An anonymous Harvard coed published an angry letter in the Crimson, asserting that she was giving up and will be moving off-campus next semester because Harvard failed to prosecute, or even remove from the same residential house, the male student she claims sexually assaulted her roughly a year ago.
The young lady’s account of the alleged assault reads:
He was a friend of mine and I trusted him. It was a freezing Friday night when I stumbled into his dorm room after too many drinks. He took my shirt off and started biting the skin on my neck and breast. I pushed back on his chest and asked him to stop kissing me aggressively. He laughed. He said that I should â€œjust wear a scarfâ€ to cover the marks. He continued to abuse my body, hurting my breast and vagina. He asked me to use my mouth. I said no. I was intoxicated, I was in pain, I was trapped between him and the wall, and I was scared to death that he would continue to ignore what I said. I stopped everything and turned my back to him, praying he would leave me alone. He started getting impatient. â€œAre you only going to make me hard, or are you going to make me come?â€ he said in a demanding tone.
It did not sound like a question. I obeyed.
Shortly after I reported my sexual assault to my House staff, I was told by a senior member of the College administration that the Administrative Board was very unlikely to â€œissue a chargeâ€ against my assailant and to launch a thorough investigative process because my assailant may not have technically violated the schoolâ€™s policy in the student handbook. Even though he had verbally pressured me into sexual activity and physically hurt me, the incident did not fall within the scope of the schoolâ€™s narrow definition of sexual assault.
Her indignation over that incident and the failure of the Harvard Administration to avenge her honor, she claims have caused her to develop a mental illness.
Iâ€™m writing this piece as Iâ€™m sitting in my own dining hall, only a few tables away from the guy who pressured me into sexual activity in his bedroom, one night last spring. My hands are trembling as they hover across the keyboard. Iâ€™m exhausted from fighting for myself. Iâ€™m exhausted from sending emails to my resident dean, to my House Master, to my Sexual Assault/Sexual Harassment tutors, to counselors from the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, to my attorney. Iâ€™m exhausted from asking for extensions because of â€œpersonal issues.â€ Iâ€™m exhausted from avoiding the laundry room, the House library and the mailroom because Iâ€™m scared of who I will run into.
More than anything, Iâ€™m exhausted from living in the same House as the student who sexually assaulted me nine months ago.
Iâ€™ve spent most of 2013 fighting the Harvard administration so that they would move my assailant to a different House, and I have failed miserably. Several weeks ago, in a grey room on the fourth floor of the Holyoke Center, my psychiatrist officially diagnosed me with depression. I did not budge, and I was not surprised. I developed an anxiety disorder shortly after moving back to my House this fall, and running into my assailant up to five times a day certainly did not help my recovery.
â€œHow about we increase your dose from 100 to 150 milligrams a day,â€ my psychiatrist said in a mechanical, indifferent voice. Sure thing.
This morning, as I swallowed my three blue pills of Sertraline and tried to forget about the nightmares that haunted my night, I finally admitted it to myself: I have lost my battle against this institution. Seven months after I reported what happened, my assailant still lives in my House. I am weeks behind in the three classes Iâ€™m taking. I have to take sleeping pills every night to fall and stay asleep, and I routinely get nightmares in which I am sexually assaulted in public. I cannot drink alcohol without starting to cry hysterically. I dropped my favorite extracurriculars because I cannot find the energy to drag myself out of bed. I do not care about my future anymore, because I donâ€™t know who I am or what I care about or whether I will still be alive in a few years. I spend most of my time outside of class curled up in bed, crying, sleeping, or staring at the ceiling, occasionally wondering if I just heard my assailantâ€™s voice in the staircase. Often, the cough syrup sitting in my drawer or the pavement several floors down from my window seem like reasonable options.
This item came to my attention because several female Yale undergraduates from a fraternal group I belong to were circulating it and discussing it from a feminist point of view.
The whole business sounds very sad, and we older people find it very easy to be critical of today’s hook-up culture in which young women are apparently commonly expected to deliver sexual gratification to male associates as a routine courtesy at the conclusion of any shared social experience, however slight.
Nonetheless, it is bound to strike any sensible adult as obvious that it is impossible for third parties simply to accept the subjective account of one party to such a private encounter as completely factual and veracious. It is inevitable that two people will have different viewpoints and there can be no objective witnesses to a romantic liaison. It is part of the nature of relations between the sexes, too, that romantic encounters may be filled with mutual misunderstandings and may not infrequently lead to animosity and regret.
Just as young ladies are very liable to be confused and too easily pressured into doing things they may later regret, young men are too frequently liable to be loutish, uncouth, and simple-mindedly optimistic in interpreting the willingness of their partner. In earlier periods of history, these problems were widely recognized and young ladies were firmly advised to avoid finding themselves alone and intoxicated in the company of any young man.
When one reads this young lady’s anonymous account, one tends to think that she must be an example of the modern type of person who wants to have things both ways. She wants a modern sexually-liberated society, in which dormitories are coeducated, in which college authorities have withdrawn any pretension to acting in loco parentis or supervising the morals and behavior of undergraduates in any way, but when she finds herself regretting getting drunk, accompanying a young man she obviously did not know as well as she thought she did to his room, alone and at night, and then giving in to some sort of less-than-life-or-death pressure and finally doing something she regrets, she blames everyone but herself. Frankly, one feels obliged to reflect aloud: if society and your college are not going to have power over you or be in charge of protecting your virtue, then that task is really simply left to you.
Beyond that, I would say that pretty much everybody, when young, gets drunk a time or two and then does things he (or she) will inevitably regret. That kind of unfortunate experience ought to lead to a firm resolve in future to avoid levels of intoxication which might untowardedly influence one’s own behavior and to a certain amount of temporary personal chagrin. It should not lead to a campus-wide political campaign of agitation aimed at personal revenge, to the neglect of one’s studies, or to an obsession over one’s personal wrongs leading to mental illness.
This young lady fails to observe the obvious. When someone takes an unfortunate incident like this and proceeds to inflate it into a grievance making her the equivalent of one of the principals in a Jacobean drama, when she allows herself to get carried away with self-entitlement and self-righteousness to the point of striking such lurid and dramatic public poses over what must be essentially the kind of unfortunate private transaction which goes on routinely every day at colleges in today’s fallen world, when she wages a year-long campaign of this kind, no rational person is going to take her seriously as a reliable witness or responsible complainant.