As the discussion surrounding sexual assault on college campuses continue to flourish, schools are grappling with efforts to address the issue. At Harvard University, one female student's damning op-ed about how her alleged rape was mishandled illustrates how colleges are still failing survivors of sexual assault.
"Dear Harvard," the essay began. "Hey, it's me. One of your statistics."
Published in the The Harvard Crimson, the op-ed detailed how the school failed to properly address sexual assault on its campus. "Harvard could not have saved me from that man, and I know that," she wrote. "But Harvard could have helped me afterwards, and they didn't."
The day after her assault, she wrote, she went to the Harvard University Health Services only to discover that they didn't provide rape kits. "College campuses are notorious for their high instances of rape and sexual assault. Yet my university, the greatest and wealthiest in the world, could not even provide me a rape kit," she recalled.
A few days later, the woman was summoned into the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response where officials told her that unless she went through the long, arduous trial process, Harvard was "unable to intervene in any meaningful way." She added:
Unless I subjugated myself to a long trial, Harvard would do nothing to keep him away from me. That's right. Nothing. Even though my rape kit had come back positive, that was not enough. This meant that I would still have to go to class with him. Every Tuesday and Thursday.
The student chastised the school's "witch hunt" against single-sex Final Clubs in its effort to push for them to be co-ed.
"Shutting down the final clubs, sororities, and fraternities on our campus will do almost nothing to help prevent sexual assault. In fact, more than 80 percent of sexual assault happens within Harvard's own dorms, and yet no steps have been taken to secure those places," she wrote. "Though my attacker was a member of a fraternity, I have no ill will towards the final clubs or other single-sex organizations on campus. In fact, I continued to visit those spaces almost every weekend. I saw my friends light up as they joined the ranks of their sororities or finished punching for their club. You have taken away an integral part of the student experience at Harvard."
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She also suggested ways for the school to more effectively handle sexual assault cases:
Instead of putting students at war with the very institution we expect to support and protect us, let's start out with some basics: providing rape kits at University Health Services, shortening the length of trial, allowing students to go to class without having to face their attacker, and making dorms more secure.
This isn't the first time a student has come out against Harvard on this issue. Another student, Kamilah Willingham, burned her Harvard sweatpants in protest of the school's handling of her sexual assault.
These also aren't incidents exclusive to the Ivy League school. Tufts University student Wagatwe Wanjuki filmed herself burning her sweatshirt bearing her alma mater's name for the school's mishandling of a series of sexual assault cases she tried to report. (Willingham's act was inspired by Wanjuki, and the two launched the campaign #JustSaySorry together).
But if many colleges still deal with sexual assault on their campuses inadequately, there are efforts by other institutions that try to pick up the slack.
Heartening progress most recently took place on a federal level, when the House of Representatives unanimously voted for the Survivor's Bill of Rights Act of 2016 to ensure that survivors can more easily gather and preserve evidence from their sexual assault.
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