Institutional Memory…

I have been in a continuing struggle for justice with Haverford since 2009.  Not a day passes on this campus that I don’t think about my assault and how the college failed to help me.

I was sexually assaulted at Haverford.  My experiences that followed have already been inserted into the broader Haverford discourse through a letter that my parents submitted to the Parent’s Listserv as a warning of the Haverford façade  (Please see the Go Boards archives to read a detailed account of the events that ensued).  In essence, I requested a Dean’s Panel that was ultimately changed to a mediation.  I was sued for over one million dollars and forced to sign an agreement that prevented me from further discussing my experiences.  I was silenced and my story was effortlessly pushed under the rug of power that too often suffocates survivors on college campuses.

During the mediation, it was stated by then Dean Kannerstein that the accused’s behavior throughout the process was in violation of the spirit of the Honor Code.  Following my signing of the agreement I sought to follow through with his statement, however, the administration refused to act and even stated that it was in my ‘best interest’ not to do so.  As a result, I continued to live at Haverford in a hostile environment in which sleepless nights, depression, and panic attacks became normalized.

At the time of the original posting of my parents’ letter (a lengthy five months after the Mediation Agreement had been signed), Haverford had still refused to address my on campus grievances.  As a result, I was forced to appeal to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to intervene, as Haverford’s handling of my case was in direct violation of Title IX.  They accepted my claim.  Haverford was contacted and informed that the college was going to be investigated regarding the various ways in which their policies concerning rape and sexual assault, and the handling of my case, all violated federal law.  Haverford quickly entered into a Voluntary Resolution Agreement with OCR and was required to institute specific measures to comply with the mandated Title IX guidelines.

These events are why Haverford so drastically altered their policies regarding rape and sexual assault in 2010.  Not because the administration underwent a sudden epiphany and realized that the college’s guidelines were in direct violation of Title IX and that its Title IX Coordinator solely thought that the law applied to gender equality in athletics, but because I appealed for government intervention.  As a direct result of federal pressure, Haverford revised its policies, delegated a knowledgeable Title IX Coordinator, and significantly emphasized Title IX education for both students and faculty.  Despite these positive changes, one of OCR’s demands still remains outstanding: a proper investigation of my initial claim.

Upon being informed that an investigation of the assault itself was to occur, the accused filed suit against Haverford.  A state judge granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) precluding Haverford from performing their OCR mandated investigation until the facts of the suit had become known and thus halting the college from becoming entirely compliant with Title IX.  I am told that this action was unprecedented in the history of OCR.  Never had a state judge overridden federal law in this context.  I have been trying in vain for the past year through the government to get the TRO lifted so that Haverford can complete the investigation.  My case has been passed from the Office of Civil Rights in Philadelphia to the headquarters in Washington, DC.  I have had conversations with representatives from the Department of Justice, but no one in either government agency seems to have any idea how to proceed.  So they will wait it out.  My experiences simply add another point to the national collegiate rape and sexual assault trend line; justice will never be served.

The ‘Consent is Sexy’ campaign serves as a reminder that rape and sexual assault does occur at Haverford, regardless of how much we may want to believe that nothing harmful could enter into our sheltered Haverbubble.  It illustrates that these issues need to be at the forefront of community discussion and cannot solely be discussed once irreversible damage has already been done.

Dissenters of the campaign may deem it a proliferation of an ‘us versus them’ mentality.  The individual that should be most in favor of this mindset, however, is advocating for the opposite.  Every community member, survivors, non-survivors, males, females, faculty, staff, and administrators, must engage in this discourse to ensure that what I have experienced at Haverford will not recur.  I look forward to working with the same people that have exacerbated my affliction because that is what Haverford is about, rebuilding the bridges of trust even when it seems like they have been broken beyond the point of repair.

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4 thoughts on “Institutional Memory…

  1. To the author, thank you so much for fighting to improve Haverford! I am so sorry that the administration placed this burden on you instead of taking care of their responsibilities to the student body.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am so disgusted with the way the administration dealt with that, and I wish you the best with everything.

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