Sexual Assault Survivor: ‘Harvard You Win, But You Cannot Take Away My Voice’
By Tamar Auber, April 1, 2014.
A young woman who was sexually assaulted on her Ivy League campus has penned a devastating letter chronicling her struggles with the school’s administration after the attack. Posted anonymously on the eve of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the Harvard Crimson, her account of the painful sexual assault and the lack of support by the Harvard University that has left the undergrad feeling, “hopeless, powerless, betrayed, and worthless.”
“There are few things more disempowering than being sexually assaulted,” the young woman wrote about the attack. “You are desperately trying to have your voice heard and to assert control over what is being done to you, but are systematically shut down until you are forced to simply wait for it to be over.”
She then described how the Harvard administration’s response disempowered and victimized her all over again. “My House Master and my dean encouraged me to forgive my assailant and move on. Someone at University Health Services asked me if it was possible that my drinking habits were the problem, because it seemed like they had led to my sexual assault,” she said, “And always, at the end of those discussions, I would hear the same thing over and over again: ‘We want you to get all the support that you need.’”
She admitted that the University administrators were not ‘bad people’ but that outdated sexual conduct policies and red tape had left her reeling one year later and forced to live in close contact with her assailant, who she said has never been held accountable for his crime.
“I spend most of my time outside of class curled up in bed, crying, sleeping, or staring at the ceiling, occasionally wondering if I just heard my assailant’s voice in the staircase,” the woman, who is being treated for depression, penned. “Often, the cough syrup sitting in my drawer or the pavement several floors down from my window seem like reasonable options.”
Admitting defeat, she said she plans to move out of her Harvard college next semester to get away from the man who attacked her and get her life back on track.
“Dear Harvard: You might have won, but I still have a voice,” the young woman wrote vowing to continue her fight to change campus policies on sexual assault, a growing problem for students of both genders at universities across America. “And I plan on using it as much as I can to make things change.”
Photo Credit: Mararie