Addressing the Culture of Sexual Violence at Amherst College
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Dear President Martin and Trustees of Amherst College,
We, the students and alumni/ae of the five colleges, feel that the "fairest College" has been anything but fair to survivors of sexual assault on campus.
1. Students who experienced sexual assault, both men and women, were encouraged not to seek recourse with the police or other authorities, but with the College.
2. Students who report that they had experienced sexual assault are often not believed, and on occasion the perpetrators of sexual assault were not penalized even when multiple, independent complaints were made.
3. To our knowledge, in the history of Amherst College, students were never or almost never expelled for sexually assaulting other students. This represents an evaluation of sexual assault as a minor crime.
4. These factors mean that Amherst was a place where a culture of sexual violence was, if not explicitly, then implicitly condoned. Sexual assault survivors were forced to attend school--and eat in our one dining hall--alongside their attackers. Our campus is too small to escape.
5. Since the majority of this sexual violence was directed at women by men, this meant that the campus was markedly less physically and emotionally safe and comfortable for women than for men. Overall, the campus is less safe than it should be for all genders.
6. Evidence of sexually abusive culture (such as the infamous "Roasting Fat Ones" t-shirt) are not treated as hate crimes or threats of violence but as failed "jokes".
We ask that you, as you have promised, provide transparency as the College undergoes its outside evaluation. We also ask that you take steps to:
1. Treat acts of sexism which promote violence against women as you would violence against the school or against any other oppressed group: with serious disciplinary consequences such as mandatory counseling for the perpetrators and suspension from school. Organizations which collectively act to promote sexual violence should be disbanded.
2. Educate administrators and faculty members about sex and gender power so that no one thinks that rape jokes are tolerable or that "boys will be boys". These ideas promote a culture of discrimination and violence.
3. Provide specialized mental health care for survivors of sexual assault both before and after their hearings, even if their alleged assaulter is not convicted.
4. Increase support for students bringing charges of sexual assault to disciplinary hearings, and make the inclusion of women and Peer Advocates of Sexual Respect in the judiciary panel mandatory.
The students and alumnae/i of Amherst College, Smith College, Mt. Holyoke College, Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Marina Weiss '08, Esther Lim '05, and Dan Cluchey '08