A group of Dartmouth students protesting sexual violence is alleging that the college is coming down harder on them than it has on the perpetrators of the crimes. According to ThinkProgress, the students staged a public protest last month during a welcome show for prospective students to bring attention to the administration’s failure to address “sexual assault, racism, and homophobia on campus.” Now many of the protesters may be facing disciplinary action.
After the protest, participants reportedly received rape and death threats from other students in an anonymous online forum. Comments ranged from students who suggested Dartmouth stop admitting LGBT and “unappreciative minorities,” to saying “it’s women like these who deserve to be raped.”
In response, the college sent a campus-wide e-mail threatening to punish not only the students who made the threats, but the protesters as well. The e-mail, which calls the protest a public “disruption,” threatened disciplinary action against both the sexual violence protesters and those who made the online “threats of bodily harm and discriminatory comments targeting the protesters.”
Unfortunately, as the e-mail insightfully points out, “Dartmouth is not unique in the challenges it faces concerning campus climate and student life.” Victim blaming and hostile environments for students who speak out against sexual assault are, unfortunately, not uncommon on college campuses. Earlier this year, University of North Carolina (UNC) student Landen Gambill was sent to her school’s honor council for speaking out against her rapist.
Gambill was accused of “intimidating behavior” towards her rapist, an abusive ex-boyfriend, whom she had never even identified publicly. During her honor council hearing, Gambill said she was asked why she didn’t break up with her physically and verbally abusive boyfriend the first time “it happened.” Gambill stated that when she made her report to the administration, they were “offensive,” inappropriate,” and “victim-blaming.”
Dartmouth has faced accusations of allowing a “culture of sexual assault” before. Last year, an article released by Rolling Stone included an expose on Dartmouth fraternities by a Dartmouth student and frat brother, Andrew Lohse. In the article, Lohse spoke of the “pervasive hazing, substance abuse, and sexual assault culture that dominates campus social life.”
“Sexual assault is rampant at Dartmouth,” he said. “Some female students say they circulate the names of men considered ‘dangerous,’ and fraternity houses viewed as ‘unsafe.’”
The Dartmouth students protesting sexual assault told ThinkProgress that they aren’t too concerned with the fact that they may be punished. “If we broke a rule, we should be punished – but we ask the administration to also punish serial rapists,” one student said. And some felt that the fact the protests brought such hateful comments and opinions to the surface, was an indicator of success for the protesters, by shedding light on the school’s issues with discrimination.
Victim-blaming and silencing only serve to perpetuate environments of violence, prejudice, and sexual assault. While it is unfortunate to know that such issues are prevalent among college campuses, at least there are some students who refuse to accept their school’s policies on serious crimes like sexual assault and discrimination.
Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.