The Amherst Student, the newspaper of Amherst College, published an article this week that recounts former student Angie Epifano’s experience of being raped on campus and the painful aftermath. With help from the many social network users—including Claremont students—who have shared the link, Epifano’s article has gone viral, drawing much-needed attention to the devastating effects of sexual assault on college campuses.
Epifano’s story resonates especially strongly with us, given the similarities between Amherst—a small liberal arts college that belongs to a five-college consortium in Massachusetts—and the 5Cs. When Epifano recalls the horror of having to work with her rapist on a fundraiser, we think of friends who have survived sexual assault in Claremont, only to find that the small size of our community makes it almost impossible to avoid their assailants. And we are only too aware of the temptation for administrators to shortchange their responsibility to deal with the darkest aspects of campus life.
We have no reason to think that the responses survivors get from Claremont administrators are as counterproductive as the treatment Epifano received from deans at Amherst. Yet, in less flagrant ways, our administrators have sometimes disappointed us with their reactions to sexual misconduct. As two Opinions articles in TSL have pointed out, the Pomona College administration’s response to the alleged sale of date rape drugs in Claremont smelled faintly of victim-blaming. Telling students to watch their drinks might limit the harm done by date rape drugs, but shouldn’t we focus on finding the dealers, proving their guilt and expelling them from our campuses?
Claremont administrators should read Epifano’s article as a reminder that colleges must respond to incidents of sexual violence both forcefully and sensitively, or the trauma of survivors will be unnecessarily amplified.
By writing and publishing this article, Epifano and the editors of The Amherst Student have done a courageous service to the millions of college community members who can learn important lessons from Epifano’s painful memories. We find it inspiring that an article in the Student—a weekly, student-run, small-campus newspaper like TSL—can spur an international conversation of such significance.