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Conn College must help 'Silent Survivors' come forward

Disclaimer: The Day was able to confirm that the alleged victims referenced in this guest commentary are real, but they declined to talk to our reporter and the veracity of their claims could not be confirmed.

Lauren: “The night it happened, I went out with friends. We went to parties at the Winches and Ridges. I met a student (from another college) who, unbeknown to me, came to Conn for one purpose: to screw. He talked me up, I was pretty drunk at that point, so I agreed to leave with him. We walked far — so far in fact that I got scared. I said I wanted to go back, but he got aggressive. He attacked. He bruised my legs, my hip, my shoulder. I remember crying. I remember that he pushed my face away as he raped me because he didn’t want to see me cry. I remember thinking: ‘I’m not a person anymore.’”

Janet: “It feels weird, almost like a reverse dream where I can’t see what’s happening, but I feel everything. I see it from a bird’s-eye view. I guess my brain’s just detaching itself, but I can’t see my own rape through my own eyes anymore. It’s weird. I wasn’t attacked at Conn though, I want to make that clear. But it’s shaped my perception of boys here. I don’t trust any of them. I put myself in that position though. I am to blame because I put myself there and then I stayed quiet after. I basically gave him the green light because the same guy raped me twice. I’m not that girl, I thought. I won’t be labeled. I won’t be branded a victim. I’m stronger than that. Well, I have to be stronger than that.”

Connecticut College provides on-staff therapists, rape prevention initiatives, a blue light system, and a culture intolerant of aggression (sexual or otherwise), yet the college isn’t doing enough to prevent assault or to address the stigma women feel around reporting it.

One survivor of campus assault with whom I spoke noted, “I don’t think this is a bad school, but the services provided here mostly help people after-the-fact.”

Janet added, “I went to a therapist here, they’re good, but I feel like a patient. I feel alienated because they don’t know me. It’s their job to listen to my problems, but ... I don’t know ... I don’t feel like I can talk to them.”

Lauren wasn’t sure what resources are available. “I honestly have no real idea what the programs are here.” When I asked her about Green Dot, the Connecticut College program dedicated to sexual prevention, she said: “I have no idea what Green Dot is or how it could help me.”

Lack of knowledge surrounding the school’s advocacy programs seems symptomatic of the overarching truth that there’s an uneasy silence around rape at Connecticut College. In fact, another survivor of rape ultimately chose not to have her story included in this article because of the intense trauma she experienced, and the anxiety surrounding the stigma of being a survivor of rape.

In the past year alone, five instances of voyeurism were reported. The college sent out emails and hosted a forum to discuss its ongoing investigation into these incidents, but otherwise took a relatively inactive stance toward preventing these violations. Recently, the perpetrator was apprehended, but not before he had taken over 200 photos and videos of women using the facilities at Connecticut College. Is the administration doing enough?

While it's comforting to know that these victims felt supported enough to report the voyeurism, it's truly shocking that none of the sexual assault survivors I spoke with are willing to report the far more serious crime they endured. It seems that, while the school talks about the repugnance of peeping Toms, the lack of discussion surrounding the more visceral crime of rape creates a silent culture where rapists are never held accountable and predators roam free.

Campus assaults are pervasive throughout America. Rape is a national issue, yet, Connecticut College is failing to protect its students. More could be done.

One student advisor suggested that the college should “advertise its programs more” and “educate its students more thoroughly during orientation.”

The advisor described specific ways the college can improve, such as posting flyers that list the names and numbers of the college’s support systems in highly trafficked locations. However, as a survivor of assault herself, she added, “Be self-aware! Only you will always have your back.” Further implicit in her statement — don’t trust drunk boys (or girls), don’t go off alone, and protect yourself. Don’t put yourself in risky situations.

Increased transparency at the administrative level is also needed, for while Connecticut College preaches support and availability to survivors, the school’s silent administration says the opposite.

Connecticut College must step up and act. Students should be safe — not only that, but they should be supported in reporting rape and be aware of the available services on campus as well as how to receive them. In Lauren’s words, “I have panic attacks when I close my eyes, and I have nightmares when I finally fall asleep.”

William Canellakis is a freshman at Connecticut College in New London. He submitted this guest commentary to us in February. We opted to hold it from publication until a news reporter could investigate the serious issues it raises. Both the commentary and the resulting news story were set for publication in the May 5 edition of The Day.

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