Sexual Assault on Campus Hits Close to Home
By Megan Kay
It’s always sad to hear horrible news concerning rape and sexual assault, but it’s especially hard when it hits close to home. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that my name is Megan Kay, and besides being the communications intern for Mass NOW, I’m also a college student at Emerson College, right on the Common in downtown Boston. Just this past week, Emerson became a source of major local news when a couple of female Emerson students came forward to tell their personal experiences of sexual assault and rape while attending Emerson. Most importantly, they both claimed that Emerson neglected to properly handle their cases, one can assume in an event to save face.
According to the Boston Globe, one of these students, Sarah Tedesco, claims that “ hospital test results show she had been drugged one night last October while at an off-campus MIT fraternity party in Cambridge and then raped by an MIT student, whom she had never met before. She said she was also sexually assaulted by a fellow Emerson student, whom she knew well.” After being overwhelmed by police questioning, Sarah went to the school administration for guidance, and they urged her to not go to police and to let them handle it. Unfortunately, they didn’t handle it, at least not according to Tedesco. In fact, while the administration was looking into her case, she was sexually assaulted again by the same Emerson student. Tedesco claims that the school downplayed her complaints, and that both students who assaulted her remain at their prospective schools and have received no punishment to date.
According to the Boston Globe, President Lee Pelton wrote a letter to the entire college describing “a number of measures – including new programs designed to create a “culture of consent” and to support rape survivors – the school has already taken since last spring when outcry from students over reports of an off-campus student rape prompted administrators to vow to review school policies regarding sexual assault cases.” Tedesco does credit the school for starting this culture of consent program, and I too am proud of my school for initiating such critical education to its’ students, particularly the incoming students who are new to the school and the city. However, and Tedesco agrees, although educational programs like this are a great start, what truly matters is how actual cases of rape and assault are handled.
Sexual crimes on college campuses are at epidemic levels right now. And before you think that I’m exaggerating, a 2000 report from the National Institute of Justice indicated roughly 1-in-5 women will experience sexual violence during their collegiate career. Fewer than five percent of these cases will get reported to the police. The fact that 20% of women in college will be victims of sexual violence is unacceptable. Why isn’t there a greater outcry for change? Sure, these crimes sometimes make headlines, but why aren’t people more furious? I know I am. My friends are being assaulted and raped and terrorized. As a collegiate woman, I too am at risk. I’m sick of having to walk down the street at night with my dorm keys clutched between fingers, ready to thwart off an attacker should one come. I’m tired of jumping at the sound of footsteps behind me on the sidewalk, or any sign of movement nearby. Young women should not have to live in an environment of fear. I’m sick of it, and you should be too. It’s time to make a change, and I personally think that there is no better place for it than Boston. After all, Boston is pretty much a hot bed of college campuses. There are about 250,000 college students in the city, which means that ⅕ people are college students. This is an issue that quite literally effects nowhere else more than Boston.
Although I love my school and am proud of certain aspects of it, like it’s culture of consent program, and the fact that Emerson is one of the top liberal arts and communication schools in the country, I am ashamed of the way it has handled cases of sexual assault and rape. These crimes are intolerable, and I will not keep quiet until there is change on campuses everywhere.
To read the Boston Globe article mentioned in the blog post, click here.