Letters to the Editor

Letter: Sexual assault, not expulsion, causes ‘irreparable harm’

Monday, June 6, 2016

To the Editor: 

Chief Justice William E. Smith, in Wednesday’s Herald article, “Judge bars Brown from suspending student found guilty of sexual assault,” is quoted as ruling that the “effective expulsion” of the defendant, identified only as John Doe, would cause him “irreparable harm.” As the survivor of both sexual assault and Brown’s often infuriating, exhausting and emotional hearing process, I am appalled that Smith could possibly think anyone but the complainant, identified only as Ann Roe, could be experiencing “irreparable harm.”

At the end of my sophomore spring, I finally learned that the semester-long process of my case was ending. The hearing, which took place during finals, culminated in a drastic, satisfactory sanction: a two-year suspension for my assaulter. This meant that I could graduate in peace, without the fear that I might run into him around every corner on campus. He appealed, as expected, and the verdict was upheld. I felt victorious! The system, the University, which everyone complained about and mistrusted, had not failed me. I felt vindicated in my decision to formally report the assault, something that I had not initially done. Just like Roe, I did my best to ignore the situation until it became clear that I might not be the only unsafe person on campus.

It disturbs me that Roe, after what must have been a draining and difficult experience, has had all her progress torn completely away from her. In and of itself, this is saddening, but I would also like to remind Chief Justice Smith that the University found Doe guilty of assault. Assault, which leaves lingering effects long after the perpetrator is finished. Assault, which is traumatic — I would know. Assault causes irreparable harm.

I both commend the University for its appropriate sanction and urge the University to appeal Smith’s decision. Roe deserves a campus she feels is safe for her and everyone else. I am lucky to say that I can walk through any space on campus confident that my assaulter will not cause any further harm to me or anyone else. I can only imagine the pain Roe must feel, after the hearing and imposed sanction, to have her efforts conclude in naught.  

Julia Stemmer ’17