On September 6, 2016, I published a piece titled, “There’s a Brock Turner in all o(UR) lives.” My hope in writing the article was that people would consider the fact that simply knowing someone is not a reason to claim that that individual is incapable of committing sexual assault. I certainly did not expect the outpouring of rage against Richmond, however rightly deserved. What that did, though, was allow other women to feel comfortable sharing their stories of assault, either on the University of Richmond Alumni Page or messaging me privately to tell me how proud they are that I was able to give a voice to something they had experienced. I was (and am) glad that so many people were touched by my words, but saddened by how many women could relate to my story. A lot of people have expressed the fact that it’s impossible to know both sides of the story and they’re right. It’s not always easy to explain, especially something as complicated as what my case turned into. Even with the following facts, it still isn’t as cut and dry as it looks on paper. But I could spend hours explaining and there would still be people who think I put myself in the situation or that the University acted appropriately. I’m writing this because I don’t think they did, not when I reported and not when they released their statement. When UR released their statement, I was speechless.
“...We think it is important for us to share that many of the assertions of fact are inaccurate and do not reflect the manner in which reports of sexual misconduct have been investigated and adjudicated at the University.”
Let’s start at the beginning and go through this piece-by-piece.
A year ago, a school administrator at the University of Richmond (UR) in Richmond, Virginia called me into their office. Clad in an “It Ends Now” shirt, this administrator told me my sexual assault case would not be moving forward. “I thought it was reasonable for him to penetrate you for a few more minutes if he was going to finish,” he said, even though I didn’t consent to the sexual acts.
Dean Fabian had called me into his office a few hours before this e-mail was sent. It was at that meeting that Dean Fabian made his comment that he “thought it was reasonable for [the accused] to penetrate you for a few more minutes if he was going to finish,” even though I didn’t consent to the sexual acts. Once I had had time to process what was said, I e-mailed Dean Fabian asserting that I thought it didn’t matter how close the accused was to finishing once I said stop because at Richmond we are taught that you are allowed to withdraw consent at any time during sexual intercourse.
Then, I turn to Brock Turner. And I explain what my original goal in all of this was- for people to think differently about how they respond to learning about the Brock’s in their lives. Because the reality is, there are Brock Turner’s in all of our lives and it’s how we respond when it’s hard, when we’re friends with that Brock Turner, that determines the kind of person we are.
And, then, I share with you that I was raped. I explain that I knew coming forward wouldn’t guarantee that I would feel safe at school again (I would only feel safe if he were suspended or expelled as a result), but I was so scared to be at school that I felt I had to report in the hopes of feeling comfortable again at the place I had once called home. And then I tell you that I believe that the University of Richmond joined the ranks of schools known for protecting their athletes due to how it handled my sexual assault report.
I share with you that Spider Athletics has it’s own Brock Turner- and there’s no denying it. My Brock Turner is on a Spider Athletics team. Whether or not the University of Richmond found him responsible does not change that he is my Brock Turner.
I tell you that the Richmond administration did what it had to do to protect him and then I provide a brief overview of all of the ways in which I believe Richmond did just that.
(Some of the following will include references to the recording taken during the 10-hour hearing. The recording is confidential (though Henrico PD has subpoenaed it), but I transcribed it during the week after the hearing as I worked on my 93-page appeal. To avoid any retaliation charges the accused may try to bring against me- I will remove his name from the reference and replace it with “respondent.” If the University wants to deny or question the accuracy following evidence, that is their prerogative. These are direct quotes from my appeal.)
Richmond’s Brock Turner admitted to school officials, three separate times, that he heard me say stop.
- “In the recording (file name: respondent_uhb_10192015_1.MP3), at timestamp 02:08:46, Dean Dan Fabian confirms, that in the meeting with Maura Smith, the Respondent confirmed, on three separate occasions, that he remembered the Complainant saying stop.”
- “In the recording (file name: respondent_uhb_10192015_1.MP3), at timestamp 02:16:33, Dean Fabian confirms that the Respondent’s statements were inconsistent and “many times what the accused student will do is, yes change things [regarding their statement] after they realize they could be incriminating in some way and so their stories can be very inconsistent at times.” He confirmed that it was accurate to say the Respondent’s story changed throughout the investigation.”
Those officials later told a hearing board they thought he was confused when he told them that.
- “The Title IX Coordinator and Director of Compliance, Maura Smith, inferred multiple times during her testimony, that she felt the respondent was “confused” in regard to Dean Fabian asking him if he heard the complainant say “stop” during the early morning of July 19. It was noted that Dean Fabian asked him several times during the interview with Maura Smith and he said that he replied affirmatively to the question each time. Maura Smith did not hear the respondent say he was confused, she merely inferred he was confused because his response to her email summary conflicted with the statement he made to Dean Fabian and Maura Smith.”
No one denied, however, that he penetrated me without my consent. But for Richmond, their Brock Turner having an orgasm was of utmost importance. I was told that it was reasonable for him to penetrate me for a few more minutes if he was going to finish. The University and Brock Turner’s father seemed to agree- why let a few minutes of “action” jeopardize the rest of the accused’s life?
- “In the recording (file name: respondent_uhb_10192915_1.MP3), at timestamp 01:41:55, Dean Fabian says, “Whether that was a reasonable person would believe, so [respondent] in this case, that it should stop immediately, the way she stated it was in a way that well, if you’re not going to finish, so if he was going to finish soon, could a reasonable person think, I have a couple of more minutes to continue.”
Whether school administrators were telling me the athletics department was breathing down their neck to wrap up the sexual assault case...
- Dean Fabian shared this with me in a meeting prior to his closing the INITIAL investigation on September 4. There is no supporting evidence other than my word.
...or whether his coach didn’t take him out of game day scenarios at practice, it seemed clear that Richmond would do whatever it took to keep him on the roster.
- His coach publicly expressed his support for a positive outcome (though he did say he would support what the school concluded)
- Due to the potential of being brought up on retaliation charges, I cannot divulge more evidence to support this.
And whether those same school administrators were finding reasons to excuse his multiple no-contact violations or whether they were choosing to stay silent months later when a video of him saying “it shouldn’t have happened, but it did,” came out, I quickly realized that who I was and the effect that night had on me would never outweigh his athletic ability.
(I will address the nine reports here, even though not all were considered violations. In order to be considered a violation, the accused must be found responsible.)
I should probably start by explaining what a no-contact order even is. It means, pretty obviously, that we can’t contact each other. And we can’t go to places where we know the other person is. And if someone arrives at a location second, they must leave immediately. Here’s a copy of mine.
- The first no contact report was a text message sent to me moments after he left Dean Fabian’s office. This one went unpunished. There is no findings letter for this report because there was no investigation.
- I e-mailed Dean Fabian about the second and third no contact reports because I was initially curious as to whether they would count as violations because we had never discussed how the no contact order applied to life off-campus. However, when I had not received an e-mail months later and had obtained a lawyer, my lawyer and I pressed Richmond to acknowledge the reports.
- In regards to the incident at the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness, the University decided to apply an updated no contact order to the incident even though the no-contact order as it stood would have made the incident a violation. It took two months to get a response.
- The fourth no contact report involved a report he filed shortly after Dean Benner began investigating the December incidents. When I found out I had been reported for a potential violation, I was taken aback since I had not seen him when I was out that night.
- The fifth - ninth reports occurred leading up to or at beach week. They excused the text message and one (I was not told which) of the two violations from beach week. In the findings letter, you can see that they reference the video, but fail to mention the part where he says, “It shouldn’t have happened, but it did.” Due to the possibility of retaliation charges and to protect my friend’s identity, I cannot release the video.
Putting all of that together just made me realize how much I’ve been through with Richmond. Even after the Title IX case was closed, there were still, in my opinion, too many meetings that I had to have with Dean Benner and Maura Smith. To my knowledge, the only time he received a sanction for a violation was after beach week. But that’s coming up later. The next thing I touch on in the original post is all of the different parts of the case.
Three separate Title IX investigations (two from myself and one from another individual from that same night)...
(I and the other survivor are not comfortable having the details shared publicly, which is why the letters themselves have not been included.)
...a physical assault investigation... (which I still don’t know the outcome of- UR claims it was addressed as part of the sexual assault hearing. I am not comfortable with the details being made public.)
...a 10 hour hearing (which I do not have access to and is confidential under FERPA)...
...a 93-page appeal (of which almost all would have to be redacted due to FERPA)...
...and nine no contact violation reports (he was found responsible for one, even though five had physical evidence) later and he is still at Richmond (We’ve already covered the no contact violation reports, remember?).
Even though he admitted to raping me, he still gets to put on his uniform and represent us on a national scale. That’s problematic.
Earlier I referenced part of Dean Fabian’s testimony during the hearing, which included the accused telling him and Maura Smith, three times, that he heard me say stop.
In the video from Beach Week in which he’s talking to one of my best friends he says “it’s something that shouldn’t have happened, but it did,” and notes that “[I’ll] always have animosity towards him.” I wonder why.
The bigger problem? I’m not the only girl at Richmond who still goes to school with her rapist. In Spring 2015, our on-campus newspaper, the Collegian, conducted a survey regarding campus sexual violence. Of 649 female respondents, half had experienced some sort of unwanted sexual behavior while at Richmond (of that number 69% told someone else about the incident). However, out of the 12.6% who reported being sexually assaulted, fewer than 4% reported the experience to someone in an official capacity. At least 64 women (and 6 men) at Richmond have their own Brock Turners. The survey was conducted before two of my friends and I were assaulted. Two of us came forward. In both cases, Richmond justified and excused the assaults.
If you have not read up on the survey the Collegian did, I highly encourage you to do so. Whether you are a current student, graduate, or someone who stumbled upon the story online - the statistics are alarming.
In their statement, Richmond expressed it’s commitment to ending sexual misconduct- as they should. But such a statement does not detract from the fact that Dean Fabian’s erroneous assumption about the accused being allowed to penetrate me without my consent for a few more minutes was never refuted by any of the Title IX staff. Additionally, they noted that “all students should continue to report any instances of sexual misconduct; all community members should continue to support survivors and others affected, through their words and their actions.” Do you think that by calling one of yoUR own survivors a liar that that would really encourage students to report? You say we should all support each other, through our words and actions, yet you failed me when I reported and, now that I’m speaking out publicly, you thought calling me a liar was appropriate. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.
Whether or not my friend chooses to speak out is up to her. The outpouring of support from the greater Richmond community is encouraging, but I’m unsure how willing she will be to speak out after Richmond’s response. But then again, maybe that’s their hope. Regardless, the posts on the UR Alumni Group have shown that this is not an isolated incident. Richmond, you NEED to be better.
And after considering the Collegian survey, I compared sexual assault at Richmond to our meal plan.
Maybe they didn’t like that. But the reality is out of my five best girl friends on campus, four of us have been assaulted. There are eleven girls in one of my classes, three of us have spoken out about our assaults. You cannot deny that these statistics (including the Collegian survey) are appalling.
And I talked about the ways these problems are made worse by Richmond.
When I reported, I always had to provide evidence. My word was never enough. He, on the other hand, just had to say he didn’t remember or that he’d deleted messages or photos that could support his claim.
Richmond is “in the process of filling the position for the remainder of the grant and expect to have someone in place next month.” Because it’s great that a University with an endowment the size of ours is reliant on a grant. Because it’s great that they’re looking for someone to fill it throughout the rest of the grant. Richmond, we deserve better. We deserve someone long-term, full-time, and paid by the University.
There’s no refuting the fact that we are currently under investigation by the Department of Education. I’m unsure of whether or not the DOE will decide to open an additional investigation into Richmond for how my case was handled (I filed my complaint earlier this year and have spoken with attorneys from the Office of Civil Rights). Regardless of whether or not we are under investigation by the federal government, Richmond needs to be better.
I also said I still have days where it feels like an uphill battle with Richmond.
At the time of publication, it had been two weeks since the last day it really felt like an uphill battle. And then they responded to my post by calling me a liar. Clearly, the battle continues.
But anyways, after all those no contact reports and investigations, oUR own Brock was put on restricted access.
I said I wanted Richmond to be better.
If their response is any inclination, they won’t be.
I also want to note here that this isn’t the half of it.
This doesn’t touch on the fact that during that 10 hour hearing we focused more on whether or not there was pizza at the house that night. Or the fact that his friends, whose original statements coincided with mine, changed their statements at the hearing to support his version of events. It doesn’t touch on the fact that witnesses were allowed to decide whether or not they wanted to participate or that witnesses spoke about their testimony prior to testifying. It doesn’t touch on the fact that even though lying under oath is an honor council offense, you actually can’t be brought up in front of the the honor council for it. Or the fact that Maura Smith refused to let me have an advisor join in on a meeting. It doesn’t touch on the fact that Dean Benner played the audio of a voicemail I left that night in front of me, sending me into a panic attack. It doesn’t acknowledge the fact that I had to miss a week of class so I could work on my appeal because I was only allowed access to the resources between 9 and 5 (with a one-hour break for lunch when I did not have access). Or the fact that when I requested a transcript of the hearing so I wouldn’t have to listen to the accused’s voice, Dean Boehman denied my request. It does not change the fact that in Dean Fabian’s initial letter closing the investigation he changed my statement from non-consensual to consensual (I’ll give y’all the receipt for this one now. File name: respondent_uhb_101915_1.MP. Timestamp: 01:25:11-03:02:57.)
If Richmond wants to deny any of these assertions of fact, they’re welcome to and we can tango again because I have the receipts for all of these claims too.
I said I wanted to be clear that I do not regret reporting and encourage women to come forward.
I’ve spoken publicly about this at Richmond and among friends. I have always encouraged women to report and fight for themselves, to find their voices and take back control. I know that my story may be disconcerting, but I encourage women everywhere, especially at Richmond, to not let this be the reason you stay silent. As I’ve said before, there are many alums coming forward about how Richmond handled cases in the past, even decades ago. There is a systemic problem at Richmond and it will only change if we keep fighting. Remember that you are always worth fighting for and if you don’t think you are, find another reason (mine was my education) until you feel worth it on your own.
TOO many women across the country are sexually assaulted every day. It’s not just a problem at Richmond, but that’s not enough of a reason to not speak out. It’s not enough of a reason fro Richmond to try and sweep me under the rug. We must demand better from a University that has given us a phenomenal education, incredible professors, lifelong friends, and unforgettable memories.
When I wrote the article the purpose was to raise awareness about how we reply to the Brock Turner’s in our lives. I didn’t expect it to gain this much attention, but it’s not a bad thing that it has. We can be mad at Richmond, but we also need to direct our attention to changing the culture.
All I’ve ever wanted from Richmond was an apology. It’s clear I will never receive one.
I ended my original piece, with “For as long as Richmond’s Brock Turner continues to represent Richmond on a national scale, we are not #UnitedinRed. For as long as the administration continues to justify and excuse rape, we are not #OneRichmond.”
I take that back. We are #OneRichmond- the administration does not get to take away the community that Richmond, the place, gave us. It does not get to take away the anger that so many feel towards an administration that would defend my Brock Turner and choose to call me a liar instead. It does not get to take away the outpouring of support, from alums and students alike, for survivors like myself, but including all of the others who have shared their stories of sexual assault (and mishandled cases) at Richmond.
A petition has been posted to encourage the establishment of a sexual assault response and prevention center on campus. Feel free to sign the petition. It is all to clear that the administration does not want to change- we must not stop fighting.