Victims find sexual misconduct process ineffective

The Whitman administration works to stop sexual assault on campus, but sometimes even the best preventative efforts fail. Students don’t always respect each other’s boundaries. While many victims choose not to report the crimes committed against them, a handful fill out a pink form and bring a case forward. The Pioneer investigates what happens after.

Coming forward

From 2005 to 2010, there have been a total of 43 incidents of sexual assault reported on the Whitman College campus, according to Whitman’s Clery crime statistics. Of these, 31 were incidents of forcible rape. It is likely that far more rapes have actually occurred over that period, because many go unreported.

Some of these cases have made their way through Whitman’s formal hearing process, and some have resulted in the college punishing the offender. Yet in the time that Detective Miguel Sanchez has been investigating rape and domestic violence cases for the Walla Walla Police Department, there hasn’t been a single rape case from Whitman where criminal charges were filed.

“Do you think in the 13 years I’ve been here, there’s never been a legitimate rape at Whitman?” said Sanchez.

After her own experience, senior Zoe* sometimes finds herself wondering what Whitman does consider to be a legitimate rape. She went to an end-of-season party for the tennis team her freshman year. It was a celebration, and she had a lot to drink.

“I was super drunk and the last thing I remember of the night is this guy coming to this party. He wasn’t on the tennis team, so I didn’t know him. That’s the last thing I remember until I woke up in his bed the next day, naked and really confused. I was so scared and I didn’t know what to do,” she said.

The guy acted casual, and Zoe followed his lead. He asked her if they were still going to go to brunch, and she assumed they must have discussed this the night before. She still didn’t know his name. Over brunch, they made small talk, with Zoe still feeling uncomfortable from what she assumed had happened the previous night.

A few days later, with a friend urging her, Zoe set up a meeting to talk to the guy. Over coffee, she tentatively asked him what had happened, and he told her that they had had sex.

In her formal statement, Zoe would later write, “Sex is not something I regard as casual, and the idea that I might have had it and not remembered horrified and terrified me.”

At the time, though, Zoe tried to put the incident behind her. But almost a year later, a friend forwarded her an email that the guy had sent to a sports team. In it, he challenged them to play a game called “brunchmaster.” The rules stated that “you must successfully gain entrance to the dining hall’s brunch after a casual one-night stand” and noted that “assuming the pretense of romantic interest can garner better results.”

In her statement, Zoe explained that she had convinced herself that her experience had been a misunderstanding with a nice guy.

“Reading this email made me sick and completely shattered the story I had managed to make myself believe,” she wrote.

Zoe decided to pursue a formal case against him. Both Whitman College policy and Washington State Law include sex with someone who is incapacitated due to alcohol consumption within their definitions of sexual assault, but Zoe elected to keep the case within Whitman’s hearing process instead of going to the police.

The Whitman process

As an educational institution, Whitman is required to comply with Title IX, a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in education. Title IX considers sexual misconduct to be gender discrimination, and as such, schools are required to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct. The idea is to put the burden on the institution, rather than the victim, to determine what happened. Associate Dean of Students Clare Carson is also the college’s Title IX administrator, and serves as the point of contact for gender discrimination cases, including alleged violations of the college’s sexual misconduct policy.

Formal hearings are heard by the Council on Sexual Misconduct, a committee composed of two faculty members, two staff members and two students chosen from the larger Council on Student Affairs. The council must be gender-balanced, and all members undergo special training to serve. The council votes based on a “preponderance of evidence,” a standard signifying that the accusations are likely true. This is a lower legal standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Four affirmative votes are needed to find the accused in violation of the policy; in such cases, the council then decides on sanctions that range from a formal warning to dismissal from the college. Students found in violation will also have the letter stating these sanctions placed in their permanent college record.

As part of the process, both the complainant and the accused may call witnesses and present evidence. Both have a staff member to serve as an advisor, but neither is allowed to have legal counsel.

“We’re not going through a legal process,” said Carson. “Our job [in the hearing] is to find out if our policy was violated, not to find out whether a crime has been committed.”

Because Whitman is not a law enforcement agency, it cannot charge anyone with a crime, such as rape or sexual assault. Through Whitman’s process, evidence and witnesses are presented to decide whether or not the college’s sexual misconduct policy has been violated. In the past, no records of hearings have been kept by the college after the fact, meaning that the police were unable to subpoena evidence that could be relevant in a criminal rape or sexual assault case. The training Carson received in the summer of 2011 to become Whitman’s Title IX administrator clarified that records of cases do need to be kept. As a result, Whitman now keeps records of findings from hearings that may be provided to the police, depending on the nature of the case. The purpose of these records, however, is for the college to keep track of internal affairs.

“Our primary concern is protecting the privacy of the individuals involved in the process,” said Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland in an email. “We are not basing these kinds of decisions on what the police may or may not want.”

Facing the council

When Zoe first came forward, she met with Sexual Misconduct Prevention Coordinator and Associate Dean of Students Barbara Maxwell and with Carson.

“The reaction that I got from the administration was that I was going to be listened to. They were all like, ‘This is so horrible.’ I remember having this guilty conscience about turning this ‘good guy’ in. The way the administration was talking, I thought he would get expelled,” she said.

At her hearing, Zoe called witnesses to testify to the fact that she had been drinking heavily. She sat across the table from the other student while he told the panel that he hadn’t asked her for consent; he’d thought it was implied.

“Him admitting that was difficult, when I was a complete stranger, I was obviously intoxicated . . . Maybe he didn’t know I was blacked out. That’s a definite possibility. But he knew I was drunk, and we have a policy that clearly states that you cannot consent to anything when you’re drunk and he didn’t even ask for consent,” said Zoe.

Whitman’s sexual misconduct policy clearly states that students who are incapacitated due to the use of alcohol cannot consent to sex, and that consent cannot be implied. Zoe thought she had a clear case, especially with the other student admitting he hadn’t explicitly asked for consent. In spite of the apparent strength of her case, the panel voted 5-1 that sexual misconduct had not occurred and the other student was not responsible for violating Whitman’s policy. Zoe was shocked.

“I just never even thought it wasn’t going to end in my favor,” she said. “I didn’t want him to suffer. I just wanted him to know what he did was wrong and that he could never do that again.”

Whitman’s policy does not allow for appeals on the grounds that the panel reached an incorrect decision. Decisions may only be appealed for procedural reasons, for example, new evidence coming to light. Zoe appealed on the grounds that a close friend who had been present at the party and could attest to her condition on that night had been unable to testify at the original hearing. She was granted an appeal by the Chair of the Faculty; according to Whitman’s procedure, the appeal was heard by the same six people who had ruled against her in the first hearing. Once again, they found him not in violation of the policy.

“It’s really rough to have six people walking around this school having seen me in such a state and told me to my face that it didn’t matter and that he did no wrong,” said Zoe. “Hearing that the panel found him not guilty was probably more devastating than what happened. I feel like I’ve worked through what happened through counseling and family support, but having a school that you trusted and you loved and a policy that is very strongly written . . . for that to fail you, and you just have to continue on, was the most difficult part of this entire thing.”

Zoe ended up hiring a lawyer to look into pursuing a civil suit against Whitman because she didn’t feel that her experience was being taken seriously.

“I felt like I had to hire a lawyer for my voice to be heard,” she said.

She eventually decided against a lawsuit because she didn’t want to drag the process out any further. Still, Zoe is left wondering what she possibly could have done to convince Whitman that her story was true.

“What do I need? Do I need a videotape of what happened? If I couldn’t prove that this happened to me, I don’t know how any woman at Whitman can prove that you didn’t consent to sex, unless I got roofied and I went to the hospital the next day and got blood work up,” she said. “We still flaunt this policy that doesn’t work.”

Carson, Cleveland and Maxwell all declined to comment on Zoe’s specific case, though Carson acknowledged that Whitman’s process doesn’t work perfectly every time.

“I do understand that there are people who have gone through the process and it has not been a satisfactory outcome for them,” she said.

However, she emphasized that for many students, Whitman’s process does work. Cleveland agreed.

“There are many cases where the person is found responsible,” he said.

Questions of jurisdiction

Whitman’s official sexual misconduct policy describes steps that the college takes to support victims, including assistance in notifying local law enforcement, “if the student so requests.” The first pages of the policy list resources for survivors, and mention that going to the police does not obligate someone to press charges. Maxwell works with Chalese Rabidue, the domestic violence services coordinator for the Walla Walla Police Department, to make the reporting process easier. Rabidue acts as a victim’s advocate and can come to campus and consult with people who are thinking of going to the police to advise them of their options.

“We want [them] to self-determine,” said Rabidue.

Maxwell said that the college tries to make it as easy as possible for students to go to law enforcement without pressuring them into doing so. However, many victims choose not to go to the police because they see the Whitman process as more manageable.

“I think initially, if students really want something to happen, they focus on the Whitman process,” said Maxwell. “I get very few people who from the get-go say, ‘I want to go to the police.’”

Detective Sanchez believes that Whitman should be required to report sexual assaults to the police, as they would for other serious crimes. He said that victims are often reluctant to report because they believe getting the police involved will trigger a major investigation that they have no control over, which isn’t the case.

“Reporting to the police doesn’t mean we have to take it anywhere. It just means the victim has more options in the future,” he said.

Initially, Sanchez said it’s crucial to collect a rape kit and have the victim make a statement. Once this is done, a victim does not have to proceed with a case, but the evidence will be available if the victim decides to press charges at a later date.

Carson explained that giving students a choice about going to the police encourages them to come forward.

“Let’s say we had a policy that says anytime you came in with a complaint of sexual misconduct, we were going to report it to the police. How many people would come to me? That would keep people away,” she said.

By leaving the decision about reporting up to students, Carson believes that Whitman allows victims to retain control over the process.

“These are some deeply personal things that people are going through,” she said. “They should be able to involve their mentors, their parents, their friends in . . . making their decision and not have it be us making it for them.”

Sanchez sees student reluctance to report as a failure of Whitman’s policy. He thinks that victims need to have access to independent advocates as soon as they report a sexual assault. Maxwell does help to advise students in a certain sense, but Sanchez believes that to truly serve their purpose, advocates for victims cannot be employed by Whitman.

“They need to have independent advocates. If your paycheck has been signed by someone here, can you truly be an advocate?” he asked.

Maxwell said that the students are usually well-served by Whitman’s process. She noted that those who regret not reporting to the police tend to be unsatisfied with the outcome of Whitman’s sexual misconduct hearing.

However, Detective Sanchez believes that Whitman complicates the process of actually prosecuting cases of sexual assault.

“I don’t think there’s anybody [at Whitman] who is qualified to investigate rape,” he said. “They basically screw up a criminal case for us.”

The fact that few women initially report to the police further complicates potential criminal cases. Physical evidence, such as a rape kit, is often crucial in building a compelling sexual assault case. When weeks or months have passed between the alleged sexual assault and the time a victim chooses to come forward, demonstrating that sexual assault has occurred becomes substantially more difficult. The fact that no records of Whitman hearings have historically been kept often leaves investigators with little evidence with which to work.

Rabidue agreed that having victims come forward right away is crucial. Even when they go to trial and lose their case, she said few of them regret speaking to police.

“I don’t think we have women regret reporting to law enforcement. They see it as part of the healing process. Women regret not reporting to law enforcement,” she said.

Senior Ellie Newell is one of these women. Ellie was raped at a party her freshman year, when a guy who had been giving her drinks all night took her back to his room and forced her to give him oral sex. Although she had a strong case, Ellie was too upset and traumatized after her rape to seek legal help or to go the police, though she did report the incident to Whitman.

“When I was raped, the last thing I wanted to do was ever see this person again because it [brought] back flashbacks. I’d feel physically nauseous and terrified for my life and my well-being every time I would see him on Ankeny or in the cafeteria. I didn’t leave my dorm room or my bed for weeks. I would organize my groups of friends to walk me to classes. I stopped doing all the clubs and all the extracurriculars that I love doing because it was so scary,” she said. “At that point, if I’m too afraid to leave my bed, I’m probably not going to feel comfortable to call the police and report something. You need someone to hold your hand. And I really wasn’t encouraged [by Whitman].”

Ellie still regrets that she didn’t go to the police.

“There wasn’t anyone to help me confront him,” said Ellie. “I was too scared. I’m a little bit ashamed to admit that I was too scared to do that. I wish I had gotten back to the dorm and called the police.”

Zoe said that without changes in the way Whitman handles cases, she would advise victims against going through the hearing process.

“What I would tell a girl if she was raped at this school: I would say go to the police, call your parents, hire a lawyer. Don’t even bother with Whitman,” she said.

Rabidue believes that Whitman’s core problem with sexual misconduct is a mismatch between the nature of the offense and the hearing used to adjudicate it.

“It’s a criminal offense with a civil process,” she said.

Both Rabidue and Sanchez feel that shame in the wake of being sexually assaulted can prevent women from coming forward. Solving this problem requires a cultural shift.

“You haven’t done anything wrong; you are the victim. Nothing you were wearing, nothing you drank justifies somebody raping you,” said Sanchez.

Rabidue addressed the fact that many women are afraid of being “that girl”—someone known for getting a guy in trouble for sexual assault.

“He’s the guy on campus that violated her and raped her. Don’t be that guy,” she said. “Do you want to be that guy who has borderline inappropriate sex with every drunk girl you can get your hands on?”

Zoe believes that Whitman needs to show that it’s serious about punishing instances of sexual assault.

“No one’s going to take Green Dot seriously, or our policy, unless guys one day wake up and see [that the] guy living next door is suspended or expelled because he had sex with a girl that was too drunk,” she said. “It’s never going to happen until our administration can follow through on the policies that they set.”

*Zoe is this student’s real name. She chose to be identified by her full name in the print version of this article, because  she wants members of the Whitman community to know who she is. However, she asked to have only her first name published online to avoid having this article show up in search results.

Editors’ Note, March 3, 2012 12:02 p.m.: The use of “women” in this article to refer to victims of sexual assault reflects the experience of the Walla Walla Police Department in terms of the gender makeup of sexual assault survivors. Although both perpetrators and victims of sexual assault can be any gender, all of the people who were willing to speak to the author for this article about being sexually assaulted were women who had been sexually assaulted by men. Nationally, according to the Department of Justice’s 2010 violent crime statistics, about 12 percent of sexual assault victims are male.

***

Resources for survivors of sexual assault in Walla Walla

Local Hospitals

All local hospitals provide 24-hour emergency medical services and examinations for evidence using a Sexual Assault Forensic kit. The Sexual Assault Forensics Kit is most effective within 72 hours of an incident. In order to preserve evidence, it is important not to bathe or shower prior to seeking medical attention. Students should place any articles that could be used as evidence, such as items of clothing, sheets, cushions, etc., in separate bags. Early medical intervention also allows for the detection of hidden injuries, the presence of STDs, and, in the case of women, the detection of pregnancy

Providence Saint Mary Hospital

401 W. Poplar Street
Walla Walla, WA
(509) 525-3320

Walla Walla General Hospital

1025 S. Second Avenue
Walla Walla, WA
(509) 525-0480

Walla Walla Police, 911 (emergency), (509) 527-1960 (non-emergency)

The College will inform students of their right to report an incident to the police. The Sexual Misconduct Prevention Coordinator and/or the Dean of Students Office will assist students who choose to report an incident of sexual misconduct to the Walla Walla Police Department. Reporting an incident to the police and preserving evidence does not obligate a person to file a criminal complaint, but a prompt accounting of the event allows the victim to keep the option of filing a criminal complaint later.

YWCA of Walla Walla, 213 First Street, (509) 525-2570, (509) 529-9922 (24-Hour Number)

The YWCA is a community agency that provides comprehensive advocacy services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The YWCA makes the services below available and free of charge to students:

  • 24-hour hotline (509) 529-9922
  • 24-hour rape/sexual assault medical, legal, and court advocacy
  • Individual counseling and support groups
  • Safe temporary shelter

 




Filed under: Front Page Slideshow News News Highlight

Responses


BeingHuman Mar 2, 2012 7:21 AM

If Human ‘A’ and Human ‘B’ are BOTH drinking and have Sex – How do you determine who has raped whom?


Alice Minor Mar 2, 2012 11:16 AM

Thank you Ellie and Zoe for speaking so powerfully and honestly about your experiences. You are courageous women. I hope this article – and other awareness activities around campus like the Vagina Monologues – can help empower other women to speak out.


Phil Hofius Mar 2, 2012 12:44 PM

BeingHuman, I’m not exactly sure how your comment was meant to resonate in regards to the issues brought up in this article. It seems to me that you have oversimplified a form of violence that necessarily undermines the idea that human beings act with equal agency all the time. I can see how it might be easy for a distanced observer to turn rape into a formulaic activity involving human integers. But I think part of what Zoe’s and Ellie’s experiences expose is that sexual assault of any form is far more complex than any mathematical formula can determine.


Whittie_0123 Mar 2, 2012 14:43 PM

First of all, I am proud that Zoe and Ellie had the courage to tell their stories – you guys are so very brave. I for one fully understand the devastation of rape, so these stories cuts even further for me.

However, being a rape victim myself, it infuriates me how sexist this article is. Not only does this article show men in the bad light, but it purposely reiterates the myth that rape is something that can only happen to women – minimizing the gravity of sexual assaults against men, and the accountability of the female perpetrators.

Few lines from the article:

The fact that few women initially report to the police further complicates potential criminal cases. Physical evidence, such as a rape kit, is often crucial in building a compelling sexual assault case.

“I don’t think we have women regret reporting to law enforcement. They see it as part of the healing process. Women regret not reporting to law enforcement,” she said.

Both Rabidue and Sanchez feel that shame in the wake of being sexually assaulted can prevent women from coming forward. Solving this problem requires a cultural shift.

Rabidue addressed the fact that many women are afraid of being “that girl”—someone known for getting a guy in trouble for sexual assault.

Men can be, and are, sexually assaulted every day. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of their size, strength, appearance, occupation, race or sexual orientation. Male rape can happen at home, work, out doors, in your car, in the military, prisons, in locker rooms, rest rooms, public toilets, in fact just about anywhere a rapist thinks they can get away with it, and it can happen to any male. Although the majority of reported perpetrators are male, women can, and do, also sexually assault men but is seldom reported, not that many males feel safe reporting rape anyway.

I appreciate the message the article is trying to send, however, it’d be interesting to have a third-wave feminist write a response/another article on this topic with a more gender neutral viewpoint.


Prolapsed V Mar 2, 2012 19:09 PM

I can’t say that I feel sorry for Zoe. Sounds like it was drunk consensual sex. She’s only embarrassed that she was the butt of a joke, and had to do the walk of shame. Good call, Whitman panel.


Alum Mar 2, 2012 20:11 PM

Phil- Yes clearly sexual assault is a complex and emotionally-charged issue, but I think that BH has raised an important point (in an admittedly flippant and even disrespectful manner). Alcohol is clearly the unaddressed elephant in this article.

While nothing a person does can ever make sexual assault “asked for” or “okay,” there is a grey area that exists once alcohol comes into the picture, especially when both parties are under the influence (instances where the victim is the only one who has been drinking tend to more cleanly allow the assigning of wrong-doing. I also acknowledge that victims can still be pressured into sexual acts and that rape can occur without force.)

But in situations where there is no form of physical trauma, and the alleged attacker (under the influence themselves) genuinely believes that s/he has received a kind of consent that I will term “influenced consent”, is it fair for one of these individuals to claim that s/he has been raped after s/he has returned to her/is normal state of consciousness?

By Whitman’s current policy- yes.

Yet as an alum (and this issue is certainly not limited in scope to Whitman), I know that instances of “influence consent” occur at the college with extreme frequency. Would we want to start policing these interactions? One could argue that situations where “influenced consent” was given would not be reported and that those where the perceived victim believed they had not offered such consent would. I tend to agree. But what about instances where “implied consent” was given and retracted upon sobriety? The broadness of Whitman’s policy allows for such cases to be heard.

I’m in no way attempting to suggest that “implied consent” is a technical term that could be used in any sort of official manner. I’ve simply found the phrase useful in pointing out some of the complications I felt were not addressed in the article.

While in some instances a discrepancy between Whitman’s broad policy and the decisions reached by the committee certainly exist, I hope I have at least scratched the surface of the complications that would arise from both the further narrowing the language used in the policy or adhering to the policy verbatim. Given this grey area, I believe that Whitman’s formal hearing process as described in the article is a valuable asset to the students. It may be an imperfect system that could use restructuring to provide better support and legal counseling to the victims, but it offers a more approachable and feasible alternative than the police (although they may still become involved) and I hope it results in more victims coming forward.it results in more victims coming forward.


Geni Mar 2, 2012 23:02 PM

Prolapsed V, you missed the point of this article in the snap judgment you made based on limited information. It’s insensitive and inappropriate to comment as you did. The article is aiming to look critically at Whitman’s methods for responding to sexual misconduct. Zoe and Ellie were brave enough to come forward with their stories and personal struggles to show how they were not adequately helped by the Whitman misconduct policy. It’s people like you, with a propensity for uninformed judgment, who are the reason women and men won’t come forward in sexual assault cases. People like you keep them in positions of shame, fear, and uncertainty when they should be supported by their community. Your words, whether written flippantly or not, have power. Don’t throw them around thoughtlessly–especially in instances like this.

Zoe and Ellie–I am so impressed with the strength and grace you two have demonstrated in coming forward as you have. Please know that for every person who makes a snap negative judgment, there are plenty of people who would rather support you and love you instead.


Evan Mar 3, 2012 0:09 AM

It makes me alternately sad and angry to read several of the comments on this page. Also, given that these are moderated for appropriateness, the fact that a hateful and misogynistic comment from someone named “Prolapsed V” is considered anything but gravely offensive given the subject matter is beyond me. To him, I say thank you for your mansplaining of the situation and your verdict that she’s just “embarrassed.”

If nothing else, may Whitman’s administration and the student body can learn from the courage of those who told their stories. It is obvious you have failed them.

To those who point out the gendered language in this article, you are correct. I do not however, believe that we can or should reduce sexual violence to a gender-neutral discourse. Although sexual-violence happens to ALL peoples, there are radically different societal forces involved in the situations and perceptions of cis-women and cis-men survivors, to say nothing of the added intersectional complexity of LGBQ or trans* identified individuals. For this reason, I think we need both gendered language AND a very serious acknowledgement of the other unsaid survivors. I hope we will soon live in a world where we can more fully discuss the hardships and victimization of all of these people.


Student X Mar 3, 2012 0:10 AM

I’m wondering more and more about the extent to which these circumstances – not necessarily in Zoe’s case, but in society on the whole – are brought about by the expectation that men be the ones to make the first move. If Whitman’s hookup culture is based on being drunk at parties, and men are the ones that are expected to make the first moves at those parties, then how might that expectation that men be aggressors play out in terms of who is brought into the proceedings of the Council of Student Affairs? That expectation certainly doesn’t excuse men from being responsible and asking a girl for consent. But if both the man and the woman are drunk and a girl offers what seems like consent at the time, I feel as if we are blaming men for something that they don’t have complete control over. Please understand that I’m not trying to excuse sexual misconduct in this comment. I’m just trying to puzzle out how men might be disadvantaged by having to be those aggressors at Whitman parties.


Prolapsed V Mar 3, 2012 11:09 AM

What can I say? Stereotypes make my life easier. Until they prove me wrong, I’ll continue to doll out my snap judgements like Halloween candy. The hard truth hurts sometimes.

Did I miss the point? Don’t care. If anything, I’m indifferent. The way the details unfold, she comes off as a woman scorned.

Some may applaud her “bravery” for coming forward. Personally, I think she serves a cautionary tale for those who want to hook up with drunk Whitman girls.

She wakes up and has to connect the dots from the night before. Sober Zoe would never put her chastity in danger. Ergo, he raped me.
Puh-lease.

If there’s any intelligent conclusion that she drew from this experience, is police involvement. She’s right, her walk of shame should’ve been a beeline straight to the police station.

Oh well. Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve.


Jenkins Mar 3, 2012 11:09 AM

Yup, I don’t think I feel sorry for Zoe, mainly because I haven’t heard the guy’s side of story yet. I trust the Whitman panel with their decision – those are people who have dealt with hundreds of cases like this one before.

Yet another pio story where they find a couple stories and generalize the results to fit the entire Whitman population.

B-max, you are the best!


whittie_0123 Mar 3, 2012 11:23 AM

Evan, I completely agree to what you said.

I do believe that the gendered language used in this article was intentional, hence, it purposely minimizes the gravity of assault that happened to me (and many other males on campus who have been through similar experiences).

I can’t say I completely agree to Jenkins, but I do agree that bashing the Whitman policy because it didn’t work for two people isn’t professional. Maybe there are more people out there who did not get the support they wanted, but there are several people like me who can live a normal life because the panel gave us the support and justice we needed.


Evan Mar 3, 2012 12:39 PM

whittie_0123:

I’m glad you and many others have had a good experience with the Whitman Panel, but the fact that the police actively accuse Whitman of seeking to minimize the legal recourse of women who are sexually assaulted should be reason enough to demand serious inquiry. This is not about bashing policy but reforming it. I would also remind you that you are a self-identified cis-man, and your experiences should not be taken as universal. They are however, experiences which should be reflected in these discussions and I appreciate your contribution and bravery in coming forth to discuss them.

To almost everyone else posting here:

I sincerely hope you are all alumni or don’t actually go to school with me, but I am incensed that you have the gall to suggest that it is the heterosexual cis-men in these situations who are somehow now disadvantaged in cases of sexual assault. This should remind us that the hardest aspect of coming forward and confronting patriarchy is dealing with the immediate perception that empowered women are now somehow oppressing or victimizing men.

While patriarchy no doubt influences all of us, Student X’s comment reads as a typical shifting of the blame away from the man. If you don’t have complete control over your body and beat the shit out of someone while drunk, should we shift the blame to the person who you left afraid to go outside? You put it best yourself: “I’m just trying to puzzle out how men might be disadvantaged …”

Stop right there and check your privilege bro.

Prolapsed V:
The amount of targeted, active rape denialism going on in your comments is abhorrent and reflects extremely poorly on the education and compassion of the Whitman community. So on behalf of all feminists, I ask that you kindly STFU.

And now, some light reading:

“This action will also have an impact on softcore rape denialists who defend inaction by the criminal justice system on reports of sexual violence between people who know each other because “you would have to be there to know if what happened was rape — so only the two people who were there will ever know what really happened.” These rape denialists don’t have to deny rape they just have to turn rape into something that is viewed as unprovable unless there are physical injuries which could only come from a violent assault.

Some of these softcore rape denialists will deny rape by dissecting the account of what happened given by a rape victim who clearly states, “I didn’t willingly consent” and then informing the rape victim that indeed she did willingly consent even if she didn’t enjoy the sex which was pushed on her.

This rape denial directly contradicts the “you had to be there to know” excuse for opposing rape prosecutions.

When they are called out for this patronizing statement you will often hear about how men shouldn’t be shut out of making the decision about what is and is not rape. This dismisses any trauma which came from a sexual assault and it denies people the right to have their lack of consent respected.”

from http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com/2008/03/what-really-fuels-rape-denial-part-1.html


Chronic skeptic Mar 3, 2012 13:08 PM

I would like to preface by making it clear that rape is unacceptable in all contexts. However, it is important to note the effects that illegitimate rape accusations can have on the accused party, especially in a small community like Whitman where the identity of the accused can be determined with little effort. Based off the details presented in the article, It seems hasty to definitively label these events as “rape,” especially when one of the accusers can’t even remember the details of the incident. The man involved in Zoe’s story was deemed not guilty by a trained panel whose job is to sort though the sticky details that manifest in any sexual assault proceeding. This isn’t to say that the current system is infallible–but it’s the system that was in place at the time, and by its standards, Zoe’s supposed attacker was was absolved. To put him under scrutiny again in a public forum like The Pioneer seems like a violation of his right against double jeopardy.

If we are calling into question the validity of one Whitman’s institution, I suggest we turn our attention to The Pioneer. This most recent article is only the latest in a long line of questionable investigative reporting that has bordered on yellow journalism. In the future focus on producing well written incisive pieces that serve a greater purpose than provoking a reaction.


C Mar 3, 2012 14:15 PM

Chronic Skeptic -

In response to this point you made: “It seems hasty to definitively label these events as “rape,” especially when one of the accusers can’t even remember the details of the incident.”

I would like to inform you that one legal definition of rape is as follows: “Knowingly or intentionally having sexual intercourse …when … 2) the other person is unaware that sexual intercourse is occurring” (source: http://www.crisisconnectioninc.org/sexualassault/how_legally_define_rape.htm)

Thus, the fact that she can’t remember it is exactly the point. If she was drunk enough that she was blacked enough and can’t remember anything, she was most definitely not aware it was occurring.


prentispower Mar 3, 2012 14:45 PM

What if the guy was blacked out too? Could he not file a complaint that he was raped because Zoe didn’t ask for consent? This is a one sided story and I agree with many others that we can not conclude anything from this.


Evan Mar 3, 2012 14:53 PM

Chronic skeptic-

Your comment is a classic example of rape denialism for the following reasons (which you would do well to reflect on) :

You preface it with “I would like to preface by making it clear that rape is unacceptable in all contexts,” making it clear that you are against “real rape.”

Two examples of this narrative of “fake rape” have come up in other comments:


3) Morning-after regret non-rape (alternatively called gray rape): Rape which gets denied because the rapist claims the victim seemed like a consenting sort of person or because the victim didn’t say no convincingly enough or which can be denied because the rapist couldn’t tell the difference between non-verbal consent and unconsciousness.

Extreme pity for the rapist. Disgust for the rape victim who is either vindictive or delusional or reckless.

5) False rape: Rape against one of “those lying women” where there is no DNA evidence proving sexual contact and the rapist doesn’t use the “it was consensual” defense. Also used when it is discovered that this rape victim was raped previously and reported that rape. No conviction of the alleged rape victim is needed for the rape denialist to want a criminal label to stick to the rape victim.

Martyrdom for the rapist. Hatred for the rape victim and all those who don’t instantly accept this bit of marketeering.

These marketing terms all get used to excuse real rapes — sometimes even after the rapist is convicted by a jury. Those who use these marketing terms will describe “real rape” as being horrific and make it clear that they “suffer immeasurably whenever someone is raped.” A rape victim who is able to keep functioning after rape cannot be a victim of “real rape” because “real rape” makes that impossible.”


whittie_0123 Mar 3, 2012 15:02 PM

“This most recent article is only the latest in a long line of questionable investigative reporting that has bordered on yellow journalism. In the future focus on producing well written incisive pieces that serve a greater purpose than provoking a reaction.”

I couldn’t agree more with chronic skeptic on this matter. Its sad to see generalizations like these and articles written only to provoke reactions from the general audience. It has happened before – targeting the Greek system, falsified data on adderall and now this. I don’t want my ASWC fees going to an institution of people who write articles to provoke thoughts and reactions from the public rather than giving them truthful information.


Meghan Mar 3, 2012 15:22 PM

To: Chronic Skeptic (and everyone)

I’d like to first point out that, clearly, you do not think rape is unacceptable in all circumstances. (Also, your intro follows the class formula of “I’m not racist, but *says something racist*). The fact that the perpetrators in these cases were absolved by the Whitman committee does NOT, by any means, mean that rape did not occur. Rape is rape if the survivor says it is. Period. If you don’t agree, then you clearly do not understand rape and the emotionally traumatizing power dynamics at play in it.

Additionally, whatever these men whose privacy and victimhood you are defending–who, I might add, remain nameless in this article–might be going through, I can guarantee it is nothing in comparison to the flashbacks, the uncertainty, the exposure, the scornful and appallingly insensitive comments by people like Prolapse V that these women are enduring for their bravery.

Thank you to Evan, C, and Geni for speaking up against the victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and attempts to derail this conversation away from its purpose. This article is NOT about the so-called victimhood of the perpetrators. It is NOT about sugar-coating rape discourse with gender-neutral language. And it is appalling that anyone would try to make this serious conversation about the Pioneer’s “questionable investigative reporting.” Rape culture is prevalent at Whitman, and this discussion NEEDS to happen whether you like it or not.

Finally, I think it’s important to remind everyone commenting here that for every Ellie and Zoe that comes forward, there are dozens of Whitman students who don’t. What we say here is not limited to either of these women’s cases, and it is being read by a lot of people. Keep this in mind, Whitman. Your words are more powerful than you probably know, and they can hurt a lot of people.


prentispower Mar 3, 2012 15:23 PM

Why was my comment removed? I have read your comment policy and unless you have a completely different understanding of this policy, my comment did not violate any of the rules.


Michael Putnam Mar 3, 2012 17:13 PM

I’d like to say that this article is very impressive, and I commend the author, Zoe, and Ellie for their bravery. Naturally, the article has its shortcomings in that it does not exhaust the discussion of sexual assault on Whitman’s campus. On the other hand, I don’t think that it is particularly constructive to criticize the author because she does not exhaust that discussion. whittie_0123, I can’t agree with you when you say “I do believe that the gendered language used in this article was intentional, hence, it purposely minimizes the gravity of assault that happened to me (and many other males on campus who have been through similar experiences).” I have every reason to think that the author would consider male sexual assault to be just as serious and tragic as female sexual assault, and I have no reason to think otherwise. Just because the author could not or chose not to extend the discussion of sexual assault to male sexual assault does not mean that she doesn’t care about it – otherwise, we’d have to conclude that she doesn’t care about any of the dimensions of sexual assault other than that which occurs between a male heterosexual Whitman student perpetrator and a female Whitman student victim, which is highly doubtful. I strongly encourage you to write a piece about male sexual assault on Whitman’s campus and to send it into the Pio and see if they’ll publish it – I think those articles would nicely compliment each other. (If they don’t publish it, at least send it to me, I’d really like to read it. People search me to find my email.) I suspect the author of this article would like to read it too.

Secondly, I agree very much with Evan in saying “I am incensed that you have the gall to suggest that it is the heterosexual cis-men in these situations who are somehow now disadvantaged in cases of sexual assault.” I agree that when both people are drunk, the situation becomes extremely complicated in terms of assigning blame. Nevertheless, it is without a doubt that women face structural disadvantages and prejudices in the US today. (Anyone who dismisses these disadvantages is engaging in exactly the kind of denialism that Evan has correctly condemned). I also think that the “hook-up” culture at Whitman exacerbates these structural disadvantages. So to all heterosexual cis-men: it is OUR responsibility to be conscious of our structural advantages and to proceed very carefully in sexual situations, especially at parties. You may be at fault without knowing it, simply by your lack of consideration. If you have not obtained verbal consent from a sober woman, you are at fault to some degree. (Of course, this does not apply if you are the victim of sexual assault. I’m speaking about times when men might think they’re just “hooking up” with a girl, when they are actually assaulting her).

Chonic Skeptic wrote “The man involved in Zoe’s story was deemed not guilty by a trained panel whose job is to sort though the sticky details that manifest in any sexual assault proceeding.” I’d like to juxtapose this with the (I think more accurate) comments made by Detective Sanchez: “I don’t think there’s anybody [at Whitman] who is qualified to investigate rape.” The panel is composed of “two faculty members, two staff members and two students” who undergo “special training,” whatever that means. To put it crudely, that’s a joke. NONE of my professors or peers is qualified to investigate sexual assault, and I imagine few staff members are.

This leads me to my final question: why don’t Whitman students go to the police? Why do we trust Whitman staff to handle matters which they are clearly unqualified to handle?


whittie_0123 Mar 3, 2012 17:42 PM

They removed my comment too. Thanks Pio.


Sara Rasmussen Mar 3, 2012 23:22 PM

Prentispower and whittie_0123,

To my knowledge, all of your comments on this article have followed our comment policy, have been approved, and appear on this page. If one of your comments appears to be missing, please let us know at webteam@whitmanpioneer.com.

Regarding the way WordPress comments function: When a comment is submitted, it appears immediately under the Response section; however, this is only a preview of the comment. When the page is refreshed, the comment will not appear publicly until it has been approved by a moderator.

To clarify the process by which comments appear on The Pioneer’s website, this note has been added to the comment policy.

Finally, if anyone wishes to submit a
Letter to the Editor or inquiries about guest columns on this article (or any other topic), it may be submitted to The Pioneer via email at editors@whitmanpioneer.com

Best,
Sara Rasmussen
Web Editor


Michael Putnam Mar 4, 2012 0:00 AM

Meghan, you wrote “Rape is rape if the survivor says it is. Period. If you don’t agree, then you clearly do not understand rape and the emotionally traumatizing power dynamics at play in it.” My first reaction to this was to think “No, there are probably times when the ‘victim’ is making up the story in order to take revenge upon the ‘perpetrator’ for some reason.” On the surface, that seems like a reasonable assumption. But then I began to wonder why I thought that. I don’t know any women that would behave that way. (On the other hand, I certainly know women who would feel afraid to speak out after being raped). Why do I have this idea of the “woman scorned” who makes up a story about how she got raped in order to take revenge on the poor, innocent man? Well, that would be a convenient narrative to have if I lived in a patriarchal culture obsessively concerned with maintaining its power.

So I’d like to thank you for changing my mind. Rape is rape if the survivor says it is. Period.

Also, whittie_0123 wrote “I don’t want my ASWC fees going to an institution of people who write articles to provoke thoughts and reactions from the public rather than giving them truthful information.” I find that statement literally incomprehensible. What is the “rather than” supposed to mean? I generally find that truthful information can provoke thoughts and reactions. Again, Chronic Skeptic wrote “In the future focus on producing well written incisive pieces that serve a greater purpose than provoking a reaction.” This is also baffling. Wouldn’t a well-written, incisive piece provoke a reaction?

Indeed, in this case it seems it has. Good job Pio! This is EXACTLY what I want my ASWC fees going towards.


name Mar 4, 2012 9:52 AM

The old definition, describing rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will,” included only women as victims and counted only vaginal-penile penetration as rape. The new definition allows for either sex to be victim or perpetrator, and defines rape as “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”
Situations in which the victim is unable to give consent will also fall under the definition – for instance, anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol or having disabilities that prevent them from giving consent.
The new definition will not only solve inconsistencies in recording-keeping, but it should allow officials to better understand the patterns of rape, and with this, presumably, help them address it more effectively. Widening the definitions may perhaps also bring some respite to victims of rape, and their families.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/01/09/u-s-expands-its-definition-of-rape/

My final words:
I don’t care if using a gender-neutral language sugar quotes the rape discourse – that is the legal definition of rape. If it does, let it. Like I said earlier, by not using a gender- neutral language, the writer is minimizing the gravity of the assault that happened to me (and many other men on campus). The concept of a woman raping a man seems so bizarre that most people look at me and suspect I’m just an oversensitive guy who wasn’t equipped to handle a sexually assertive woman. And I am f******** tired of that.

It is true that men make up a heavy preponderance of those who commit rape, though a significant minority of women does commit acts of sexualized violence. Second, women are statistically at much greater risk of rape than are men. However, acknowledging these first two truths doesn’t diminish the reality that more men and boys than we realize are victims of rape and sexual violence. We need to avoid the twin errors of claiming false equivalence on the one hand, or denying the reality of male vulnerability altogether on the other.

At the risk of sounding redundant, I think the article would have been received the same way by the audience if the author had decided to use to a gender-neutral language.


just another student Mar 4, 2012 10:56 AM

I have been sexually assaulted at Whitman, in their residence halls, by someone I thought to have been a friend. I was blacked out and they took advantage of my state.

I am not a victim of rape, I am a survivor of rape.

That said, the comments that have been stated above are the exact reasons why I do not speak up about my experiences. To think that men and women around me would scorn me and humiliate me for speaking up about my rape experiences at Whitman is the exact reason I have never told anyone about the rape that happened to me.

I guess, if I have learned anything from reading this article and these comments, I know that Whitman does not care about rape, does not recognize grey rape as rape, and condemns women who speak up on these issues.

Thank you for fulfilling my fears.


Connor Guy Mar 4, 2012 12:02 PM

First of all, I just want to say that this article is seriously impressive work. Whitman’s dysfunctional system for addressing sexual misconduct was ripe for criticism when I attended, and it is unfortunate that we have not, until now, seen such a thorough indictment of it.

Many (but not all) of the comments on this page display such poor judgement, such a lack of perception and self-awareness, that I am embarrassed to have gone to a school that would admit these people. I’d like to quickly address any commenter who has complained that, “this article is unbalanced” or “this article draws generalizations from just a few examples” or “this article is biased in assuming these were instances of rape” or (most bizarrely) “this article is designed to provoke a reaction as opposed to telling the truth”:

You obviously don’t know anything about this subject. That you would flippantly post comments here based on nothing more than your own pathetically imperceptive observations and your unscrupulous sense of logic, and without regard for how your words might affect the very real feelings of the people involved with this article — is something I cannot fathom. You are probably 20 years old. You have probably never taken a class, or read a book or article about rape (I am guessing this based on your lack of a suitable vocabulary for talking about rape beyond what a middle school student might know). Reading this article is probably the closest you have ever been to a real-life occurrence of rape.

So you need to get down off of your soapboxes and start informing yourselves. Your words here reflect a level of stupidity that I would expect to find on a fundamentalist conservative talk radio show, not at Whitman. The comment from “whittie_0123″ shows particular idiocy in arguing that somehow the purpose of this article is “to provoke thoughts and reactions from the public rather than giving them truthful information.” FIRST: Regardless of your intent, your comment has the effect of insinuating that the violent crimes these students suffered are not “truthful information.” Your words have the effect of delegitimizing their very real trauma. SECOND: As an alumnus who is actually out here breaking into the journalism industry, I can say with some authority that this is uncommonly GOOD journalism. Rachel’s reporting shows remarkable bravery in taking on a system at Whitman that many don’t want to see changed. She probably had to make a few enemies, or at least ruffle a few feathers to tell this powerful story and to make so apparent the need for reform.

And one more thing: For all of you whose comments just barely conceal a deeply bigoted world-view: how about using your real names? If I were you, I, too, would want to hide behind a convenient shield of anonymity while making such insensitive and offensive remarks. But you seem so convinced of your moral infallibility that I am confused why you would not want to proudly proclaim your hateful, uninformed opinions. Just a thought.

Keep it up, Pio, and keep it up Rachel!


Meghan Mar 4, 2012 15:28 PM

Michael: thank you for your kind, thoughtful, and compelling words. Both of your posts are a comfort to me as someone who routinely struggles against the patriarchal and misogynist assumptions that seem embedded in discourses about rape. I think rape culture is something that all of us have internalized to one degree or another–we are all complicit in it, and we need conversations like these to try to break out of its oppressive systems.

I would also like to apologize for my poor use of the word “sugar coating” in my initial post. I realized after posting that it came out wrong. I do believe that gendered language has its place in rape discourse, but I also do not want to silence the voices of those survivors on account of their gender. I think both gender-neutral and gendered language can be effectively employed in these discussions, as long as those who use them are mindful of the assumptions that govern them and the voices that may be left out of the discussions.

I meant the term “sugar coating” to apply to those requests to hear the man’s side of these stories as a way to have “fair and balanced reporting.” But rape is neither fair nor balanced, and our discussion of it needs to acknowledge this. I was not suggesting that gender-neutral language sugar-coats the issue of rape–rather, it forces us to check our own assumptions. I was suggesting that requesting two sides of a story that is about the radical power of one person over a disempowered other is problematic at best, insensitive at worst. So for those of you who may have been offended by my poor wording, I sincerely apologize.

And thank you to all who are helping to transform this discussion from insensitive attacks on brave individuals to critical discussions of the many issues this article brings up.


Thoughtful Guy Mar 4, 2012 15:49 PM

I have read through all the comments on this page, and I appreciate all of them. To me, this is exactly what a comments page is meant to be: a forum for open discussion. I appreciate that people have both attacked and commended this article. What I find a little less appropriate are the personal attacks (granted these are a bit difficult to give gravity when identities are being concealed). It seems to me that just to post on this page requires some motivation, some passion about the issue, enough to want to speak out. I cannot empathize but I truly do my best to sympathize with those who feel victimized by a patriarchal society. And, as a male, I also understand that males themselves can feel victimized by such a society. Frankly, patriarchy does few favors. Against my will I have been grouped into a category that is seen as hateful and oppressive, and I AM NOT HATEFUL OR OPPRESSIVE. I have no desire to be. So I really understand the male frustration as well as the female frustration. I think it serves no purpose to try to quiet any voice, especially voices of criticism. I say, if you think this article was heavily biased, speak out! If you want to offer your support to the victims of sexual assault, speak out! To quiet any voice is an effort of homogenization, and that is something I have trouble supporting. Were we to all have the same opinions, however noble they may be, human development would come to a standstill and we would lose the endless richness that is open discussion. Let’s celebrate our diversity of opinions! Thank God I don’t go to a school where everyone thinks in the same way. Let’s be critical and thoughtful, and take nothing on faith, and be supportive, and open-minded, and loving, and skeptical, and all of those wonderful qualities which make for true academics with vibrant inquisitive minds.


Thoughtful Guy Mar 4, 2012 15:51 PM

A quick correction: I think I CAN empathize “with those who feel victimized by a patriarchal society,” in that it has given men a bad name. What I really meant to write was that I can’t empathize with rape victims as, thankfully, I have not ever been sexually assaulted. I can’t imagine what that would feel like.


Melissa Mar 4, 2012 15:53 PM

The First Amendment is the only reason some of you disgusting idiots get to comment on here. God bless the Pio crew for dealing with your ignorance.

I hope this article restructures the current system in place for Sexual Midsconduct, which (we musn’t forget) was installed with the best of intentions. Kudos to those who continually try to prevent misconduct and help others cope.


brady Mar 4, 2012 16:51 PM

Prolapsed V – I hope you understand the pathetic irony you’ve shown in discrediting Zoe’s courage while cowardly hiding behind an anonymous (and offensive) name.


Current Student Mar 4, 2012 21:04 PM

I don’t want to say very much because hate talking about this and it is way too close to home. I want to add something though. I was raped freshman year at Whitman and had a similar experience to Zoe except that I had someone take me to the hospital and so luckily I had evidence to document my blood alcohol level. The Whitman administration (not Barbara Maxwell–she was supportive) however, told me I “didn’t have a case” until I called the hospital and had them send over my hospital records. It was disgusting and it ruined my freshman year.


John Mar 4, 2012 21:06 PM

Like Thoughtful Guy, I really appreciate the debate that’s been going on in these comments. As a former student I see some validity in the argument that rape culture is pervasive and that any woman who feels violated after the fact WAS violated – and I also appreciated the sentiments of those men who feel that they are placed in a terrible position in a college where the social norm may be furthering that very culture. Maybe the fact that I saw any value in the male argument is a reflection of the fact that I am a man myself, and I will need to think critically about my own perspectives in the coming days – so thank you all for that opportunity.

I want to ask a question of those who have been following these comments because I don’t think I’m quite grasping the full argument of the victim’s advocates here. Some commenters like Michael Putnam have said: “Rape is rape if the survivor says it is.” I guess I am just wondering how you deal with a concept like that in a judicial system which demands standards and process. Law requires that evidence be more than just accusation – so how do you account for a woman’s feelings in a trial, if that is the only evidence? I don’t know if I’m being totally clear here. I guess what I’m saying is that maybe the problems we’ve brought up about dealing with sexual misconduct are problems that always afflict judicial systems that operate along conventional lines.


Deepthoughtsbrochill Mar 4, 2012 21:34 PM

First of all, Zoe is a good friend of mine. I have no doubt that she was raped, I sympathize wholeheartedly with her, and I’m happy that she has recovered. I wonder about the “rapist” though. (And yes, Connor Guy, I don’t know much about this subject and I’m hiding behind my silly user name, but please give me a break.)

According to Whitman policy, you can’t give consent if you’re drunk. I have had sex with drunk girls. I took green dot training so before we do the deed, I typically literally ask “Do you want to have sex?” To which the lovely lady will then reply “Yes please” or “Mmm, no.” I know that an affirmative answer doesn’t actually mean consent, but I ask anyways, perhaps out of common courtesy and decency.

Am I a rapist? I don’t feel like a rapist. I feel like a guy that went out for a good time, got a nice beer buzz, flirted a girl up and shared in a wonderful night of carnal pleasure. As much as I sympathize with Zoe, I find myself also sympathizing with the “rapist” in this article. Sex is fun. Drunk sex is fun. As someone with extensive partying experience, I know that it can be extremely difficult to tell if someone is blacked out. Yeah, it’s bad to take home sloppily incoherent girls. But what if she wasn’t obviously blacked out? What if she was coming on to him? Does the “rapist” really deserve to be kicked out of school or, if legal charges were pressed, arrested for just trying to have a good time?

This crime had a victim. But it’s unclear to me whether it had a criminal.


Conflicted Mar 4, 2012 22:04 PM

I agree, Deepthoughtsbrochill. What happens when a girl or guy is very drunk or blacked out but not obviously so and consents to sex? Should their sexual partner be punished? Not to say that that was the case for those mentioned in the article, but really how can we clearly define what is rape and what isn’t when there are so many indefinite factors?


Conflicted Mar 4, 2012 22:21 PM

I was once raped too while I was very drunk and had passed out. I knew the guy and he knew that I did not want to have sex until I was older (I had made it clear many times before). But what if he had asked me while I was drunk, not realizing how drunk I was, and I had said yes? Does that mean he is still to blame? Should he still be charged for rape?


Mackenzie Hales Mar 5, 2012 0:54 AM

Whether or not you think this article addresses every nuance of sexual assault policy and stereotypes, this article brings up important questions about the way Whitman handles cases of sexual assault.

In my opinion, the only remotely effective purpose of Whitman’s policy is to expel students who are involved in clear cut, easily prosecuted (by law enforcement) cases of forcible rape.

However, the policy is also meant to give victims the ability to reprimand or scare perpatrators whose actions may fall in the grey area between what the State of Washington considers rape and what the College considers consensual sex. This is, cases that are not easily prosecuted but might be classified as 3rd degree rape. However, this article highlights its ineffectiveness at achieving this end.

A summary of Washington’s rape laws can be found here:
http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9A.44

But it seems that Whitman should be a victim’s second course of action, and Whitman should not give students the idea that they are capable of handling sexual assault cases internally. Students should not feel that going to Whitman first, before law enforcement, is a good idea. Sanchez brings up many important points. I believe the college perpetuates the idea of Whitman being a “safer” place to go than the police. Safer as in more comfortable, with more options for action against the perpatrator, less scary, etc. While the college will inform you of your “right to report the incident to law enforcement,” the green dot campaign and the sexual assault awareness education at Whitman fails to truly emphasize the important role law enforcement plays, the options law enforcement provides, and what reporting a case to the police entails or obligates a victim to do/ not do, etc.

If you are raped, neither Chuck Cleveland, nor a “panel” should not be at the end of the chain of command. If you feel violated and it doesn’t fall into Washington’s definitions of rape, but it does fall into what the College considers non-consensual sex (a debatable definition, as you can’t technically consent to having sex within your long term relationship if you’ve had a beer), then Chuck Cleveland and the panel can provide a secondary option.

An important question to ask would be: Does Whitman have an ulterior motive for keeping incidents in house? Call me a cynic, but the safety of campuses is subject to nationwide rankings, and Whitman values being at the top of Princeton Review’s lists when it paints them in a positive light. Some of these rankings go by external statistics, and according to them there hasn’t be a case of prosecutable rape at Whitman in 13 years.

Thanks to Rachel for writing this article and bringing many important questions to light, and to Ellie and Zoe for having the courage to come forward.


redundancytrolls Mar 5, 2012 9:13 AM

We can talk about this issue and the discourse on rape in general for as long as we want. There wil be supportive people and skeptic people and the discussion will go on forever.

If students are dissatisfied with the way Whitman handles cases of sexual misconduct, I think someone from ASWC should go talk to Maxwell or Carson (I am certain they will be more than willing to talk about it) Maybe make this an issue for your next Town Hall? Again, I’m just giving suggestions, there could be several other ways to deal with it.


anonymau5 Mar 5, 2012 12:18 PM

Look at the face of this animal. It has never known rape.

http://bit.ly/zHzTJ7

If only we were all so fortunate.


Michael Putnam Mar 6, 2012 0:43 AM

Just Another Student –
It grieves me so deeply to hear that. I want you to know that I take your experience very seriously, and that there are so many good people on this campus that would. I know that this school needs so much healing, and so many people’s minds have to be changed. I don’t blame you at all for being afraid to speak up. But I sincerely hope that you do find someone with which you can talk about your experience. This campus is not all hatred, and healing is possible. I know you probably have no idea who I am and have no reason to trust me, and I’m not a counselor and I haven’t also been raped or anything like that, but I would be honored to talk with you. I can promise that no matter what happened to you, I won’t think you’re a slut or that you’re lying or anything like that. You can find my email via People Search. Again, I would be truly honored to talk with you.

Deepthoughtsbrochill –
I’m working on a response to your comment. I think that it gets to the heart of the issue.


Michael Putnam Mar 6, 2012 1:00 AM

Also, to Conflicted –

Yes, he is to blame. That, I think, is unambiguous. If you made it clear many times before that you did not want to have sex, and he still had sex with you while you were drunk, then he took advantage of you – no matter what you said while drunk. It was his responsibility to know that you were too drunk to consent, especially if he knew that you did not want to have sex when sober. You did nothing wrong.

You deserve so much more respect than that. When it comes to your sexual life, you deserve someone that will wait until you are ready to have a sober, unambiguous conversation about what you want. What that guy did to you was wrong.


Conflicted Mar 6, 2012 16:12 PM

To Michael Putnam,

I appreciate your words, and yes I agree he was very much in the wrong. But my point is that it seems like there could very easily be many situations where a guy or girl receives sexual consent from someone who is very drunk (even if that drunk person in their sober state did not ACTUALLY want to have sex) without realizing how drunk that person is. In those cases, should he or she be charged with rape? Not that that makes the situation okay, it just seems as though it is crucial to look at all the details of a situation before throwing rape charges around. I definitely support speaking out against sexual violence and rape and I don’t want to undermine anyone’s experience, but I also think it’s important to bring up these sorts of questions.


Madswagbro Mar 20, 2012 19:11 PM

Yo pio people, didn’t you guys win some award for a great website recently? That’s gotta be a joke, coz your website is always down. It was not working when this article came out. It stopped working when the issue after this one came out too.


Important story Mar 24, 2012 13:43 PM

I’m a recent alum. My mom, who has worked in hospitals for thirty years, testified in countless court cases and is the only certified sexual assault examiner in our town, read this story last night. It made her cringe but didn’t surprise her. She is furious at the culture on so many college campuses of trying to keep instances of sexual assault “in-house” rather than encouraging victims to report these crimes to the police. She has also worked in college health at a school very similar to Whitman and her heart went out to the brave women interviewed for this story. She applauded Zoe’s decision to hire a lawyer even though no lawsuit ended up happening. This is an important story and colleges all over the country need to wake up and deal with how their policies are failing the students they’re meant to protect.


Campus Controversies « Whitman Antisystem & Radical Aug 24, 2012 1:25 AM

[...] large focus on it this fall is at least in part the result of the stir-up that resulted from two Whitman Pioneer articles published last spring, bringing to light the insufficient prevention and mediation [...]


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