On Sunday, March 11, at 3:49 a.m., Whittier College’s Office of Campus Safety received a report that a student had been raped at an off-campus gathering, according to Director of Campus Safety Timm Browne.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the re- port but no arrests have been made. Because the investigation continues, Campus Safety and the Sheriff’s Department are not releasing any further information. Students who are aware of the events declined to comment.
Assistant Dean of Students Andre Coleman called rape a “despicable” crime. “The statistics say that more sexual assaults happen than I will ever hear about, at Whittier and in life,” Coleman said. “I can’t begin to understand what it would feel like to be silenced as a victim, to never speak about the pain, to never find justice and never begin to heal.”
According to the Campus Wellness Center, approximately 132,000 women report that they have been victims of rape or attempted rape every year in the United States on average. It is estimated that two to six times that many women are actually raped, but do not report it.
To help victims of sexual assault, Coleman said he and the Counseling Center offer free and confidential support. “If someone has been violated, I will do everything in my power to hold the perpetrator ac- countable,” Coleman said.
For students who have been through sexual or domestic abuse or who wish to show solidarity, there will be an event on campus called the Clothesline Project.
According to senior Jenna Ririe who is charge of the project, the Clothesline Project is meant to both bring awareness addresses the issue of violence but also to celebrate women’s strength in overcoming these incidences.
From Monday, March 19 to Friday, March 23, students will be able to sign up for the Take Back the Night event, which will include a candle light vigil to honor survivors, that will take place on March 22 at 6 p.m. in the Campus Courtyard.
Coleman stated while the alleged rape took place off campus and had a single victim it impacts the entire College community. “This is essentially a men’s issue,” Coleman said. “It is our poor decision making and failure to control ourselves that creates dangers for women.”
“However these sorts of incidents serve as a reminder to women about how they keep themselves safe,” Coleman said. Coleman urges women to think more about risk management but also warns against victim blaming.
“Risk management and responsibility are two different things,” Coleman said. “A victim of sexual assault is never responsible for the crimes of the perpetrator.”
Coleman said that many times in cases of sexual assault the victim is wrongly judged for what happens to them. To show what he meant, Coleman used an analogy where he compared a rape to a mugging. “If I were to get robbed, no one would tell me it was my fault for having nice clothing or wearing jewelry,” Coleman said.
“People wouldn’t ask me why I didn’t yell for help. However, the instant a woman is raped the questions start coming in. What was she wearing? How much had she been drinking?” Coleman said that these sorts of questions are part of the reason why so many sexual abuses go unreported.
According to Adjunct Professor of Philosophy Thomas Keith, events like Take Back the Night are what colleges need. “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, off-campus college parties are the single most dangerous places for sexual assaults on women,” Keith said. “This happens at universities and colleges all across the nation, from Yale to Notre Dame and we are not immune.”