Sexual Assault Letter Sparks Student Protests

Pomona College Advocates Kay Calloway and Sagarika Gami speak at a protest outside Alexander Hall on Dec. 7 in response to an anonymous letter detailing an alleged gross mishandling of a sexual assault case. (Beau Yarbrough, Southern California News Group)

An anonymous letter to the 5C community detailing an alleged gross mishandling of a sexual assault case by Pomona College’s Title IX office was published in a Scripps student publication Dec. 4, triggering a protest at Pomona’s Alexander Hall three days later.

The letter described how the author was threatened by the alleged perpetrator with a double suicide, “made explicit with a planned weapon,” and that the alleged perpetrator admitted to making the threat to Pomona’s Title IX office.

Still, the author said she was forced multiple times to leave campus for her own safety. As of Dec. 4, the author said she had been off-campus for 34 days, while the alleged perpetrator — known to the Title IX office as the “respondent” — remained on campus taking classes.

“Every new day that I am home, not allowed access to my education, and not communicated to by Pomona hurts me deeper than the last,” she wrote. “I feel that I am not being treated as a person, and for me to stay silent any longer on this issue fills me with the same traumatic apathy that filled me during the assault.”

Frankie Beach SC ’19, the content editor of [in]visible magazine, the Scripps publication that published the letter, wrote in an email to TSL that “the survivor contacted [in]visible mag and asked that her piece be published and circulated via social media as much as possible.” Beach said she did not edit the letter at all.

In response, Kay Calloway PO ’18 and Sagarika Gami PO ’18, both members of Pomona College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, organized a protest at Alexander Hall, which was widely attended by students, faculty, and staff.

Attendees carried signs calling for institutional and social change at Pomona and detailing their own experiences with sexual assault.

“I have class in the same building as my rapist twice a week,” one sign read.

Calloway and Gami described the goals of the demonstration in an email to TSL.

“We want an end to sexual violence at Claremont, and we want the Pomona administration to take a stand against the violence that their own students are inflicting on others,” Calloway wrote. “We have not seen them do so at all. This case is one of many that was handled wantonly, and with a serious disregard for the safety of Claremont students suffering from this violence.”

Gami said she and Calloway heard from alumni who had similar experiences during their time at Pomona.

“These kinds of ‘mistakes’ tell the tired story of our institution’s apathy, complacency, and complicity with sexual violence,” she wrote.

Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum described the situation as “deeply troubling” in an email to students in December, and wrote that “the student mentioned in the letter” had been residing off campus since prior to Thanksgiving break and would not be returning to campus for the remainder of the semester.

She also detailed the process the college takes in dealing with cases of sexual assault.

“Depending on the facts of a given complaint, the College also may initiate a threat assessment process, coordinated by the Dean of Students office, bringing together subject matter experts, including campus safety, mental health professionals, and legal counsel,” she said. Feldblum said this is what occurred in the case that sparked the protest.

However, the author of the letter described a failure to implement the safety measures recommended by the assessment.

“Campus Safety escorted me to my Pomona class later that day, but once I was dropped off, I saw the respondent outside my classroom,” the author wrote. “I later found out that the Pomona administration had arranged a meeting with them for that time, even though they knew my class schedule and the respondent was under severe restrictions to avoid my classes.”

Additionally, the Campus Safety escort assigned to take the student from the class failed to show up, the letter said.

Sue McCarthy, Pomona’s Title IX coordinator, reaffirmed her support for working collaboratively with students in an email to TSL.

“We are committed to continuing to improve Pomona's policies and procedures, as well as ensuring … safety for our students,” she wrote. “We have continued to meet with and work collaboratively with students, faculty and staff across campus.”

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