Letter: Personal Accounts of Sexual Assault

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual Assault Survivors and Allies [survivors] welcome contact from survivors of all genders whose sexual assaults occurred in Grinnell or elsewhere. We want to hear your stories, include you in our activism, and give you any support we can.

My boyfriend graduated the year before, but I still hung out with our group of friends. One night I was pre-gaming on my floor with them and must have blacked out. When I woke up it was morning and I was lying naked in my bed covered in bruises and scratches. There was a pair of boxers on the floor. The next day I heard rumors that I had cheated on my boyfriend with one of my friends. I guess that’s what he told people.

I couldn’t remember anything but I could tell something was wrong. Six days later a doctor had to medically remove the tampon that had been forced deep inside my body. I couldn’t tell my boyfriend.

I went out the following weekend and tried to drink away the pain. I drank until I blacked out. In the morning a friend told me he saw a guy I didn’t know carrying me (barely conscious) and that he thought the guy had slept with me. The next night the same guy returned to my room and started banging on my door shouting, “You know you liked it you slut, you know you want some more!”

I was humiliated and ashamed. No one told me there were resources I could seek out. I didn’t know that I could file charges against these men and have them gone from my life within weeks.
The next weekend I drank until I blacked out again, but this time I came out of it naked and in an unfamiliar room. There was a guy I knew but had never even flirted with on top of me using my body to get himself off. I was terrified and felt sick. I went home afterwards, sat in the shower, and cried. I have never felt so out of control and degraded.

It’s been nineteen months and I still have nightmares and panic attacks when I see them around campus. People have written slurs on my whiteboard, called me a liar, a slut, and a whore. I have been told to forget it happened and stop making such a big deal out of it. I have only recently, with the help of some amazing friends, begun to attend campus events again. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully recover.


I met him earlier this year and immediately fell for him. He was charming, funny, attractive, and seemed genuinely interested in me. We had an on-again-off-again thing for the next couple months. I was a virgin before I met him. I let him have sex with me because I wanted him to like me, but it really hurt and I was scared. I didn’t want to do it again, but I still liked kissing him.

On a cold night a few months after the first time, I went to his room hoping to make out with him and fall asleep cuddling. I got there and he tried to take my clothes off as soon as I walked in the door. I told him very clearly that I did not want to have sex.

His response? He spent about forty minutes using verbal and physical pressure to coerce me into having sex with him. I tried every strategy I knew to get him to back off, but he was persistent. Finally he gave me an ultimatum: if I didn’t have sex with him right then and there, we were done.

He acted as though it was my choice, but it wasn’t. He had all the power. By this point he had taken off most of my clothes and his hands were all over me. It did not matter what I said, or what I wanted. I caved under the pressure and said, “whatever,” thinking that he would act like a decent human being and leave me alone.

He didn’t. He had sex with me for twenty minutes as I lay there shaking and whimpering from the pain, completely terrified. He sped up as he got closer to coming, and tears rolled down my cheeks. He treated me like an animal. When he was finally done with me, he pulled out and left the room to throw out the condom. I put my clothes back on as quickly as I could. He was cheerful and told me I could stay the night. I said no and left.

I have suffered severe emotional trauma for the past two months as a result of this coercive and unwanted sex. After connecting with other survivors, I gathered the courage to speak out about my experience. I look forward to reclaiming some of the agency he took from me that night.


I met him at a High Street house after a Harris party. I had noticed him around all year, but we hadn’t really talked and only danced once before. He asked me to dance, and I agreed. He asked if I wanted to leave. “Sure,” I said with a smile.

When we got to his room I told him I didn’t want to have sex, but he started to push the issue pretty immediately. “Are you sure you don’t want to have sex?” He asked at least three times, and each time I told him no firmly. I started to get irritated and pulled away. “I’ve hooked up with other guys, and they’ve tried to convince me to have sex too. You’re not any more convincing than they were. I’m not going to change my mind.”

Bitchy, sure, but this guy was really starting to piss me off. There’s nothing sexy about rolling around naked with someone and having them pester you to do things you’re not comfortable with. I’m comfortable with my body, and I don’t put much stock in the idea of virginity. But I knew that intercourse would be particularly emotionally and physically intense the first time, and I wanted to share that with someone that I loved and trusted.

He kept pushing the issue and at one point I got up to leave. I was fed up from being pestered and frustrated that we couldn’t just destress and enjoy a light-hearted, mutually satisfying hook up. I don’t remember what he said, but he indicated that he would back off so I agreed to stay.

It seemed like I had finally gotten my message across. But the moment I let my guard down he penetrated me without a condom and without my consent.

I twisted away and maybe pushed him. “Relax,” he told me. It was hard to relax after he did something like that. I was upset and confused and I didn’t know what to do. I’m embarrassed to admit I stayed for 20 more minutes. I wanted to pretend it was just a normal hook up and nothing had happened.

At first I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to report him. I paid $20 for the morning after pill, made an appointment to get tested for STDs, and cried some.

I talked to a few friends and a counselor, and I started to get angry. I talked to Russ Motta at Security and Travis Greene and decided to take him to the College Hearing Board. He was found responsible and expelled.


I noticed him the first day of class. He was everything I liked: charming, funny, and confident. We only made out once, but for the next five months we kept exchanging provocative and sexual text messages.

He desperately wanted to keep it a secret while he tried to repair his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. He used coercion, feigned sweetness, and, eventually, threats to keep me quiet. He sent me the same threat at least five times: “If you ever tell anyone…”

After months of this, we were both ready for it to end. I agreed he could come by my room so we could finally be done and gain closure. All I wanted was twenty minutes – just enough time to tell him I was finally over him.

I did not plan to bring up the texts, but he did. I realized he wanted to do some of the risqué things we had been discussing the past few months. At some point we started talking about his ex-girlfriend, and he became very angry. I cried, and he walked out.

Perhaps the thing I regret most is telling him to come back. He did, snapping at me, asking if I wanted it. I said yes. He took his shirt off and asked if we were going to do this or not. I consented. I took my shirt off, thinking that once we started he wouldn’t be so angry.

Instead, it got worse. He ordered me to take off my bra, get on my knees, turn around, etc. I had never had an encounter like this before, and it made me incredibly uncomfortable.

In the middle of a blow job, he demanded that I spit. I shook my head and mumbled “no.” He violently pulled me to my feet by my arm and breast and proceeded to be rough with me until he came.

Finally, he left. After the door slammed shut, I got a text: “If you ever tell anyone, God help you.”

This experience was deeply traumatizing. I can rarely sleep, or even be in my room. I don’t eat regularly. I cry everywhere and all the time. I have panic attacks when I see him around campus. My grades are slipping fast.

I will never be the same woman that I was. But, I hope I can find my voice again by speaking out.


I had been seeing him for a while, and I trusted him enough to tell him about my history of sexual abuse as a child. He was the first guy I’ve ever been romantically involved with.
One night I got really drunk with friends. I had nine shots in two hours. He had decided to stay in and do homework, and later that evening I went over to his room. I was too drunk to give consent and the last thing I remember clearly from that night was bragging to him about how many drinks I had earlier.

When I woke up in the morning he was freaked out and kept apologizing. He told me he raped me, had been too lazy to use a condom, and came inside of me. He regretted it immediately afterwards. He said sex without a condom was something he had always wanted to try.

He handed me a hundred dollar bill and told me that I needed to go to the pharmacy and get Plan B.

I didn’t initially label the experience rape because I didn’t want to associate my current situation with my history of sexual abuse. For the next couple of weeks I ignored the emotional abuse, the manipulation, and the threats that he would hurt himself if I left him.

I tried so hard to pretend that everything was okay, but finally I broke down. I had to withdraw from a class we were in together, move to a new room on the other side of campus, obtain a No-Contact Order, and change the way I normally went about my day to make sure I didn’t see his face.

But this wasn’t enough. I needed to feel safe on campus again. I still feel unreasonably guilty for taking him to the College Hearing Board. He was suspended until I graduate.

—Sexual Assault Survivors & Allies
survivors@grinnell.edu


'Letter: Personal Accounts of Sexual Assault' have 27 comments

  1. May 4, 2012 @ 2:41 pm current student

    Thank you for sharing your stories. I was struck most by how each piece could have been written by any woman on our campus. I had a really traumatizing experience as a first-year and I am still dealing with the emotional scars that have been left behind. The worst part about all of this is that I know so many women on this campus who have experienced sexual assault, all the experiences different in their own way but ultimately leaving each woman feeling powerless and continually victimized on this campus. I am graduating this year, but I am really glad that people are finally starting to talk about sexual assault on this campus. We need to hold people accountable for the disgusting and terrible acts they commit. I am sick of being silent. I am angry and I want justice.

  2. May 7, 2012 @ 11:51 pm K

    Thank you thank you thank you, incredible people who were willing to speak out about such personal and traumatic experiences. So much love to all of you. <3

  3. May 9, 2012 @ 12:36 am Grinnellian

    Sexual Regret does not equal Sexual Assault

  4. May 10, 2012 @ 1:07 am [survivors]

    Dear Grinnellian,

    I agree, sexual regret does not equal sexual assault. But that’s not what happened in any of these cases. Which story or passage were you referring to with your comment?

    The woman who was sexually assaulted three times when she was black out drunk? The woman who said she didn’t want to have sex but caved after 40 minutes of verbal coercion? The woman who made it very clear what she was not consenting to only to have that line crossed? The woman who had bruising all over her upper body after the man she was with got angry? The woman who was raped by the man she was seeing when she had taken 9 shots in 2 hours and was in and out of consciousness?

    I am one of these women, and I know the other four very well. We did not have sex we regretted, we were assaulted.

    [survivors]

  5. May 10, 2012 @ 9:25 pm Grinnell Female Student

    Hi [survivors]. I know one of these women, too, and I know the man she claims raped her. I know this woman has claimed to have been raped earlier this year by at least one other person but did not report the incident(s). I know this man on intimate terms also and he has been careful, cautious, gentle, and sweet. I listened to his story and watched his generally stoic face become tearful. He did not rape her. I know that he has been traumatized by the false accusation made by this female student. It has damaged his confidence, his friendships, his ability to succeed academically, and will potentially damage him legally and professionally. This report of rape will be on his record for seven years. Even if the charge is removed, she has done irreparable damage not only to this man but to his family, to his friends, and to me. Before being able to talk to him about the incident, I was desperately stressed, unable to sleep or pay attention, worrying, worrying about the young man I was with, wondering if I had somehow misjudged him. Now after hearing his story I am hoping desperately that his punishment will not be severe. This is a young man who has literally risen out of poverty and violence and the stress of a separated family. For a falsified account to bring him down is injustice on the most incredible level. On top of this, the false charge this young woman has brought delegitimizes all those made by genuinely assaulted woman. In the case of assault, medical professionals and police should be brought in. I know that this particular case would not hold up under such investigation. The school is not a legal body. There is nothing feminist or empowering about the way these “investigations” have been conducted. The near unanimous conviction of these men only indicates a general belief that women are too physically weak and unthinking to have any control of a situation. If we are to end sexual assaults on campus, we must have a genuine discussion which actually empowers women and does not disempower men. There is little open discussion of sexual needs and wants and confusion during sexual encounters. All that we are currently performing is the equivalent of a witch hunt, allowing the school to show that it has caught the bad guys. They have searched for a few men to publicly hang believing this will scare everyone else into proper sexual conduct. The problem lies in individuals, male and female, and a culture that neither respects consent nor respects sexual desire.

  6. May 11, 2012 @ 1:49 am [survivors]

    Grinnell Female Student,

    I’m sorry for your pain and I’m sorry for the pain your friend is experiencing. Everyone who I told about my sexual assault believed me, and I assume everyone who my attacker told believed his side of the story. I imagine it is the same situation for your friend.

    We are at an impasse. There is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that all of the stories told in our article are true, and I believe that you are honest in your understanding of the situation as well.

    I believe the College Hearing Board Process is fair and gives each side a chance to argue their case. But I understand that that does not mean much coming from another survivor. I encourage you to approach Travis Greene with your concerns and get clarity on the process.

    I also encourage you to look up the college’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/studentaffairs/shb/campuslife/sexualmisconductpolicy

    A sexual act is considered nonconsensual if it is without Effective Consent: “Effective Consent is informed, freely and actively given, mutually-understandable words or actions, which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually-agreed upon sexual activity. Consent is not effective if it results from the use of physical force, threats, intimidation, or coercion.”

    If you get a yes after significant verbal or emotional pressure that is considered coercive according to my understanding. If you get a no but keep asking and pestering and arguing until you get a yes that is coercion.

    [survivors] ’12

  7. May 11, 2012 @ 9:52 am Grinnell female

    Sexual regret does not equal sexual assault. This is true, but the stories above are not just sexual regret. They are women who did not want to have sex and were forced to do so anyway. That is sexual assault.
    That is not to say that sexual regret doesn’t exist on this campus, nor that its not a problem. We do need to have the conversation about respecting people that you have sex with, after the fact. It is deeply painful to have to walk around and see somebody who you had sex with and for them not to acknowledge your existence.
    Women are humans, so are men.

    That’s another thing. Can we please acknowledge that men are also sexually assaulted? By men AND women? It’s obviously not the majority, but treated them like they don’t exist is not conducive to a complete conversation.

  8. May 11, 2012 @ 10:30 am Grinnellian

    Dear Grinnell Female Student,

    I encourage you to stop spreading rumors about a situation you did not witness, and about a woman whom you do not know. You are perfectly within your rights to disagree with the ruling of a conduct case, but it is inappropriate and disrespectful for you to use this forum to make these claims. Think what you want, but know that your opinion is not relevant to this case because you were not present on the night of the incident. I encourage you to show respect for both parties involved in the case and stay out of it.

    For a respectful Grinnell,

    Another Grinnellian

  9. May 11, 2012 @ 11:18 pm Grinnell Female Student

    To [survivors]: Thank you for your thoughtful and informed comment. I have read through your link and plan to read more broadly on the topic. Thanks for the information.

    To Grinnell female: Woman and men are human beings. Important to keep in mind. Thanks.

    To Grinnellian: Spreading rumors would constitute using names and gossiping with people. This is the last thing I want to do. I know both these individuals and I actually very much like them both. I have nothing against this young woman; I am frustrated by her particular way of presenting this situation and by the broader culture of misrepresentation. I have no interest in hurting her or making things up about her.
    I have been extremely limited in whom I have discussed this issue with – one friend, Travis Greene, and my family and I have never used the female’s name. I think this forum is one of the most appropriate places I can bring this up.
    My opinion is very relevant. I have been very hurt and stressed by the claims brought against this student. This issue has become very personal to me. It is naïve to assume that only the two people involved in the incident would be affected by this charge.
    I am not involving myself in the case. I am not part of the review board or the police and I am not trying to be. I left my message to raise awareness about a few things: that there are two sides to a story, that a charge of rape does not just affect the person charged, that the charge effects numerous people from an emotional to a professional level, that outside of colleges sexual assaults are investigated by legal and medical professionals, that these charges do not empower women, and that the convictions do not solve the problem of assaults and misunderstanding that our campus seems to be suffering from.
    I wrote my original message for the same purpose you did – to have a respectful Grinnell, a respectful society. I wrote to encourage people to be thoughtful, to consider every side and aspect, to consider the ripple effects. I find your dismissal of my thoughts to be highly disrespectful. I would appreciate talking to you more and am happy to do so in person or in an anonymous forum. Thank you for encouraging me to think more about this issue.

  10. May 12, 2012 @ 1:42 am An Angry Man

    I am unspeakably appalled by such behavior that is apparently this prevalent on campus. Firstly, thank you for sharing your stories like this. I respect your courage. I also want to give a personal thank you to the groups on campus that are empowering our students to speak up in such situations and bring justice to their attackers. The status quot is unacceptable, but I am hopeful the recent surge in hearings will ensure people see how important of an issue consent is and to make sure they have it. I have heard complaints that Grinnell’s hook-up culture is conducive to situations of ambiguous consent, so people should be excused for certain behaviors. However, it is simply too easy to get effective consent as [survivors] described for that to be a real issue. Furthermore, everyone here is an adult of capable intelligence. If there were torrential rain with hailstones the size of pineapples outside, I would expect no one would decide to then go outside in their nicest suit/dress/crocs for a stroll. That’s ridiculous. And so is not getting consent when hooking up, but to a much more serious degree, of course. To all of you fools out there, GET FUCKING CONSENT.

    Or I will hunt you,

    An Angry Man

  11. May 12, 2012 @ 1:05 pm [survivors]

    Grinnell female,

    Yes, men are sexually assaulted too, and as we mention at the top “Sexual Assault Survivors and Allies [survivors] welcome contact from survivors of all genders whose sexual assaults occurred in Grinnell or elsewhere. We want to hear your stories, include you in our activism, and give you any support we can.”

    As I wrote at the bottom of the “This is Not Sex Positive” article, we know that people of any gender can be sexually assaulted. Are articles focused on women who were assaulted by men because that is the vast majority of the cases, and when we wrote the article no male survivors who had been assaulted at Grinnell had contacted us.

    We now have a male who has joined are group and we would be happy to welcome any others who want to contact us.

    [survivors] ’12

  12. May 14, 2012 @ 11:07 am [shirgirp]

    Grinnell Female Student,

    You are dealing with a lot. It is difficult to care about someone who has caused harm to someone else you know and like. Some of the comments on recent S&B articles suggest that only dangerous, monstrous people are committing assault at Grinnell, that the police should be involved because they should be locked up. Perpetrators are more often actually people we know and like. They are our classmates, friends, partners–people we have respected and trusted in our lives. In that sense this is a complicated situation. I hope that you find ways to support yourself and take care of yourself. Everyone needs to do that when dealing with assault.

    Some things aren’t as complicated, however. At no point in your process should you question survivors or engage in victim blaming. If your friend/partner is struggling to comprehend what he did, you can try to help him deal in his own space. Direct him to resources (Taking The First Step: Suggestions To People Called Out For Abusive Behavior) and help him mitigate the harm. If the survivor doesn’t want contact or to be involved, respect that. Throughout, know that this is NOT about you or the perpetrator, even if you’re dealing with it emotionally and he faces consequences. As much as this shakes you, when a survivor names their assault, they are naming an incredible harm that has been done to THEM, and ultimately being a good ally means acknowledging that THEIR well-being is the utmost priority. Don’t make it about you, don’t make it about him and his personal history. You might feel that the survivor is wrong in her interpretation of events, but SHE feels hurt. There is a lot at stake for her, and she isn’t wrong about that. He might face consequences, but she has to live with that incredible harm. Defer to her account. The way she feels is the way she feels and you or your friend denying that and questioning her experience is not going to end the “witch-hunt.”

    What I’m getting at is this, something I wrote on [plans] in a simultaneous yet unrelated alumni conversation:

    We interpret events differently. But what is important is what we do with those interpretations. If a survivor names the harm, I don’t need details, I don’t need to scrutinize the event, I don’t need the counter-story. I trust survivors. Their reality is their reality and the impacts of their experience on their life is real and I will accept their account. Instead of revisiting the “reality” of the past, let’s deal with the survivor and perpetrator’s current realities, and let’s think about their futures. How are we going to mitigate harm? Once a survivor names harm, it’s no longer about the perpetrator’s interpretation to me. If someone says “This person hurt me,” why do we want to tell them they are wrong? That their personal experience is impossible because their definition of violence or harm is inaccurate? Without getting too heady, I am trying to say there is no “truth.” I am saying even if we could deny their account based on “truth,” it is up to us to imagine a world better than that–a world where we say “We hear you and believe you and we want to make change.”

    So, GFS, it may seem unfair that your friend is facing consequences for his actions. But as you mentioned, this harm goes deep, it touches us all, and we have to change. Ultimately please remember, difficult as it is, that you feel the tremors of this harm but it is not about you. The kind of investigation or justice you think would be most fair is perhaps not what feels fair, just, or safe to the survivor. It’s not up to you to decide what has or has not been empowering or “feminist” to her in this investigation. I also wanted to say I am glad you’re not involving yourself in the case, at least formally. While I think maybe your motivations are misguided, I do agree that we need to be building a better community culture where we can talk openly about our experiences. I hope that you will read some of the zines here, as they’ve helped me think about if/how to speak up, how to talk about consent and assault in our community.

    And to [survivors], huge amounts of support and gratitude to you for doing this hard work. I hear you, and I am so proud of your voices.

    In solidarity,
    [shirgirp] ’09

  13. May 14, 2012 @ 6:44 pm Alum '00

    RE: [shirgirp] & “If a survivor names the harm, I don’t need details, I don’t need to scrutinize the event, I don’t need the counter-story. I trust survivors. Their reality is their reality and the impacts of their experience on their life is real and I will accept their account…There is no ‘truth.'”

    I work in a dual diagnosis rehab. I’ve worked here for 7 years. That comment tells me that you have way more real life experience with literary theory than you do with young women who have histrionic or borderline personality disorder and chemical dependency issues. At our facility we have/have had many patients who have been victims of sexual assault, both female and male. We’ve also had many reports of rape and sexual abuse which, upon the slightest investigative effort to find the TRUTH of what happened, we’ve been able to dismiss right away due to the fact that we have security cameras all over the place and we can directly account for the alleged perpetrator’s whereabouts and activities for the entire night of the alleged incident. Sometimes the people who file these erroneous reports were genuine victims at one time and their nightmarish PTSD manifests itself in this way; sometimes the people are extreme histrionic cases and will fake seizures and even rape to get attention. Our facility has also, quite unfortunately, been the site of some very serious real cases of sexual assault, and I always keep these incidents in the front of my mind whenever a new allegation comes forward. However, because we are what you might call a demographically special environment the false allegations are always firmly in the back of my mind. It might be initially difficult to determine, it might be fuzzy and hard to triangulate, you might have to make some inductive assumptions, but in matters of crime and justice THERE IS A TRUTH. In case you weren’t aware filing false reports with the police is rightly illegal in many states and the legal system does not operate according to 19th century German philosophy or 20th century literary criticism, Thank God, because woe unto the world if it did and some of the women that I work with here were set loose.

  14. May 15, 2012 @ 3:44 pm [shirgirp]

    Alum ’00,

    As you mentioned, your workplace presents a rather unique situation. It’s unfair to disparagingly suggest that I have “more real life experience with literary theory” than with people who have histrionic and borderline personality disorders–your acknowledged specialty. I knew that getting into theory was a risky idea, which is why I said I was trying not to get too “heady.” In any case, we are in a college-centered forum and you obviously understood what I meant. I may not share your exact experience, but I do have experience with survivors and perpetrators–situations where parties consented to certain acts but not others, situations in which parties were drunk and couldn’t consent. These are situations in which the perpetrator might try to claim that the “truth” is that they had consent. These are situations in which the survivor might speak their truth–that harm was done. These are situations in which there are competing truths, and I am saying that I will side with the truth of the survivor. That, to me, is what it means to be an ally, that is showing support.

    I’m shocked that so many reactions focus on the possibility of false accusations. We know very well that most people DO NOT speak out after an assault, and if they do it is not through formal channels, and oftentimes formal channels fail to react anyways. So I’d like to pause and ask us all why we are so committed to the “but what about the liars? what about the innocent rapists?!” mentality. Who are we protecting? Who are we supporting? How do we perpetuate rape culture, a culture of silence, when our first reaction is not “how can I help you, survivor?” but rather “are you lying to me??”

    What I addressed in my first comment was primarily assault on campus and in the Grinnell College community. I’ll admit that I don’t believe the criminal (in)justice system can or will provide justice. Your claim that “in matters of crime and justice THERE IS A TRUTH” can only go so far in situations of date rape or revoked consent. Without security cameras or the kind of monitoring available at your facility, most of us do not have access to documentation of assault. And even when there is documentation–emails that might suggest the survivor “wanted it,” proof that parties were sexually involved, etc.–we weren’t in that room, we did not experience the expression or denial of consent. I know survivors whose accounts have been dismissed as “he said she said” and I know people who have been accused of assault when they thought they had consent during the act. What is most important to me, and I stand by this, is that we support survivors when they speak up. The first step is saying “I believe you.” The first step as the accused or the friend of the accused is shutting up and listening. In fact, the document I linked in my comment above directly addresses these issues. So please don’t dismiss legitimate concerns from within the community as “20th century literary criticism” (as if that’s so disgusting) instead of some kind of magical fact-wielding police system. If confronting assault were truly as easy as just letting the legal system “find the facts” we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

    -[shirgirp] ’09

  15. May 15, 2012 @ 9:51 pm Grad

    Shirgirp: This is a thoughtful conversation to a serious and pervasive problem on virtually all college campuses and you raise many good points. I am though troubled that you seem much more interested in feelings than trying to ascertain what happened. When you say the accused and their friends should shut-up and listen and that you don’t need the counter-story, it leads people to question what is really going on. I think that kind of attitude leads many people to look skeptically at entirely legitimate accusations and does a great disservice to victims/survivors.

  16. May 16, 2012 @ 1:18 am Alum '00

    RE: [Shirgirp]
    Automatically believing an accuser’s side of the story is an intellectually and morally indefensible position which seems to spring far more from your personal political affiliations and ideology than it does from any careful consideration of what would be a just way to proceed. Automatically offering emotional support should be a given, but automatically believing an accuser’s account is insane and also, I might add, decidedly un-American (Remember that whole “Innocent until proven guilty” thing?). Blanket belief such as yours does nobody any favors and while you many think of yourself as an “ally” such attitudes do much to discredit the accounts of genuine victims. Since I work with many people who have spent years and even decades in prison for non-violent drug offenses I have my own issues with the American justice system but I will say this about it- It tries to deal strictly in facts whenever possible, something that you don’t seem to care to do. It doesn’t have a magical fact finding ability, but at its best it does deal strictly with what can be proven and in the truth and reality of the situation unbound by any ideological or emotional considerations (Something that you seem to be incapable of doing.) I sincerely hope that you’re never called to serve on the jury of a sexual assault case.

  17. May 16, 2012 @ 3:39 am Grinnell Guy 06

    (Author asked that this comment not be posted but instead the one approved)-Max Calenberg

    Having graduated from Grinnell College as a gay man in 2006, I naively believed we belonged to a very safe community. First, I want to thank the survivors for sharing their very traumatic ordeals – this is one of many steps in the healing process and you all should be commended for your candor and honesty. I am deeply sorry for what happened to you (personally, it enrages me as I cannot wrap my head around how anyone could take pleasure in the pain of another human being). One of my dear friends was raped during her junior year at Grinnell, and I watched (with great sadness) the horrific aftermath of her ordeal. She was given HPV from her rapist.

    As men (gay or straight), we have a responsibility to stand up collectively and commit ourselves to treating our partners with respect and understand the limitations of what a partner desires. I have a hard time reading your stories and desperately try to intellectualize how a man, a Grinnell man (seemingly articulate, earnest and trustworthy) could knowingly violate the rights of a woman. Sex is meant to be consensual and fun and by violating the rights of women, through coercion and violence, is sadly appalling.

    While it’s not nearly on the same level of emotional trauma, I was brutally taunted and humiliated for being gay during my adolescence and high school. Grinnell provided me a safe space to come out. However, during my freshman year I physically and verbally assaulted a senior woman, despite my orientation. I felt that being labeled a “straight” sexual predator was far better than living my life as a gay man. The inherent emotions involved with sexual identity may lead individuals to act in ways they otherwise would not and I believe Grinnell now has many more groups/forums for folks wanting to understand themselves than when I was a student.

    Ladies above who shared – your courage and reflection is likely just the beginning in your recovery. I have volunteered with a Rape Crisis Center for five years and witnessing the first hand trauma women experience after sexual assault leaves me emotionally devastated. The articulation with which you formed your above stories gives me hope that you all will carry on and meet men who respect you for the loveliness you exhibit as human beings and as women. Sadly, sexual assault is an epidemic in our country, and worldwide.

    I want to encourage the women who so bravely shared to continue sharing and know that there are many men out there who will respect you for your intelligence, beauty and earnestness. While the experiences of your past have irrevocably affected you, sharing your stories with the greater Grinnell Community provide current students and alums with a hope that collectively we can change the way women (and in some cases, men) are treated during their sexual exchanges.

    If there is a silver lining through this, I believe it is this – the women who came forward and shared represent but a sliver of the total group of women who have been denigrated and assaulted. Your collective voices will hopefully give those traumatized by their sexual abuse the agency they need to share their experiences. As a community, I hope Grinnell enhances their coverage of what constitutes sexual abuse, so further generations can live in a safe space where the experience of abuse diminishes, but can also be freely discussed by individuals brave enough to share their stories and help others work their trauma as they venture on beyond Grinnell.

    Women who shared – thank you…I was completely shocked by what I read and will make my Pioneer Fund Donation directly to [survivors], as their incredible work will likely inspire a safe place for future bright minds at a school, which at its core, promotes intellectual and personal development of all its students.

    Thank You.

  18. May 16, 2012 @ 9:50 am [belljohn]

    What [shirgirp] is talking about is no more detached and theoretical in application than is any concept of objective truth. There is no objective measure of pain, not even when there’s a camera in the room. Recognizing someone’s right to claim hurt is the humane thing to do, regardless of what other information you know. I think that justice in this context is not something you bring into a situation from the outside as much as it is what you can do inside of it, by helping survivors, by doing right by the people involved. Because the real people, their context and their desires, are more important than the “objective” narrative you can ascribe to the situation.

    [survivors], you are so brave, and I really think what you are doing will help others. Thank you.

  19. May 16, 2012 @ 12:38 pm Grinnell Alum

    Having graduated from Grinnell College as a gay man, I naively believed we belonged to a very safe community. First, I want to thank the survivors for sharing their very traumatic ordeals – this is one of many steps in the healing process and you all should be commended for your candor and honesty. I am deeply sorry for what happened to you (personally, it enrages me as I cannot wrap my head around how anyone could take pleasure in the pain of another human being). One of my dear friends was raped during her junior year at Grinnell, and I watched (with great sadness) the horrific aftermath of her ordeal. She was given HPV from her rapist.

    As men (gay or straight), we have a responsibility to stand up collectively and commit ourselves to treating our partners with respect and understand the limitations of what a partner desires. I have a hard time reading your stories and desperately try to intellectualize how a man, a Grinnell man (seemingly articulate, earnest and trustworthy) could knowingly violate the rights of a woman. Sex is meant to be consensual and fun and by violating the rights of women, through coercion and violence, is sadly appalling.

    Ladies above who shared – your courage and reflection is likely just the beginning in your recovery. I have volunteered with a Rape Crisis Center for five years and witnessing the first hand trauma women experience after sexual assault leaves me emotionally devastated. The articulation with which you formed your above stories gives me hope that you all will carry on and meet men who respect you for the loveliness you exhibit as human beings and as women. Sadly, sexual assault is an epidemic in our country, and worldwide.

    I want to encourage the women who so bravely shared to continue sharing and know that there are many men out there who will respect you for your intelligence, beauty and earnestness. While the experiences of your past have irrevocably affected you, sharing your stories with the greater Grinnell Community provide current students and alums with a hope that collectively we can change the way women (and in some cases, men) are treated during their sexual exchanges.

    If there is a silver lining through this, I believe it is this – the women who came forward and shared represent but a sliver of the total group of women who have been denigrated and assaulted. Your collective voices will hopefully give those traumatized by their sexual abuse the agency they need to share their experiences. As a community, I hope Grinnell enhances their coverage of what constitutes sexual abuse, so further generations can live in a safe space where the experience of abuse diminishes, but can also be freely discussed by individuals brave enough to share their stories and help others work their trauma as they venture on beyond Grinnell. Women who shared – thank you…I was completely shocked by what I read and will make my Pioneer Fund Donation directly to [survivors], as their incredible work will likely inspire a safe place for future bright minds at a school, which at its core, promotes intellectual and personal development of all its students. Thank You.

  20. May 16, 2012 @ 7:52 pm [survivors]

    Grinnell Alum,

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words.

    [shirgirp] thank you, and I agree that one’s initial reaction should be to believe a survivor rather than to doubt. However, I don’t personally think there is anything wrong with asking questions and getting a sense of exactly what happened. It matters to me as a survivor what the attacker knew and how he or she understood the situation. It is possible for someone to commit sexual assault when they thought they had consent (through miscommunication or more often because of the messed up messages communicated to young men by our rape culture). It is still sexual assault, they have still caused damage, there still must be consequences, but in my opinion and based on conversations with other survivors, the motive, histories, and thought process of our attackers mattered to us. We wanted to understand these things and they influenced the outcomes we suggested to Houston after our hearings.

    I communicated in no uncertain terms to the man who assaulted me that I did not want to have intercourse, but I think he believed (because of the messages communicated by our rape culture) that because I had consented to some acts he could do whatever he wanted to me. I don’t think he knew he was sexually assaulting me, but I experienced it as sexual assault and it fit the definition according to Grinnell’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

    Although as far as I know he has not committed other sexual assaults (although I do not dismiss the possibility), I knew that he was responsible for a lot of other harm to other Grinnellians and a disruption of our community. I wanted him gone because he had already hurt too many people.

    Alum ’00, I’d like to ask you to back off a bit. There is an important distinction between how individuals should react when someone says they were sexually assaulted and how an institution or the justice system should react when someone says they were sexually assaulted.

    I think the individual has the right to consider the survivors statement and ask for details (although they are not entitled to receiving them), and it is within their rights to consider the counter narrative given by the perpetrator. I realize the environment you work in may have a disproportionate number of people who might make false accusations of sexual assault, but that extreme example does not apply to most populations and does not apply to the Grinnell community.

    Something that has come up recently for our group is that people will make statements on Facebook, Plans, or on the S&B website condemning “false rape accusations.” None of the cases that I am aware of being brought forward have been ruled or proved false. Unless in the case of gang rape (which has and does happen at Grinnell) usually there are only two people in the room when the crime occurs and that is the perpetrator and the victim.

    In all the cases I am aware of the perpetrator and victim both agree that they were alone in a room that night and that sexual activity took place (and usually that it was consensual). The difference in the accounts comes when the survivor explains how they withdrew their consent or how their lack of consent for certain acts was communicated and ignored by the person who attacked them. The perpetrator either claims that the particular act being alleged never happened or that it was consensual.

    So these people who talk about “fake rape accusations” are saying “I wasn’t there, but I am choosing to believe my friend who has every reason to lie over the word of the woman who is accusing him who has no reason to lie.” Its not always this black and white, and I understand that the first impulse is to believe one’s friend. I assume everyone I told about my account believed my account and that everyone who my attacker told believed his account. It should not be this way, and I think this impulse contributes to rape culture, but that is usually the reality.

    In none of the cases I am aware of was a rape kit performed. Sometimes there are pictures of bruising, sometimes there are incriminating emails or texts exchanged, sometimes there is a witness who saw the man half carrying a barely conscious woman into her room and not coming back out. When this evidence exists it is presented at the College Hearing Board. Often it is he said/she said, but most people are very bad liars and the perpetrators story unravels.

    The College Hearing Board process is thorough, and I believe it is fair. Each side is given a chance to tell their side of the story, question the other’s version of events, and present any evidence they have. For my case and the two cases I observed as a friend of the survivor I do not believe there was a shadow of doubt in the mind of the board members that they made the right decision.

    [survivors] ’12

  21. May 17, 2012 @ 9:05 pm Grinnellian 2

    This has turned into a campus-wide witch hunt. The feminist group is bringing all of this up for all of the wrong reasons. Seriously, I have been to a meeting with their group. They are targeting individuals solely to have them thrown out of school. GO TO A MEETING AND TELL ME OTHERWISE!

  22. May 18, 2012 @ 3:42 am [survivors]

    Grinnellian 2,

    No you have not been to one of our meetings. I’m not sure what meeting you went to or what conversation you overheard/are making up, but it wasn’t one of ours. Where did this meeting take place? What was said that made you think these individuals you mention are “targeting individuals solely to have them thrown out of school.”

    There is a core group of eight of us who are all sexual assault survivors, and a ninth survivor who attended one meeting. All but one of us was assaulted by fellow Grinnell students. We welcome contact from survivors of all genders who are assaulted at Grinnell or elsewhere.

    Sexual assault is illegal. We have the option either to take our cases through the criminal justice system or through the college hearing board process (which is more efficient and fair to both parties). At a college hearing board both parties are given an opportunity to make their case, present any evidence they have, bring any witnesses who have relevant information, and question the other party.

    If someone is found responsible for sexual assault Houston Dougharty decides what the punishment should be. Suspension until the victim graduates or expulsion depending on the individual’s disciplinary history are the most common outcomes. I suggest you contact Travis Greene or Houston Dougharty with any concerns you have about the process.

    What part of that sounds like a “campus-wide witch hunt” to you?

    Yes, I imagine many members of the [survivors] group identify themselves as feminists, but I’m curious why you say it with such vitriol? I have the impression feminism generally argues for women are men’s equals and should be treated as such. And yes, I’m pretty sure all feminists are against rape…

    I’m curious what you mean by: “bringing all of this up for all of the wrong reasons.” A bunch of us were sexually assaulted on campus by fellow students. As mentioned above: sexual assault is illegal and we have followed the proper procedures to take our attackers through the disciplinary process that Grinnell has set up.

    Or by “bringing all of this up for all of the wrong reasons” do you just mean that we shouldn’t talk about it? A lot of people are being put through hell and the college has no effective policies in place to prevent sexual assault. People are being really badly hurt and traumatized by their fellow students, and far too many Grinnell students think rape just does not happen at Grinnell.

    I encourage you to read about the College Hearing Board process on the Grinnell website here: http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/studentaffairs/shb/conduct/chbandjudco

    I encourage you to read the Grinnell Sexual Misconduct Policy here: http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/studentaffairs/shb/campuslife/sexualmisconductpolicy

    I believe the section on effective consent is most relevant to many of the discussions around this issue: “Effective Consent – Effective Consent is informed, freely and actively given, mutually-understandable words or actions, which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually-agreed upon sexual activity. Consent is not effective if it results from the use of physical force, threats, intimidation, or coercion.”

  23. May 24, 2012 @ 10:53 pm you are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge

    Perhaps if Grinnell would see the writing on the wall and stop admitting douchebags simply because their parents have $200,000 to spend on their college educations, there would be less of these sorts of atrocities and such wtf moments as the infamous jello cup party from a couple years ago. Perhaps instead of throwing money at horseshit like athletic scholarships, the football team, and the campus center no one wanted we should go back to need blind admissions and trying to attract future Grinnellians to Grinnell, instead of these off brand hambones this school has been exclusively marketing itself to as of late. Unfortunately the one thing that hasnt changed since I was a student is Grinnells refusal to eradicate rapists from campus, only when I was around you would hear about 1 a year, and now there are 11.

  24. June 21, 2012 @ 1:56 pm response to the last two comments

    1. to [survivors]- I would have loved for you to take the cases to court. They would have been dropped right away with the lack of any hard evidence. You know this. The only reason you went to the administration is because they fail to actually have a trial where someone is innocent until proven guilty. if you believe otherwise, I ask you to prove me wrong.

    2. The last comment is worthless. Money does not have a thing to do with admissions. In fact, our school promotes those of lower socio-economic classes by having 100% need based financial aid.

    The comment about athletic scholarships- This is division 3 sports. There is no such thing as an athletic scholarship. The Grinnell football team is also the smallest (roster size) in the nation, and I would not be surprised if the budget is as well. Please stop generalizing and targeting all male athletes as animals. You are preaching for a school with no diversity. You want a Grinnell with nothing but hipsters and druggies (generalizing isn’t fair is it?). If you have nothing better to do post-graduation but to get online and talk down a group of college students then you are a sad individual. Please, be a good alum and try to be constructive with your comments next time.

  25. July 26, 2012 @ 3:40 am Parent

    Daughter raped by wealthy New Englanf student: no recourse because student in question has since left Grinnell for having federal charges re trafficking in pot through US postal system and fact administration took punative action against her because she was upset. I.e. she will always feel that Greene and Stern blamed her. This is compounded by the irresponsiblity of the Grinnell Counseling Center whose actions are tantamount to a blatant violation of professional ethics.

  26. July 26, 2012 @ 3:48 am Parent

    It is time that the administration stop hiding behind Self Governing on a multiple of issues. In a college environment someone needs to step ho to the plate and be the grownup.

  27. July 21, 2013 @ 6:02 pm 90's Grinnell Aluma

    I read these posts with sadness. I had friends who experienced sexual assault at Grinnell when I was a student.

    I remember suggesting someone to come in and train student affairs staff on this very issue and they did. However this type of training and awareness should always be a priority of the College.

    Students should also recognize that any judicial system in place at the college does not prevent a person who was sexually assaulted from going to the hospital having an exam (including a rape kit) and pressing criminal charges. Has the survivors group ever invited a sexual assault victims advocate to campus to discuss what a person should do when assaulted?

    http://www.iowacasa.org/aspx/victimsadvocates/victimsadvocates.aspx

    Thank you to the women who shared their stories and I hope students continue to advocate for what they need to feel safe and supported on campus.


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