Columns

Sclove ’15.5: Brown honors graduates, fails survivors

By
Guest Columnist

This weekend, students, alums and their families will gather at Brown to celebrate Commencement, reunions and the University’s 250th anniversary. On this occasion, while we reflect on what our school has given us, we must also acknowledge where it has failed — and where it should improve.

Many of you have likely heard my story by now. Last August, just before the second semester of my junior year, I was raped and strangled by a fellow Brown student. I won’t repeat the details of my assault here — they’ve been well documented elsewhere in the media. What I want to explain is how, through its neglect of the safety of students on this campus and the trauma I experienced, Brown compounded my sense of hopelessness and isolation.

When I filed a report with Brown administrators, my rapist received a slap on the wrist. Despite finding my abuser responsible for all four Code of Student Conduct violations he had been charged with — including non-consensual sexual misconduct involving “penetration, violent physical force or injury” — the University decided to allow him back on campus within a year.

His punishment — a one-year suspension — is the penalty for plagiarism at other elite academic institutions. This sanction failed to ensure not only my safety, but also the safety of other students. In fact, a 2002 study co-authored by one of Brown’s own researchers suggested that nearly two of every three college rapists is a repeat offender.

If it were up to Brown, my rapist and I would once again attend classes together. He would again walk across the Main Green. He would study next to you in the SciLi, sit next to you at the Ratty and walk through the Van Wickle Gates at Commencement. However, his attorney announced that he made the choice not to return in the fall.

Brown failed me. Now, I want to make sure that it doesn’t fail the next generation of students.

In the past two weeks, I have filed Title IX and Clery Act complaints against Brown University, asking the Department of Education to add our institution to the list of at least 55 schools currently under investigation for potentially inadequate responses to sexual assault on campus. Together, I hope these inquiries prompt the Department of Education to work with Brown to ensure that students are protected by effective, fair disciplinary systems on campus and across the country.

In an April 26 email sent to the Brown community, President Christina Paxson stated that “sexual assault at Brown is not tolerated,” going on to launch a Task Force on Sexual Assault the next week to improve the University’s response. We must confront rape, however, with action, not mere words. The administration must follow up on these promises by developing and implementing effective policies that will actually keep students safe.

Brown is often upheld as a representative of liberal, progressive education. If we want to be true to that reputation, we must become anti-rape — and that can only be achieved through persistent, deliberate action. We must also acknowledge the roles that racism, classism and homophobia play in all aspects of sexual assault and demand equitable solutions.

While my story is deeply personal, my experience is not unique, as we’ve seen through other high-profile cases in recent weeks and years at Columbia, Tufts University and Amherst College, among countless others. For more than two decades, Brown has been publicly criticized for mishandling sexual assault. Now, Brown must seize this opportunity to face these issues head-on and become a leader in sexual assault prevention and response. The University must introduce new systems and policies that protect all students, including people of color and those who identify as male, female LGBTQ and low-income.

Every school needs a fair and helpful process to deal with sexual assault, and it takes the attention and support of students, administrators and the community to make that process successful. I won’t be able to return to campus this fall, but we cannot allow the issue of sexual assault on campus to be forgotten.

Students and alums, as you come together on College Hill this weekend, I ask you to continue to hold Brown accountable, to make it not only a center of academic excellence but also a place where all students are safe — a place we are all proud to call our alma mater.

Lena Sclove ’15.5 is a writer and social justice activist.

 

  • Allegra W

    This entire dialog is disgusting. The young man involved was never found guilty of rape or strangulation. You’ve repeated this false mantra so many times, people have begun to believe your ever-escalating story. Time to get on with your life.

    • Brod Judnam

      Brown University counsel, you are pathetic.

  • jysouza

    Go Lena! This entire debacle is a huge shame to this university and more importantly a danger to every present and future sexual assault survivor.

  • Joe Onset

    I cannot believe you would taint our celebratory graduation weekend with your desire to stay in the media spotlight. I agree with Allegra W. Women’s safety is a very important issue, but your desire to stay in the news undercuts the true issues.

  • jysouza

    WOW, please ignore the arrogant and malicious comments that are saying you’re trying to be in the media spotlight and that this guy did nothing wrong. You are so much stronger and better than these people, they can’t even come close to you.

  • Rose

    Thank you for continuing to speak out about this issue. It’s a problem we can’t ignore or forget, even as we celebrate our accomplishments this weekend.

  • smh

    Until he’s convicted in a court of law by a jury of his peers, your alleged assailant has as much right to be at Brown as anyone else, with the exception of any University sanctions- which he has fulfilled per media reports. The fact that he won’t be back is more a testament to the atmosphere created by radical feminists- anything a woman says about sexual assault is fact, and anything a man says otherwise is “rape culture”.

    Btw, the person responsible for making sure the alleged assailant never saw the inside of the courtroom is the one writing this article- for no other reason than to use the Class of 2014′s Commencement to embarrass the University.

    To the women out there still in college, here or anywhere else- if you find yourself the survivor of a sexual assault, please don’t put yourself through a college disciplinary process that is simply not designed for a crime of this magnitude. The process is not fair to you OR the alleged perpetrator. Please, please, please contact the municipal police department in the city or town your college/university is located in.

  • brown alum

    Whether or not Lena’s story has been proven by the court still doesn’t change the fact that there are bigger issues to be dealt with on a national scale. I would argue that the naysayers who have responded to this article should be proud that this discourse began as a result of a Brown student’s bravery. Shame on you people for dismissing an issue that goes far beyond our ‘sacred’ alumni weekend (which, in case you haven’t noticed, happens every single year). The unfortunate dialogue is the one occurring in this comment thread.

  • Concerned Alum

    I still don’t understand why Ms. Sclove has not pursued an action through the Rhode Island courts. It would be helpful if she explained why.

    • Alum ’09

      She said initially that the university told her it would be safer to not go to the cops.

      In terms of why not now? Once the 72 hour window for the valid rape exam had closed, the chances that a police report would yield even an arrest dropped precipitously with the chances of an indictment or a conviction being essentially 0.

  • SMB

    Shame on the Brown Daily Herald for promoting this young woman’s personal agenda. There seems to be more and more people that realize that there are two sides to the story and that what Ms. Sclove continues to report shouldn’t be taken at face value.

    • Joe Onset

      Well said. Thank you. She does seem to have an agenda that supersedes the actual event. My fear is that she is promoting her agenda at the expense of another individual who, despite what she says over and over to the cameras, wasn’t found guilty of any crime.

  • alum

    Ahh so you’re a social justice activist now? Now it all makes sense. The professionally angsty should have no place in “change.”

  • Brown ’14

    Kopin’s interview included evidence that shows Lena has twisted the facts so horrendously that she has scarred that young man’s name in a libelious way.

    There are three sides to every story – hers, his, and the truth. Please, Lena, address the evidence Kopin’s lawyers presented, because otherwise your story will forever be “the crazy girl who cried rape” and will undermine true survivor stories everywhere.

    I don’t know what to believe anymore. It’s not as clear-cut as the BDH would have you believe it. But of course, the BDH won’t report on Kopin’s story even though he produced “documents” from the University hearing…this entire affair saddens me immensely.

  • SCK

    This young woman is deeply disturbed and unfortunately has done much to discredit true survivors of sexual violence. Go on her website and see her listing of all the media sites her twisted and ever-changing story has been covered in. It’s all about basking in some sick kind of publicity glory. Next time a true rape survivor raises a claim, she unfortunately will be compared to you and may not be believed. Too bad.

  • lslavin

    Please consider this as the explanation to what is going on:
    Sclove
    was a transfer student from Tufts, where she accused another students of
    assault. The reason for the transfer is unknown. She did this during
    her third year, which can be isolated and alienating. By this time,
    most people already formed friends and cliques in their freshman year.
    Many students study abroad in 3rd year which furthers the isolation.
    Most students are focused on life after graduation, not making new
    friends.

    Kopin has already been at Brown. He obviously has been
    hooking up with many girls in drunken debauchery. He “knows” the game.
    He knows how to make a girl “feel” cared for and loved. She wrote,
    “You used our friendship, you manipulated me into thinking you were
    keeping me safe and taking care of me, when really you you were just
    trying to sleep with me.” He is the quintessential player who has read “The Game.”

    Loneliness,
    alcohol use, and horniness leads them to hook up that night. She wakes
    up realizing how dirty she feels. She remembers that there were 3
    students who walked in on the two of them during sex. She tells them to
    not say anything because she doesn’t want to be known as that “kind of
    girl.” (It’s called the “walk of shame” for a reason).

    She “feels” horrible. Which is the basis of her fight. She is not “that kind of girl,” the party girl who is
    loose.
    And she feels injustice knowing that the guy can walk around without
    shame. Believe it or not, many girls do in fact feel shame after
    hooking up… which even Sex and City talks about. There is a reason
    that the majority of college hook ups occur with alcohol.

    She
    remembers her assault at Tufts. She’s already been a victim once, and
    now she’s reliving this. People with a victim mentality feel that their
    boundaries must be rigorously defended and that other people’s
    boundaries can be violated at will. She has, in essence, “baggage.”

    Oh yes, she’s still lonely and isolated at Brown.

    She
    files an official complaint. She goes to non-profits and the media.
    And all of a sudden, several problems are solved for her:
    1) Look at
    the attention she’s getting! Before she was a lonely invisible student
    at Brown. Now, the campus knows who she is. The local newspapers are
    talking about her! She’s the talk of the town! Even a NY senator is
    talking about her! Bad attention is still attention. That loneliness
    is solved. Watch her youtube “press conference,” and see her subtle
    smirks and smiles when the crowd swoons over her. She even shows up on national tv!
    2)
    She went from being “that kind of girl” filled with shame, to a
    champion of rape victims! That takes care of the shame. Now she is
    treated with honor and respect and loving care. This is similar to
    Munchhausen’s syndrome and Munchhausen’s syndrome by proxy.
    3) Curiously her underaged alcohol use and illegal marijuana use is not being talked about.

    Meanwhile
    Kopin is being the quintessential guy. He followed all the rules, even
    asking girls if it would be okay to “kiss” them. He did everything she
    wanted by letting her initiate. He treats the girl as he would an
    exam… follow the rules to get the result he wants. He knows by making
    girls feel loved and cared for, he can get in their pants. But he only
    cares about making them “feel” that way. He doesn’t really care about
    them. After all, he goes through so many girls, that they’re all the
    same after awhile. .

    By withdrawing from the university due to
    the media attention, he is portraying himself as an innocent victim of a
    false accusation. He can’t pursue justice because of the slander and
    defamation. The jury is not even deciding, the mob is. By claiming
    victim status, he is also shielding himself from scrutiny.

    Please
    consider this. Instead of viewing Sclove as a champion of rape
    victims, and Kopin as a champion of falsely accused males, maybe neither
    is true. Maybe both are bad individuals. This is not a story of good
    guy versus bad guy, but rather bad guy versus bad girl. Kopin is an
    immoral player using girls to get in their pants. Sclove is a
    traumatized girl who places herself in risky situations such as drunken
    parties, now craving the lime light.

    Kopin strictly speaking is
    right in the facts, but wrong in terms of morals. Sclove is
    fabricating the facts, but is partly right in pointing out Kopin’s
    chicanery. Kopin is right that Sclove is wrongfully leading a vigilante
    mob against her. Sclove is right that Kopin will probably do this
    again and ruin other girls.

    Neither is right… they’re both screwed up nut jobs.