Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wonder Woman Wednesday-Rape gets the spotlight at Amherst College

On May 25, 2001, Angie Epifano was held down and raped by an acquaintance on the campus of Amherst College.  Amherst blamed her, shamed her, took away her privilege to study abroad, and even had her sent to a psych ward.  This experience destroyed Angie.  They would not let her report him, and she eventually left the college without graduating while her rapist graduated with honors. 
“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.” Angie tells in her sorrow filled shocking recount of her experience with Amherst. 

“I was continuously told that I had to forgive him, that I was crazy for being scared on campus, and that there was nothing that could be done. They told me: We can report your rape as a statistic, you know for records, but I don’t recommend that you go through a disciplinary hearing. It would be you, a faculty adviser of your choice, him, and a faculty adviser of his choice in a room where you would be trying to prove that he raped you. You have no physical evidence, it wouldn't get you very far to do this,” she continues.

According to the “statistics” gathered by the sexual assault counseling center, Amherst has been home to several serial rapists, or men who have raped more than 5 women.  The rapists always graduate, and the victims are left holding the shattered pieces of their lives while the Dean tells them it’s their fault.

Amherst is just one of hundreds of colleges with a sexual assault reporting problem.

Students at Amherst have begun to put the pressure on administrators over how the school treats victims of rape by creating a photo series where survivors held up large cards with the responses from administrators, friends, peers, counselors, and others. 

Lee, a senior at Amherst said to the Huffington Post, “We wanted to show that Angie was not alone in her mistreatment and abuse by college administrators, but the administration’s actions don’t exist in a vacuum—they exist in a larger culture in which too often, victims are silenced and perpetrators excused.  We have to think about how we, as friends or peers of survivors, contribute to a culture of silence through our insensitive and thoughtless words.”

The photo series sent shockwaves across college campuses raising awareness for the way victims of sexual assault on campus are handled.  42% of women in college who are raped tell no one about the assault, and 95% of sexual assault victims never report the attacks to the authorities because they are stopped dead in their tracks at the administration level.

“Photos are visual and engaging, and they can be a powerful tool for documenting social injustice,” Lee continued, “I think partly what made this project so powerful was that it was specific to Amherst College—the survivors involved are our friends and peers, people we know, and the quotations are also from members of our community.”

The survivors in the series hope to change how the problem is handled at Amherst, particularly by Amherst College President Biddy Martin.

See the complete photo collection here.

An online magazine called It Happens Here has also been created by Amherst students as a way to bring attention to the issue.  

Since, Biddy has been very quick to institute a number of immediate changes.  Other colleges have taken notice and have started their own processes to make change. 

The week’s Wonder Woman Wednesday showcase goes to the brave survivors of college campus rape.  Alone, you may be only one, but together you can raise your voices to the sky and create change so that women who follow behind you can attend a stronger, safer experience. 

You can find Angie’s complete story here

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, don’t let anyone tell you not to report it.  The National Sexual Assault Hotline has people on duty right now who can help you through the process, just call 1.800.656.HOPE.

If you are ready to share your story and help us in #fightingback against abuse towards women, email  

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