Ithaca College: Marijuana gets you fired. Rape, not so much.

To all of the assholes last week whose comments both deleted and published demanded proof — proof, I say! — that we live in a rape culture and that men who are undoubtedly guilty of sexual assault very regularly get away with their crimes: here you go, assholes.

The guy who admitted to attempted sexual assault but was acquitted and got to keep his job as County Commissioner has nothing on the guy who raped a woman in her dorm room, was found guilty by the school of committing the rape, is on record as saying “I know what I did was wrong” and still got to keep his job as an Resident Assistant. Emphasis mine (and a trigger warning):

“I remember him kissing me, and I remember putting my hand out and saying, ‘no,’” Erika said. “We get back to my room, and he [said] he [was] going to tuck me into bed. … That’s when the assault happened.”

Erika said she didn’t remember much else about what happened that night, but she was suspicious because her friend was still in bed with her when she woke up. She said she got a rape test that morning, but the results came back inconclusive. Later that night her friend told her through an instant message that he had forced her to have oral sex with him, she said.

Erika said she had not spoken publicly about her attack until she attended a meeting last week in response to the Feb. 3 rape in Emerson Hall.

Erika said her alleged assailant was a resident assistant in East Tower. The incident took place in Terrace 10. She said she reported the attack to Public Safety immediately, and after they completed their investigation, the case was turned over to the Office of Judicial Affairs.

Erika said Mike Leary, assistant director of judicial affairs, told her they found her assailant guilty and placed him on disciplinary probation, but they could not remove him from his position as an RA.

When reached by e-mail, the alleged attacker confirmed that he was accused of sexually assaulting Erika and that he was not terminated from his position as an RA after the incident occurred.

“I know what I did was wrong,” he said in the e-mail. “I’ve learned a great deal from the whole situation.”

Leary confirmed he spoke with Erika regarding her assailant’s judicial case but could not comment further because of privacy reasons.

Erika said she was devastated when she found out her alleged assailant was keeping his job.

When asked why the alleged attacker was allowed to remain as an RA, Bonnie Solt Prunty, director of the Office of Residential Life, said she could not comment on personnel issues.

Prunty said the circumstances under which an RA could be removed vary.

“It is a case by case review … depending on what the violation was and a determination of what the appropriate outcome is for the staff member,” she said.

Prunty said sometimes there is a one-strike removal policy because the violation is so significant.

“For instance, if we had an RA who was dealing drugs, they’d be terminated,” Prunty said. “If they were possessing drugs, smoking pot in the residence halls, those would be the kinds of things that would result in termination.”

Please, do let that sink in. Because it took me a minute to actually understand what is being said here. When I found the story through SAFER and saw the headline “Because smoking pot is worse than raping someone,” I thought that the two had to be slightly less related. Like, perhaps, that someone else had lost their job for possessing pot a few years ago, but now the rapist gets to keep his. That would have been more than bad enough. The fact that he got to keep his job at all is bad enough. But the Office of Residential Life actually admitted that someone who was dealing or possessing drugs would without a doubt be terminated, and that “significant” violations adhere to a a “one-strike removal policy.” And you know what isn’t on that list? Rape.

But the rape apologists need some proof that sexual assault isn’t considered to be a crime deserving of serious consequences, that our society both condones rape and sees it as a fucking joke. And hey, where the hell are we going to find that?

As those of you who are regular readers could have probably already guessed, it gets worse. It always gets worse. From yesterday’s editorial in the campus newspaper (again, emphasis mine):

The rape reported Feb. 3 reminds us that sexual assault is a sobering reality.

IC Feminists and SAFER responded to the attack with an open meeting to discuss sexual assault. At the gathering — because of the gathering — two more rape victims came forward to share their accounts of rape, which they said happened on campus during the 2006-07 school year. Both victims said they knew their assailants, one of whom was a Resident Assistant at the time of the attack. Both victims also reported the rapes to the Office of Public Safety, but Public Safety did not alert the rest of the community.

The way these rapes were dealt with in the hands of Residential Life and Public Safety officials is counterintuitive. Leaving rapes unreported should never happen; an RA should never be allowed to keep his or her job after being found guilty of a crime such as rape.

The Office of Public Safety said it did not issue a Public Safety Alert for the rape reported in October 2006, nor for the rape reported last Friday, because both victims knew their assailants. By this logic, alerts are issued when Public Safety is still seeking an attacker, but not if the attackers remain on campus.

[. . .]

It seems that by making these decisions, both offices decided that it was not important to inform the campus, much less the RA’s residents, that a student with access to many residence halls was under investigation for rape.

These fuckers are giving the immoral assholes at UW a run for their money.

The school feels absolutely no responsibility to inform the students of an alleged or known rapist in their midst, if the victim knew her rapist.

You know what’s exceedingly convenient? That every rapist at Ithaca College only knows one woman. And he’s already raped her! No reason to get people into a panic, right?

I really hate to bring this up, especially seeing the horrible campus shooting that took place in Illinois yesterday, but does this kind of policy scream “Virginia Tech” to anyone else? Remember, the first shooting victim who was killed in her dorm room, but no one felt the need to alert the student body due to assumptions that it was some kind of “personal dispute”? You know, because men murder women all the time, and it is indeed true that most of the time, that man intimately knows his victim. Nothing to worry about. The assumption was apparently that the shooter, too, only knew one woman. And he had already killed her. No reason to get people into a panic, right?

But back to the news at hand, which is currently making me feel physically ill. The good news is that the campus feminist group is on the case, and demanding to be taken seriously:

Junior Sarah Brylinsky, a board member of IC Feminists, said she wants to change the policy that allowed Erika’s alleged attacker to keep his job.

“Is there really a system in place that thwarts [punishment]?” Brylinsky said. “I think we’d all like to update our response into a proactive policy.”

Brylinsky said the IC Feminists would like to have a collaborative effort with the student body, faculty and the offices of Residential Life and Judicial Affairs to reform the campus’s response to rape and create a culture of respect towards women.

Brylinksky and some members of IC Feminists will be meeting today with officials in the Office of Judicial Affairs to start discussing changes to the process.

“The creation of this culture won’t happen through a poster campaign, a rally or educational events,” Brylinsky said. “It will happen when each and every individual finds the strength to speak out against … rape culture in their lives.”

While I actually think that a massive demonstration outside the Office of Judicial Affairs is in order, if for nothing other than a place to vent, be publicly recognized and to alert those who don’t read the paper of how their school treats its female students, Brylinsky does have something of a point. And if they’ve already managed to get a meeting and have sincere reason to believe that their voices are going to be heard and listened to, I hope that they’re right. Personally, I’m not holding my breath. But I do have hope.

And no matter what happens, we can feel better knowing this situation to be so common that SAFER already sells an applicable protest tee-shirt. You might want to stock up.

0 thoughts on “Ithaca College: Marijuana gets you fired. Rape, not so much.

  1. Heather

    RAs are supposed to be people you can trust. It’s *disgusting* that he’s keeping his job. He’s still in charge of other students? I would want off that floor.

  2. Cara Post author

    Well I go the impression from the article that he’s no longer there. This happened a year or two ago, but the woman is only speaking out about it now. But yes, that would have been the situation at the time.

  3. Roy

    Holy christ on a cracker! That’s insanity!

    And, seriously, not alerting the campus to the threat of a rapist? That’s a big deal. Also, you know, a Cleary Act violation, I believe. I’m no lawyer, but if I were those students, I’d damn sure be talking to one.

  4. brandann

    I was wondering how the school’s adorable policy fit w/ the Cleary Act. Does the Cleary Act say “only if the assailant is unknown”?

    It makes me want to lock my Kid in a bubble rather than send her away to college someday…

  5. Cara Post author

    Here’s one answer: according to this Clery Act FAQ, schools only have to “issue timely warnings about crimes that pose an ongoing danger.”

    It seems that IC decided that since the victim knew her assailant, this somehow means that the rapist didn’t pose an “ongoing danger.” Because, like I said, I’m sure that the guy only knew one woman and never came in contact with any others, especially not on the co-ed campus, and especially not as a Resident Assistant at a dorm.


  6. Ran

    When I found the story through SAFER and saw the headline “Because smoking pot is worse than raping someone,” I thought that the two had to be slightly less related. Like, perhaps, that someone else had lost their job for possessing pot a few years ago, but now the rapist gets to keep his.

    That was my thought on reading your headline, too. This whose thing is so fucked up. When I started reading your blog, I thought you were pushing it with all your claims about “rape culture,” but it’s really just true: apparently our culture really just is O.K. with rape, as long as the word “rape” itself isn’t used. (And when the word “rape” is used, the objection is to the use of the word, not to whatever act prompted it.) I don’t get it. In so many ways we’ve improved so much over time, but we’ve obviously gone downhill since de Toqueville complimented the U.S. on punishing rape with the death penalty. (Not that I support the death penalty for this or any other crime, but at least people took it seriously. What happened?)

  7. Holly

    Ummm…It has been statistically proven that 80something% of people who are sexually assaulted not only know, but feel close to and trust their abuser. What the hell is this college thinking? Are they living in Republican Propaganda Land? “Well we know that you “claim” this person raped you but hey, you knew the person so you had it coming!” I also read a few times that while being busted for possession will undoubtedly land you in jail, if you are convicted of rape or any sexual assault you’re more likely to get parole and community service over jail time. When you look at cases like these (which sadly, are the majority of these cases) it’s really no wonder that sex crimes are the most under reported crime today and when victims do report their abuse they are just revictimized for “letting it happen.”

  8. Jen

    what i think is most frightening (and most telling) about this story is the location of it.

    Ithaca isn’t some tiny little rural town in the middle of some state in the deep south where, sadly enough, it might not be surprising to hear this kind of story.
    Ithaca is known for being a little bubble of progressives in the otherwise pretty conservative region of central NY.
    the college is pretty insular, but not so insular that it’s got a much different reputation than the town.

    i can’t say i’m surprised, of course. but i think it says a lot that this perfect example of the rape culture happened in this place that’s supposed to be such a bubble of progressive safety.

  9. Cara Post author

    Agreed, Jen. I live about 2 hours away from Ithaca, and though I’ve only been there a couple of times, I like it a lot. It’s definitely my kind of town.

    As you said, this kind of thing can happen anywhere. But that it happened in a very liberal place like Ithaca does indeed help to drive that message home. On the other hand, maybe it should almost be expected because Ithaca is such a big college town. The sad thing is that we even have to have a conversation about where we can and can’t “expect” this kind of horrible thing.

  10. roses

    In so many ways we’ve improved so much over time, but we’ve obviously gone downhill since de Toqueville complimented the U.S. on punishing rape with the death penalty … at least people took it seriously.

    Rape was a different crime then, though. Rape was… well, let’s let Senator Douglas Henry explain it for us: “Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse.” Rape of a chaste woman was taken seriously because raping somebody’s chaste daughter or wife was considered damaging somebody else’s property. If she wasn’t chaste, however, she was already “damaged goods”, so it wouldn’t matter if she was raped. And of course, a husband who raped his wife was just treating his property as he saw fit. The fact that the woman was harmed by rape was not why it was illegal. So I think we have come forward, not backward from then, even if there’s still a long way to go.

  11. Sara

    Sadly none of this surprises me, nor does it surprise me that a female director came to the RA’s defense. I don’t know if it’s disassociation or trying to fit into the “Boy’s Club” that causes women in positions of power to be so reluctant to penalize sex offenders. When I was assaulted in a hospital it was a female psychologist who lobbied the most enthusiastically to keep the perpetrator on the ward, despite the fact that he was an admitted sexual predator and had numerous complaints against him from the other female patients. (Another female staff member actually gave me the “You carry yourself like a victim” speech!) I felt betrayed enough when the administration refused to take any action when I assumed it was a panel of “Old White Men” weighing in on the decision. To later discover that a woman left so many other women tied like lambs to a stake just blew my mind.

  12. maatnofret

    I smell a lawsuit. Allowing someone to be an RA when he has a known history of assault is negligent at best.

    Provided, of course, that damages can be proven and the statute of limitations hasn’t run.

  13. Cara Post author

    I’m not sure what you mean, Christopher. The article says that this particular rape happened in 2006, and everything I’ve read has suggested that the rapist has graduated. But of course if it happened this year, I’d be just as appalled and would be calling for the RA to be fired and expelled.

  14. Katie

    I am a student at Ithaca College. Basically, it all started with a public safety alert sent out to every student that a rape had been committed on campus by a stranger (this rape was not mentioned in this blog). After that the entire campus was up in arms (“how could something so horrible happen HERE?!”) and there was a community meeting on “what to do about campus safety now that rapists are on campus!” And it was at this meeting that several women “came out” as being rape survivors, and that their rapes were committed on campus, one being the women mentioned in the blog. She had told public safety when it happened, in 2006, but told hundreds of her peers publicly at this meeting. At the time, the RA assailant had already been accused, and was happily continuing to enjoy his position as an RA.

    Earlier that school year, in September 2007, I was raped. I reported it to Public Safety, but because it happened at an off campus event and I did not know the attacker, they did nothing, and certainly did not report the incident to the college community as they did on the February rape that started all this mess talked about on the blog. I never came forward to the campus community, was not then and still am not now ready for that. However, I did help SAFER and IC Feminists with their efforts in changing the policies. This was a little over a year ago. Funny how people seem to forget, everyone was so up in arms about this last school year, but no one talks about it anymore. Another rape was reported this year, but even our newspaper failed to follow up on it…


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