Many University of Virginia students — including several self-described sexual assault survivors — are expressing their support for an embattled campus administrator following a sexual assault scandal that has rocked the school.
A Rolling Stone magazine article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely published last week detailed a horrifying alleged gang rape at a UVA frat and suggested the school wasn’t doing enough to punish rapists. One of the key figures in the story is UVA Dean Nicole Eramo, head of the university’s Sexual Misconduct Board, who serves as a confidant for students and an advocate for sexual assault survivors.
Eramo has been criticised for some of her comments in the Rolling Stone article, including that she reportedly told a student sexual assault survivor that the university doesn’t publish all of its sexual assault data, “Because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school.”
Partially, it seems, in response to this criticism, UVA student newspaper The Cavalier Daily has now published dozens of letters it has receieved supporting Eramo, who Erdely writes is “beloved” by student sexual assault survivors. Close to 250 students signed the letters in support of Eramo, including “Jackie,” the student profiled in Rolling Stone.
Several letter writers identify themselves as survivors, in some cases crediting Eramo with saving their lives. “Her swift, thoughtful actions kept me afloat and helped me get to a point where I could thrive again. If it weren’t for her support and advocacy, I am not sure I would still be here,” writes one student who turned to Eramo while facing an abusive ex-boyfriend.
Students also addressed calls for Eramo’s resignation, with many writing that this would be a disservice to UVA students if the dean lost her position. As one student writes:
I’d argue that Dean Eramo’s professionalism and support for survivors mitigates UVA’s problems with sexual violence. Things are bad, but without her, they’d be worse. Dean Eramo is an easy target for people who are angry about how UVA addresses sexual assault. While that anger is justified, Web comments vilifying Dean Eramo, and petitions demanding her resignation, are misguided. As UVA works to better defend and care for students who’ve been attacked, Dean Eramo will be an invaluable asset.
Jackie, who was profiled in Rolling Stone, is an alleged victim of a gang rape at a prominent UVA fraternity, and is the student Eramo reportedly made the “rape school” remark to.
Here is her letter supporting the dean:
Dear UVA Administration,
Of all the professors, deans, faculty and staff at the University of Virginia, Dean Nicole Eramo has made the most significant and, ultimately, the most positive impact on my life. Dean Eramo has truly saved my life. If it were not for her, I do not know if I could be alive today. When I came to Dean Eramo my first year, I was depressed and suicidal…I was barely hanging on. Dean Eramo was helpful and understanding and, above all, compassionate. She listened attentively to my story and provided me with several resources. At the time, I was scared and I felt alone and I was in no position to pursue legal or University action. Dean Eramo gave me the power to make my own decisions–something so small that made me feel like I finally had some sense of control in my life. Eventually, Dean Eramo put me in contact with Emily Renda and other members of One Less. This action alone was probably the best thing anyone has ever done for me. I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if it were not for Nicole Eramo. She has changed everything for the better. She has made me a better person. She has helped me get through the most difficult time in my life and has been with me every step of the way. I have said it before and I will say it again and again–Dean Nicole Eramo is an asset to this university. I do not want to go to the University of Virginia if she is not a resource for students in need of help in the aftermath of sexual violence. There is no one more qualified or more capable of doing this job. Dean Eramo is above and beyond the best resource the University has.
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