'Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?': More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out

Last week, former Amherst College student Angie Epifano's account of being raped on campus and subsequently ignored by the administration spread across the country. Now, Amherst's student advocates are making sure their peers and professors realize that a larger discussion about reshaping the college's sexual assault policy and general culture is only just beginning.

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Dana Bolger, a current senior and rape survivor who has been working tirelessly to ensure that the stories of other survivors will no longer be dismissed, helped put together a collection of photos of men and women who were sexually assaulted on campus, holding the words said to them by members of the community following their assaults. "Not every survivor is holding his or her own sign," she notes on the AC Voice. "Some of the students have transferred or dropped out of Amherst out of fear of their attackers' continued presence on campus or from lack of options in the face of an unsympathetic administration."

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Regardless of the real faces behind the signs, the overall message — quotes like "You never took your case to trial, so you don't actually count as a rape survivor" juxtaposed against the cheerful fall foliage — is chilling. "In our impulse to point a finger outward at the Amherst administration, let us not forget to look inward at our own complicity in the creation of a culture that gives Angie's rapist the power to act and our administration the power to silence and dismiss her experience," Bolger writes. It's hard to see how anyone — Amherst student, administration official or otherwise — could look through these photos and not do some inner complicity/soul-searching.

Bolger was one of 10 students picked to meet with the Board of Trustees last Friday to discuss their concerns with the college's current policies and brainstorm potential solutions. Hundreds of students from Amherst and other nearby colleges rallied beforehand. "I was encouraged by the board's willingness to meet with us - that's almost unheard of at Amherst College for the entire Board to meet with a group of students - and it suggests that they do care about making change," Bolger told us in an email. "That said, I didn't get a strong sense from the meeting or from the subsequent letter of any specific, concrete steps they plan to take. I hope more specifics will be forthcoming."

In a statement emailed last Saturday, the Board of Trustees said President Martin would plan a special committee, comprised of "of representatives of all parts of the Amherst community," to discuss next steps. According to the statement, the committee will launch this week, and its report will be delivered in January. But Bolger is still concerned about the administration's transparency. "It's crucial that the school make opportunities for all students to voice their concerns, not just ten students cherry picked at the last minute to be privy to these conversations," she wrote. "Otherwise, the College is just repeating the same mistake they made in dealing with the fraternity t-shirt incident, except that this time I happened to be one of the students on the inside of the closed-door discussion. Meaningful progress involves changes to policies but also significant transformation in the way the administration interacts with students: namely, much greater transparency and dialogue."

Click through the photos to learn more about rape culture at Amherst — and, although it should go without saying, about rape culture on college campuses across the country.

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Photographs by Jisoo Lee/Project by It Happens Here - Dana Bolger, Kinjal Patel, Sonum Dixit)

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"Hey, why are you such a slut?"
–His teammate, minutes after my attack, in front of everyone

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"Are you sure it was rape? He seems to think it was a little more complicated."
–Amherst College Administrator

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"Was he drunk? Well, that's not as bad."
–Friend

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"Oh. So that's why you're paranoid?"
–Teammate

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"Why don't you take a year off, get a job at Starbucks, and come back after he's graduated?"
–Dean

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"If you didn't want to have sex with him, why were you sitting on his bed two weeks before?"
–Student on the Amherst College disciplinary committee

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"I know you'll regret stuff in the morning."
–My assailant

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"I would never have guessed you were sexually abused as a child. You are so strong and stable."
–A friend

What does that mean?

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"You never took your case to trial, so you don't actually count as a rape survivor."
–Amherst Dean

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"C'mon, you go out every weekend. Stop telling people he raped you or my teammates won't want to pregame in our room anymore."
–Freshman roommate

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"You're too complicated because you're a rape survivor. You can pay for a therapist in town."
–Amherst psychologist

Illustration for article titled Hey, Why Are You Such a Slut?: More Amherst Rape Survivors Speak Out
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"Why couldn't you fight him off?"
–Friend

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DISCUSSION

I feel rape is handled like this on every college campus. I'm a freshman at the University of Colorado in Denver and on freshman orientation day the rape crisis center where we can go to "report a sexual assault and receive support" made a joke out of the definition of rape. They handed out a sheet that said things like "don't sexually assault someone if they're passed out drunk!" and "if you think you're at risk for sexually assaulting someone carry your own rape whistle and say 'back away before I assault you'" There were ten of these "suggestions to play it safe" on this sheet and while the rape crisis center read this sheet aloud almost everyone chuckled at everything on the list. My best friend and I were horrified by the insensitivity of not only the students in the room, but the center where we are supposed to receive help for sexual assaults. They also highly encouraged us to report rape to the school and not the authorities because reporting a rape to the authorities can be a traumatic and long drawn out experience that will mess you the fuck up. By the way, I had to pay a fee to the crisis center, included in my college tuition, so they could gallivant around spewing this bullshit whilst pretending to be the defenders of sexual assault victims everywhere.