An anonymous Harvard University undergraduate revealed the harrowing details and aftermath of her sexual assault experience in a column today in student newspaper The Harvard Crimson.
The student — whose identity was kept anonymous by The Crimson due to the personal nature of the column — writes about how she was sexually assaulted nine months ago by someone who lived in the same residential House and who she considered a friend. After reaching out to administrators throughout the university, she writes, she now believes she has “lost” her battle against the school:
I’ve spent most of 2013 fighting the Harvard administration so that they would move my assailant to a different House, and I have failed miserably. Several weeks ago, in a grey room on the fourth floor of the Holyoke Center, my psychiatrist officially diagnosed me with depression. I did not budge, and I was not surprised. I developed an anxiety disorder shortly after moving back to my House this fall, and running into my assailant up to five times a day certainly did not help my recovery…
The student says that she is giving up trying to make the school listen to her pleas for help. “I am writing to let you know that I give up. I will be moving out of my House next semester, if only — quite literally — to save my life… My assailant will remain unpunished, and life on this campus will continue its course as if nothing had happened,” she writes.
Despite many attempts, she writes, she was continuously stonewalled by the Harvard administration, from her own resident dean to the a university health services representative:
Seeing how your school officials refuse to validate how upset you are over and over again is equally damaging. When I told my House Master that I was considering an Ad Board process, I was told it was a bad time of the semester, that there would be consequences for my assailant anyway, and that we shouldn’t go through the process if it was going to be fruitless. Shortly after, my resident dean told me that my assailant couldn’t be punished because he didn’t know what he was doing. The resident dean compared living in the same House as my assailant to a divorced couple working in the same factory. My House Master and my dean encouraged me to forgive my assailant and move on. Someone at University Health Services asked me if it was possible that my drinking habits were the problem, because it seemed like they had led to my sexual assault. And always, at the end of those discussions, I would hear the same thing over and over again: “We want you to get all the support that you need.”
The student writes that she hopes her story will help open a discussion about how sexual assault cases are handled at Harvard. She ends the column by writing, “Dear Harvard: You might have won, but I still have a voice. And I plan on using it as much as I can to make things change.”
We have reached out to Harvard for comment.
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