” she said. “I never would’ve ex­pected this kind of feed­back.

“I still con­sider the peo­ple [at Em­manuel] the best friends I ever made,” Vandyke said. “Leav­ing them is re­ally hard and I wish I didn’t have to do it like this.”

In a state­ment, the col­lege said it was “deeply con­cerned” about the post.

“Em­manuel’s mis­sion is rooted in so­cial jus­tice and care for others, start­ing with our stu­dents,” it read. “Cases of sex­ual as­sault are tragic and the Col­lege han­dles all al­le­ga­tions in a com­pre­hen­sive man­ner guided by sen­si­tiv­ity, compassion, fair­ness, and in full com­pli­ance with Ti­tle IX. … The Col­lege main­tains com­pre­hen­sive poli­cies and train­ings to pre­vent sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment and pro­vide car­ing as­sis­tance to vic­tims. We are al­ways will­ing to dis­cuss and proac­tively ad­dress is­sues of con­cern.”

Ac­cord­ing to Know Your IX, an ad­vo­cacy group that works to em­power stu­dents to stop sex­ual vi­o­lence on cam­pus, many vic­tims of cam­pus sex­ual vi­o­lence are re­luc­tant to turn to the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, and hav­ing a Ti­tle IX griev­ance process for claims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment or as­sault can help ad­ju­di­cate such con­cerns with­out in­volv­ing the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

Noth­ing about fil­ing an in­ter­nal griev­ance with the school would pre­clude a vic­tim from go­ing to the po­lice, though the group notes that is a rarely suc­cess­ful re­course: Only a quar­ter of re­ported rapes lead to an ar­rest, and only a fifth lead to pros­e­cu­tion.

“I went to the school and they sug­gested that it be in­ter­nal, so I didn’t re­port it to the po­lice at all,” Vandyke said. “At this point I’ve lost faith in the sys­tem and will prob­a­bly not pur­sue [crim­i­nal charges].”

DEREK KOUYOUMJIAN

Em­manuel Col­lege DEREK KOUYOUMJIAN

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