Amherst College tells a student to “forgive and forget” rape

By: Tom Westerholm

We have written about the benefits of horror movies before on Cardboard (here, have a totally self-promoting link), and I mentioned how I’m hesitant to watch many movies dealing with the spiritual realm, because I’m afraid that such movies can induce an unhealthy fascination. But there is another kind of movie that I can’t watch for essentially the same reason: movies with rape scenes. Violence? Eh, whatever. Cursing? Pshhh. But when it comes to the brutalization and rape of a woman, I just don’t want to be desensitized to that, nor do I want to develop an unhealthy fascination. Sorry, not sorry.

And here’s why: when desensitization happens, stories like the following aren’t far behind. Apparently, a young woman attending Amherst College was raped in 2011. But when she went to school authorities, they tried to brush it under the rug. Here’s a link to the story (warning: it’s not graphic, but it’s certainly disturbing), and here’s one of the money quotes:

I spent most of my spring semester an emotional wreck. I saw his face everywhere I went. I heard his voice mocking me in my own head. I imagined new rapists hiding behind every shower curtain and potted plant. I bandaged the situation by throwing myself into more work and by resolutely refusing to acknowledge that I was anything but well adjusted.

Eventually I reached a dangerously low point, and, in my despondency, began going to the campus’ sexual assault counselor. In short I was told: No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you SURE it was rape? It might have just been a bad hookup…You should forgive and forget.

How are you supposed to forget the worst night of your life?

The story is far from finished there, but you should go read it in its powerful entirety.

Here’s my question, Amherst College and the rest of the world that allows things like this to happen. It’s 2012, right? We have cell phones that can access the internet. We have a decent set of laws that govern our country and keeps our society somewhat in line. We think of ourselves as civilized human beings. So tell me: How does this happen in 2012?! How are we still telling our women to “forgive and forget” when a man takes their sense of personal safety, their dignity and their entire emotional stability in one horrible night? How are we still such a patriarchal society that a well-respected institution would rather allow a man to just graduate and move on after he, and this is important, RAPED A WOMAN ON CAMPUS AND TOTALLY GOT AWAY WITH IT?

Forgive and forget? Forget that. Burn things. Throw things. Or, perhaps more productively, write an incredibly brave, incredibly poignant post on the internet, outing the people who allowed the rapist to graduate without consequence. Make people in charge accountable for the crappy things they do, or nothing will change.

Cardboard doesn’t have a large readership, and I’m far from an expert on these topics. But I hope what readership we have continues to pass this story on, because it’s important. It’s not a political story, it’s not a religious story (although I would hope that other Christians find this as disgusting as I do), it’s a justice story. It’s the story of a woman who was denied justice and, rightfully, isn’t going to sit back and shut up like her former college not-so-respectfully asked her to do.

Righteous anger. I would hope that, in this case, as human beings, we can all get behind it.


One thought on “Amherst College tells a student to “forgive and forget” rape

  1. Thanks for writing about this, Tom. One of the things that horrifies me about this woman’s experience, and the whole Penn State scandal, is that we have yet to realize that we are all part of the problem, choosing power and prestige over justice far too often, far too blindly; and to tremendous collective and personal loss. I sadly think that if that situation(PSU) had occurred to females rather than males, the voice of outrage we hear would be far quieter. I appreciate you speaking up.

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