Stories of sexual assault have continued to shake the Amherst College community following the day former student Angie Epifano published an editorial in the school’s independent newspaper detailing the night she was raped by an acquaintance on campus. The College’s then lack of response has sparked a larger response, as other heart-wrenching stories have come out.
In June of this year, Trey Malone committed suicide after he could no longer cope with the sexual assault he faced while at Amherst College. Malone’s family recently released the contents of his suicide note to The Good Men Project, which has been published in full. “His last wish was that his voice finally be heard and listened to,” writes The Good Men Project, explaining why, although sensitive and difficult to read, they posted the letter.
Malone describes Amherst’s effort as one that went from “earnest” to “an emotionless hand washing,” writing that where he should have received help, he didn’t. The letter was a call to society to reevaluate how they see sexual assault and where they, wrongly, issue the blame—placing it on the victim instead of the assailant.
Amherst College President Biddy Martin addressed Malone’s note in an open letter to the community earlier this week, writing that the school had not made Malone’s experience public out respect for his privacy and the privacy of his family. She wanted to respond to Malone’s claims, however, considering the “frank and candid” dialogue they’ve been having on campus this semester. Martin wrote:
The College responded immediately to the report, provided Trey with access to support and resources, and in October of 2011 the College resolved the report through our disciplinary system, resulting in a finding of responsibility for the respondent. Through the remainder of the Fall semester, the College provided on-going outreach and support to Trey. In December of 2011, Trey requested, and the College granted, an academic withdrawal. In the Spring of 2012, Trey was discussing academic options with the Office of Dean of Students for what he hoped would be a return to Amherst.
Since learning of his death early this summer, I have often thought about Trey. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to meet or get to know him. In our brief conversation in December 2011, related to an appeal process, I offered him my sympathy for what had happened to him, asked whether he was getting adequate help, and sought to confirm his views on sanctions for the student who was found responsible for sexual misconduct. I recall being struck by the kindness in Trey’s voice.
Martin previously detailed how the College plans to more positively move forward and address these issues, urging the community to “learn from this horrible loss,” telling the students her door is always open.
Both accounts have started to spread to campuses outside of Amherst, forcing schools and their students to pay closer attention not only to their sexual assault policies, but to how they address those issues. Tufts is examining how they’ve responded on campus, while a student at Dartmouth wrote Epifano’s story “serves as a cautionary tale that is relevant to us at Dartmouth about the dangers of victim-blaming in cases of sexual assault.”
Although tragic, these stories have opened the eyes of students and administrators countrywide. As President Martin wrote: “Clearly, the administration’s responses to reports have left survivors feeling that they were badly served. That must change, and change immediately.”
Photo Courtesy of TIME/Ilana Panich-Linsman / The New York Times / Redux