A student at Brown University alleges that after she was strangled and sexually assaulted by a fellow classmate, her attacker was suspended for just a year and will return to class in the fall.
As reported in article in the Brown Daily Herald, Lena Sclove says she was raped after a party last summer by Daniel Kopin, a friend with whom she had previously been sexually involved with. Sclove alleges that Kopin also strangled her, resulting in a spine injury that eventually prompted her to take a leave of absence. After reporting the attack to the University and to the Providence police, a disciplinary hearing was scheduled. (Not allowed during the hearing was the testimony of another Brown student who said she had also been raped by Kopin because Kopin reportedly objected to it being included. This is in line with Brown's policy, which states that new allegations against an individual have to be filed separately.)
After the hearing, Kopin was found in violation of four different rules in the Student Code of Conduct: "Actions that result in or can be reasonably expected to result in physical harm to a person or persons," "Sexual Misconduct that involves non-consensual physical contact of a sexual nature," "Sexual Misconduct that includes penetration, violent physical force, or injury" and illegal possession of drugs and/or alcohol.
Once those violations were announced, the case was referred to a school dean, who decided Kopin's sentencing. Though the board overseeing the hearing recommended he be suspended for two years, Senior Associate Dean for Student Life Allen Ward decided he would be given a year's suspension. When Sclove appealed that decision, the administration shut down her concerns, explaining that when he did return to school, Kopin would be put on probation and that Sclove and Kopin would not be allowed to contact one another.
Over 1,000 people have joined a Facebook group called Justice for Lena & Survivors Everywhere and there is also an online petition about the issue. After a gathering that Sclove spoke at on Tuesday attended by Brown students holding signs of support, the University reportedly sent out a campus-wide email saying the University's sexual assault policy would be discussed during a Community Council meeting.
Sclove's story has also been repeated in detail in Bluestockings Magazine, a Brown student publication. The circumstances surrounding her situation reiterate the frustration many victims of sexual assault feel when they decide to report their rapes to their school administration. The process takes months and in the interim, they have to see the person that attacked them on a regular basis, often in close quarters. Even if a positive resolution comes about, the language many of these school's use to discuss sexual assault is coded. After the section on "sexual misconduct," Brown's Code of Student Conduct includes a reminder about what sexual misconduct actually is (rape):
Note: Some forms of sexual misconduct may also constitute sexual assault under Rhode Island criminal laws and are subject to prosecution by State law enforcement authorities – which can take place independent of charges under the University's Student Code of Conduct.
At no point in Brown's policy does the school state that a student found in violation of sexual misconduct could be expelled. But in 2011, Brown was sued by a former student who said he was kicked out after being accused of a rape he did not commit. The case got a plenty of press, though it was ultimately dismissed. Facing pressure from students and alums, schools like Dartmouth have recently worked to change their policies to specify that students who are found guilty of sexual assault must leave school.
"It's a moment for University's to decide which side they're on," Sclove said during her press conference. "What do we want this school to be? Who gets to stay? Because I'm not coming back if he's here. So then I don't get to get to graduate."
Image via thurdl01/Flickr