Letters to the Editor

Letter: Brown must do more to combat sexual assault

Sunday, September 27, 2015

To the Editor:

The results of the recent campus climate survey on sexual assault and sexual misconduct are horrifying.

The report tells us that roughly one in four undergraduate women and one in 15 undergraduate men at Brown (and at other campuses) have experienced unwanted sexual contact. Moreover, one in 10 women and one in 50 men have experienced attempted or completed penetration. Among graduate students at Brown, one in 12 have experienced unwanted sexual contact.

In her email detailing these results, President Christina Paxson P’19 tried to reassure us all that committees have been formed and that training modules and orientation programs have been and will continue to be implemented.

But I remain entirely unsatisfied. Here is why.

These figures, at Brown and elsewhere, have not changed in the past decade. They have not decreased by so much as a tenth of a percentile. I also have it on first-hand authority that the University has had access to this kind of information since long before even the end of the previous president’s tenure. Nonetheless, rape and sexual assault continue to be prevalent on campus.

It therefore comes as no surprise that half of survey respondents did not feel they would be taken seriously if they reported these offenses to the University.

To me, as both a survivor and a friend and ally to survivors of rape and sexual assault, this situation is completely unacceptable. If Brown had a bed bug infestation, it could do a better job of handling itself than it has when faced with evident, widespread and egregious violations of both its Code of Student Conduct and its students’ right to a safe education. If Brown had a bed bug infestation, Brown would burn as many mattresses as necessary until the situation was resolved.

There are almost 800 undergraduate women and almost 200 undergraduate men who have experienced sexual assault at Brown, and 60 women and 12 men who have been raped or almost raped, according to the survey. We either have a handful of very committed serial rapists on campus, or a large number of offenders who probably feel pretty damn sure that they can easily get away with what is a truly horrific crime.

The University needs to start finding and punishing these offenders. They exist. The proof is there. And they are violating not only the code of conduct Brown asks all of its community members to follow but also the rights and the bodies of students. To President Paxson and the Brown community: “Zero tolerance” should mean zero tolerance. It should mean that if you commit a crime of this nature on this campus, you lose your right to remain on this campus.

For the past decade, we have been exhibiting no less than 100 percent tolerance of rape and sexual assault on this campus.

A university cannot administrate away a bed bug infestation. I remain skeptical that it can administrate away a rape culture, as ours has been trying to do for the past 10 years.

Sofia Ortiz-Hinjosa ’11

  • Fed up student

    These statistics are intentionally inflated by sweeping wording and the highly unprofessional way the survey was conducted. You mean to tell me that an elite New England private school has the same rate of sexual assault as does Congo where it is used as an act of war? Victims of rape and sexual assault are thrown under the bus in order to promote some absurd political agenda. Title IX may be forcing the hands of universities in general, but the point stands – this hysteria is not helping anyone.

    • Sofia Ortiz

      Dear student, I am sorry that you feel that the numbers of a survey that has been corroborated by other universities and its own records spanning 10 years is somehow misrepresenting the data. I do not think anyone thinks that rape as an act of war is any less serious an issue because sexual crimes of a distinct social nature happen on US university campuses.
      It is a common misconception that rape or sexual assault only happen in a violent context, between strangers, enemies, or (for example) prison inmates. In fact, most crimes of a sexual nature occur between people who know each other well. As such, it comes as no surprise that sexual assault and rape happen on university campuses where students have many opportunities to get to know each other.
      As a survivor of rape, I know many women (from Brown and elsewhere; my own little sister was assaulted on her own university campus) who have experienced unwanted and scary sexual advances during their time in college, both from acquaintances and people they knew very well and were close to.
      This is not an “Agenda” issue. We write about this issue because we are mad, because it has happened to us, and because it should NOT happen to ANYONE. The idea that we are somehow making sexual violence too big an issue in the places where it occurs is baffling to me.

  • Unhelpful

    They exist.


    The proof is there.

    Is it? Do you really think they’re sitting on some magical list of rapists and proof and failing to act?

    Unlike bedbugs, you can’t just call an exterminator.