Students learn that no means no well before they enter college. Apparently, that lesson is an elective course that some people missed. That could explain why legal counsel for Berea College blames a sexual assault victim for her injuries.
It all began in March 2010, when a Berea College student came forward claiming that she had been sexually assaulted by a (then) professor. The professor was later arrested under the charge of sex abuse which is a Class D felony. In January, Demetrius Semien pleaded guilty to lesser charge of fourth degree assault against the student.
A lawsuit filed by the student against the college is asking for $4,000 in damages. This includes past and future medical bills, mental and physical pain and suffering, punitive damages and also costs surround the litigation and a trial by jury.
The response was decisive. Legal counsel for Berea College blames the sexual assault victim for her injuries and is asking that the suit be dropped. Not only that but legal counsel for Berea College is also asking for "..any and all other relief to which it may be properly entitled".
First legal counsel for Berea College blames the sexual assault victim then it adds salt to the wounds. Not cool.
Sexual assault victims are not responsible being hurt. In today's world, there is no room to say that injuries "were caused and brought about by her own negligence and/or intentional act". This point of view is both harmful and antiquated.
My family has had nothing but overwhelmingly positive contact with the school. As the parent of an alumnus I am deeply saddened by the direction of counsel. As an advocate I am deeply angered.
The Sexual Assault Reporting Guidelines and Information in the Student Handbook tell a different story. It defines a representative as any college representative is any faculty or staff member. Yet, legal counsel for the school says that the former professor did not represent the school. It's difficult to have it both ways.
Advocates work to educate the public about the realities of sexual assault. For years we have taught that no means no. It doesn't mean "maybe" and it doesn't mean "yes" and it doesn't
mean that victims are responsible. Abusers create victims. Victims don't create abusers. It really is that simple.
There is a strong backlash as Berea College blames a sexual assault victim for her injuries. A petition on Change.Org is gaining momentum. Alumni do not support Berea Colleges Statements that place blame on Sexual Assault Victim. Bloggers are writing about it and people are talking about the situation on Twitter.
In this day of funding shortfalls the school would do well to stop the blaming. Every school needs a donor support base to help offset budget shortfalls. The majority of the support usually comes from alumni, their families and the public at large.
Right now, as legal counsel for Berea College blames a sexual assault victim, it is apparent that the alumni are paying attention. Whether they will help the college pay its bills in the future remains to be seen.
Gayle Crabtree is Founder and Executive Director of Hope For Healing.Org