I went to a very small liberal arts college in Maryland. When I say small, I’m talking under 2,000 students small. It is the type of school where everybody knows everybody else and you would be hard-pressed to find someone you had never seen before. I can honestly say that during my four years there, I never once didn’t feel safe. It was the type of place where everyone just took care of each other.
I’m not saying that bad things didn’t happen at my school, but when they did it felt like everyone came together. I really believe that every member of my collegiate family, whether students, faculty or staff, cared by each other.
So when I read articles of college students being sexually assaulted by fellow students it always seemed so unfathomable to me. “That must have happened at a big school,” we would always say. So, when I read a recent article in the New York Times about a sexual assault that happened at another small school, Amhurst College, I couldn’t believe it. Now listen, I’m not naïve enough to think that sexual assault doesn’t happen at every college, even my own alma mater. But what really shocked me to my core was the reaction of the college’s staff and administration.
When the student was ready to seek counseling for her assault, the staff victimized her again. She lived in the same dorm as her attacker, and when she asked to be relocated, she was told she couldn’t move because all of the buildings were full. They also told her that pressing charges would be “useless” as the student was about to graduate. They even asked her if she was “sure she had been raped.”
She could have given up. She could have accepted this as the end of her fight. Instead, this student wrote an article for her school newspaper, telling the story of not only her rape, but her encounter with the school’s staff as well. Her story gave others strength. As the New York Times’ article explains that her article “prompted other Amherst students, past and present, to step forward publicly and say that they, too, had been sexually assaulted here, treated poorly afterward, and in many cases had left campus rather than be around assailants who were allowed to remain.”
While the school’s staff may not have stood behind this victim, the student body did. This small college was outraged at the actions of its staff, and banded together to instill change. With the support of the school’s new president, real change is being made at Amhurst College. While the student no longer attends the school, I can hope that she is proud of the impact she has had there.
This article really hit home with me. It made me proud to go to a school with a staff that was always there for its students, but it also reminded of the power you need to find within yourself. This student could have so easily given up on herself when the staff turned her away. But she didn’t. She found the strength within herself to tell her story. And it changed an entire institution. When everyone else gives up on you, never give up on yourself.
I’m a big fan of quotes, and I think this one really sums up this article:
“My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results… but it’s the effort that’s heroic, as I see it. Win or lost, I admire those who fight the good fight.” — George R. R. Martin
Written by: Alexandra L. November 2012