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Surviving, at Amherst College

(Dana Bolger)– [Trigger warning for sexual assault]

Dear Amherst College community:

The photographs below feature eleven men and women who were sexually assaulted at Amherst College and the words that members of our community said to them following their assaults. Not every survivor is holding his or her own sign; some of the students have transferred or dropped out of Amherst out of fear of their attackers’ continued presence on campus or from lack of options in the face of an unsympathetic administration.

Many of you were shocked to read Angie Epifano’s story. Most of us in the survivor community at Amherst were deeply saddened but not surprised to learn of her experience with the College administration, since it so closely mirrored our own.

I have followed our college community’s reactions to Angie’s story. The outrage toward our school’s administration is just and appropriate. That our administration owes a formal, public acknowledgment of, and apology for, its treatment of survivors goes without saying. That it is time that we demand from our administration transparency, dialogue, and priority of students’ safety over Amherst’s image likewise goes without saying.

In the photographs below, survivors reveal hurtful words said to them by Amherst administrators—and also by teammates, roommates, and friends.

In our impulse to point a finger outward at the Amherst administration, let us not forget to look inward at our own complicity in the creation of a culture that gives Angie’s rapist the power to act and our administration the power to silence and dismiss her experience.

I urge you to see the words in these photographs—see them, be angry—and then recall your own words. I think we have all, at some time, in some way—through our jokes, our questions, our arguments—silenced a survivor. I think we have all, at some time, in some way, exerted our respective privileges—male, white, heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied—to silence our peers. As a woman, I have been silenced and shut down in the classroom, at parties, among friends, even in planning meetings leading up to Friday’s rally to support survivors. As a white, upper-middle class, heterosexual individual, I know I have silenced and shut down my peers.

Angie’s article has revealed to the rest of the Amherst community what survivors here have known since our own rapes: it is time to demand radical change from our administration. What I hope you will read in Angie’s article and see in the photographs below is that it is time to demand transformation from yourself.

Let these stories be a portal for self-examination and growth.

-Dana Bolger

Photographs by Jisoo Lee

Project by It Happens Here — Dana Bolger, Kinjal Patel, Sonum Dixit

“I know you’ll regret stuff in the morning.”
–My assailant

“Are you sure it was rape? He seems to think it was a little more complicated.”
–Amherst College Administrator

“Why couldn’t you fight him off?”
–Friend

“Why don’t you take a year off, get a job at Starbucks, and come back after he’s graduated?”
–Dean

“C’mon, you go out every weekend. Stop telling people he raped you or my teammates won’t want to pregame in our room anymore.”
–Freshman roommate

“If you didn’t want to have sex with him, why were you sitting on his bed two weeks before?”
–Student on the Amherst College disciplinary committee

“Hey, why are you such a slut?”
–His teammate, minutes after my attack, in front of everyone

“Was he drunk? Well, that’s not as bad.”
–Friend

“You’re too complicated because you’re a rape survivor. You can pay for a therapist in town.”
–Amherst psychologist

“Oh. So that’s why you’re paranoid?”
–Teammate

“You never took your case to trial, so you don’t actually count as a rape survivor.”
–Amherst Dean

Cross-posted with permission from It Happens Here.

This project was created with the influence and permission of Project Unbreakable.

123 comments on “Surviving, at Amherst College

  1. rami ungar the writer
    October 27, 2012

    As much as I like higher education and I think everyone should have a shot at it, I’m disgusted by how some college administrations will just try to make it go away by belittling victims and making sure they don’t become “Rape U.” Those statements that the survivors above heard after their attacks are just unbelievable and false. Rape is rape, and there’s no exception to it or classification except in classifying the rapist, and that’s only so the rapist can be shut down. And in every case, it’s traumatizing, it doesn’t make sense, and it hurts. Deeply. Terribly. No matter the circumstances.
    Sometimes I think administrators and idiot politicians should be made to sit down and watch every episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” ever made. That show does a good job documenting the horrors of rape and the trauma of the victims, and how difficult it can be sometimes to prosecute rapists. Maybe then people will understand that rape isn’t something you can belittle or write off, but an act as serious as murder, and pursued as such.

  2. holt
    October 27, 2012

    Jesus.. Fucking.. CHRIST….

  3. PrairieMuffins
    October 27, 2012

    Wow. Thanks for posting. The one person I put confidence into, turned it on me as well. Never went to the police because of it. Years later, I’m full of so much regret knowing my assailant may have half a dozen more victims… All that will have to tgo through the same traumatic psychological roller coaster of rape.

  4. ajdeville
    October 27, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this here. I, like others reading this, am completely appalled and disgusted by the things people say and the attitude that it is the victim’s fault. You and your fellow survivors have been very brave in coming forward and saying all of this out loud. Power to you!

  5. S.C.
    October 27, 2012

    That story is pretty shocking. I can’t believe the administration would put the victims of horrific crimes through that kind of hell while the perpetrators get away with it.

  6. Charles
    October 27, 2012

    Jesus fucking Christ ditto.

  7. activeiris
    October 27, 2012

    Wow. It’s painful to realize what kind of a society we live in and how much further we all have to go.

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  9. SCherono
    October 27, 2012

    This happened at my college in Ohio in 1995. A friend was gang-raped and we all went with her to the administration. They asked her to leave campus because she was a threat to everyone’s well-being. We stayed with her for two nights in a hotel so she could keep going to classes, but then she went home over the weekend. Her parents contacted the police who said it was up to the school since it was on private property, the school said it was up to the police. She dropped out. The adminstration threatened us not to start trouble again.

  10. melissamaree
    October 27, 2012

    Reblogged this on Compassion & Truth and commented:
    Educational institutions are supposed to provide a safe environment for all. No more victim blaming!

  11. fissionerror
    October 27, 2012

    This is vile, and thank you for sharing it.

  12. dste
    October 27, 2012

    That’s absolutely terrible. To all the victims, please know that it was NOT YOUR FAULT that you were attacked, and the people who told you all those things were WRONG. Don’t ever let them convince you otherwise.

  13. Vivian Vanderbuilt
    October 28, 2012

    Oh my goodness, reading how unsympathetic the school’s administrating is towards the survivors is very upsetting,my heart breaks for them.

  14. Limon
    October 28, 2012

    Wow, just wow. It’s amazing to see that word for word the same stupid comments are being said to women today in 2012 that were being said in 1982 at another college on another side of the country. Nothing has changed!

    Ms. Magazine did a survey of college males in about 1985 (?) asking them: would you be willing to rape a female student if you were guaranteed to get away with it? I can’t remember the exact number but a huge amount of respondents said yes they would. The intention was definitely there, they just needed the protection.

    So, it’s nice to see that the best universities and colleges in the country are in fact still providing this protection. Gosh, where would we be if these fine young men were actually held accountable and their female classmates were actually protected? Would that really be too hard for us as a society and as a community?

    Thank you Amherst students and alums for being a sane voice in this still ongoing issue. Thank you for speaking out. If we can stop pedophilic priests and boyscout leaders from hurting young men, can’t we protect our daughters and sisters in a professional college environment?

  15. anewdayrising79
    October 28, 2012

    This is amazing to me. I think people just don’t want to deal with something horrible or confront the real problem; it is suddenly easier to imagine the victim is somehow the “real” issue.

    Not me, I would’ve grabbed a large blunt object and asked where the ****er lived.

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  17. piabesmonte
    October 28, 2012

    Reblogged this on pia besmonte and commented:
    This has to stop. Silence means allowing these things to happen over and over again. Spread awareness, everyone!

  18. jvgrant
    October 28, 2012

    I used to live in Amherst and that was one of the main reasons I left the city. I was hearing about all these kinds of crimes happening in the area and I didn’t want to risk my family.
    I’m really at a loss for words. I think what these people said is totally apalling and the faculty who said such careless comments should lose their jobs immediately. Especially that one quote from a psychologist. If she’s stupid enough to say such a hurtful thing to a rape victim, then it’s probably likely that she doesn’t have as much insight into the human mind as would be required in that line of work.

  19. thoushallnotparse
    October 28, 2012

    What the actual fuck?

  20. persephonesstepsisters
    October 28, 2012

    This is outrageous. Thank you for being brave, thank you for shedding light on the issue. The response of the Amherst administration is (collectively) shameful and utterly unacceptable.

  21. Eri Berry
    October 28, 2012

    It’s sad. but no, it’s not just sad. It makes me angry. Both the school community and the local government should make a big effort in order to eradicate these problems.

    I’m shocked that authorities do not give enough attention to this problem. I remember back when I was in freshman walking with my mom outside the campus. A stranger stroked my arm and I was shocked. My mom was furious and shouted at him. And it was just a stroke in the arm! I can’t believe people would dismiss something heavy and punishable by the law like rape.

    Students need to be more vigilant. Don’t stop. Let your voices be heard.

  22. mauriciennedelabanlieue
    October 28, 2012

    Well done, powerful message.

  23. Bani Amor
    October 28, 2012

    That dean should be fired. Fired.

  24. Anonymous
    October 28, 2012

    How come only the rape victims have names? Why aren’t the deans named? And most of all the rapists? Martha Crow

  25. freyjasdream
    October 29, 2012

    Oh my…..

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  27. James Herms
    October 29, 2012

    Who asked Angie to openly lie about her parents, and why?

    Contrary to the article published in the _Student_, Angie is neither poor nor parentless. Her parents: Anthony J. Epifano, 62, and Angela L. Epifano, 49, of Green Cove Springs, FL. Mr. Epifano is a past Commander of the Air Force News Agency.

    Compare
    “[I]n the Administration’s eyes I was the most base individual: a poor and parentless humanities major who was the school’s token-Deep-Southerner.…
    “You don’t have parents. What are you going to do?”

    with
    “Angela Epifano … recently received the Art Guild of Orange Park’s $1,000 scholarship award for 2010. She plans to attend Amherst College ….
    “Her parents, Angela and Anthony Epifano, … also attended the award ceremony ….”

    and
    “Air Force News Agency
    “Commander: Col. Anthony J. Epifano”

    — “Ridgeview’s Angela Epifano Earns Art Guild Scholarship,” Fla. Times-Union, July 10, 2010, at M12.
    — “Photochart of USAF Leadership,” Air Force Mag., Sept. 2004, at 86.

    About this college president, Dr. Biddy Martin… Has she or the Epifanos been asked to make rape-reporting project leaders look like gameplayers? If so, who asked her to? And why now?

    James K. Herms, Project Advisor
    MIT Crime Club
    herms@alum.mit.edu

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This entry was posted on October 23, 2012 by in Gender, News, Relationships and tagged , , , .
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