BU Rape Survivor Blasts School’s Response in Open Letter
Update: Tuesday, 4:45 p.m.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley provided the following statement in an email: “Boston University takes every report of sexual misconduct seriously and follows the processes and guidelines required by the Office for Civil Rights in investigating and adjudicating them. Through our Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center (SARP), we also provide ongoing assistance and support to students who come forward with complaints of sexual misconduct.”
Little has changed for survivors of sexual assault at Boston University, according to a powerful open letter published today in the school’s campus newspaper, the Daily Free Press. The author, a rape survivor who chose to remain anonymous, details the bureaucratic hell she endured while seeking help from BU’s administration, which she says did not punish her assailant.
According to the letter, she reported the incident to BU’s judicial committee, who found her alleged assailant guilty of rape and suspended him for one semester, only to grant him an appeal not long after. Provost Jean Morrison granted the assailant a stay of suspension and never responded to the author’s email asking why, she writes. Her assailant’s lawyers handed administration a nine-page rebuttal, listing his extracurricular activities and claiming that her accusations were the result of her being “not sexually satisfied.” The author later writes that Morrison’s letter notifying her that her assailant’s suspension had been revoked contained several typos, and the paper copy was initially addressed to the wrong dorm room.
The author also claims that the fraternity her assailant was pledging handled the whole situation better than BU administration, which has cracked down on Greek life in recent years. She writes:
Meanwhile, the leaders of the frat my assailant was pledging had told the judicial committee they dropped him as soon as they questioned him about what happened the night he assaulted me. When they brought it up to him, he “dropped to his knees and begged [them] to let him stay [in the frat].” The brothers describe his behavior as “sketchy,” “embarrassing” and “like he knew he messed up.” These are fraternity brothers saying this. The fraternity handled this case better than the BU administration.
The author chose to remain anonymous in order to highlight the pervasiveness of sexual assault on campus.
I am writing this because I am left with no other options. I asked BU for justice, but I was victimized again. Their system overturned its own decision with no new evidence, suggesting at the least, a remarkable lack of training, and at worst, a system that is designed to injure those already hurt.
I was abandoned, like so many other women, by the institution that was supposed to protect me. BU puts up a pretty good front: they let everyone know when they suspend a fraternity, or when their sexual assault appeals policy has been updated (not that it did me any good), but these actions mean absolutely nothing if they let rapists stay on campus.
“The author of the post is someone who had known our opinion editor,” says Daily Free Press editor-in-chief Felicia Gans. “And she had been in touch with her a couple weeks ago and said, ‘I have this story to tell.'” Gans says the author supplied paperwork to corroborate her story, which was fact-checked by the FreeP staff before its publication.
“This brings an interesting piece to light. It’s a statistic that you can’t get from BU. You can’t ask ‘How many people aren’t happy with how you handle sexual assault?'” Gans says. The FreeP staff has received positive feedback from editors at campus papers across the country, while Gans hopes the paper will launch a larger investigation someday.
“As college journalists, writing about sexual assault is very difficult. I mean, professional journalists struggle with it,” Gans says.
Sexual assault has been a lingering problem for BU. After two members of the school’s storied men’s hockey program were accused of sexual assault in 2012, Morrison chaired a task force whose salacious report found a “culture of sexual entitlement.” The same year, a student called the school’s after-hours number for survivors and found “a useless loop of automated menus that provide no real resources or response to sexual assault.” The “glitch” was later fixed. BU launched a confidential student sexual assault survey in an email cosigned by Morrison and President Robert Brown in March.
Last May, BU bestowed an honorary degree upon alleged serial rapist Bill Cosby, who had already been accused by four women by the time he stepped to the podium and bellowed Fat Albert’s, “Hey, hey, hey!”—a degree the university was still unsure about rescinding as of December.
“You are well-known to the public as an actor, writer, and producer. Above all, you are an educator, by word and example,” Brown told Cosby before the crowd of 20,000 gathered at Nickerson Field. “Whether you portray a tennis coach engaged in espionage or a wise family patriarch, your characters are people we like and admire. Your work with children’s television is more than entertainment, it is a collection of well thought-out lessons on important issues in life, from respect to relationships.”