An Open Letter to Boston University
To Boston University,
You have a rape problem.
I remember the exact day I committed to BU. I was having a difficult time choosing between universities, but as soon as I visited BU, the environment and students all swept me away. I remember my move-in day freshman year where I met one of my closest friends and how utterly excited I was to live in a city and university like Boston University.
I remember exactly how I felt on March 29, 2019 when one of your own students assaulted me. I remember what I smelled and how I stared at the lamp on the counter, thinking that it was the only thing in the room that would allow for me to defend myself because I thought he was going to kill me. I remember how I had to pretend that I needed to use the bathroom to leave the bedroom I was in, only to lock myself in there as my assaulter just fell asleep.
The day right after was when the campus celebrated Holi, and it was the first time I was ever actually celebrating it. All I could think of was how dirty I felt, trying to have fun even when I felt layers of grime on me. I had not really registered what had happened, and I just tried to ignore it because everyone around me was so happy and full of energy, and that’s what I wanted to be, too. It did not hit me until that night when I was talking to my roommate and close friend, and she was the one to ask me if I was alright. It was through talking with her that it all actually set in, and my body felt both numb and on fire.
I trusted you. Beyond it all, I believed in you. I let you have an investigation, and I believed that you meant to do everything for my well being. I let you question me numerous times about the exact details of my assault and interrogate me about what I was wearing and if I invited him first. I gave you in-depth details about who I was with, my text messages, my friends, and I trusted you to help me because I thought, As long as I am honest, I will be okay.
Nothing will make up for when your own judicial officers told me to go through with the university’s process instead of going to outside resources. I was told not to speak to other people about my process, even when a private investigator hired by my assaulter questioned my friends about my attitudes and my attire. I was told to “lie low” and make sure that I did not tell other people his name.
Instead, I went to SARP, the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention center, almost immediately. They were the only resource I trusted throughout the process; Maureen Mahoney was on my side and fought for me, making sure I did not have to change my entire life because of what happened to me. The other resource I had was Student Health Services, where the mental health services aided me in the entire process. She, along with resources at SHS, were the only BU resources I could trust. They deserve all the credit for the healing of students on this campus.
I spoke with Dean Elmore about ideas on how to change the process for reporting and how a numerous amount of students feel that the process is hostile and not safe for them; his response was, I can’t help how students feel, it’s not BU’s fault. His responses fell flat when I asked him if there was any way to help survivors, like creating mandatory sexual assault prevention workshops on campus that students would have to attend yearly. I felt as though I was being granted meetings only to make sure I would not contact the press or tell others how poorly BU is doing in helping their own students.
To all the students who posted a black square on their Instagram but still demand for survivors of sexual assault to go through a legal process to believe them, this is at you. The system is rigged against victims of sexual assault, especially those of color, and you still expect for people to trust the police.
My point? Defund BUPD. Take the money you throw at them and put it back it into SARP. Put it into the Howard Thurman Center. Put it into the Anti-Racism research center. Put it into your mental health resources. I can guarantee you that you will actually see your students happier and healthier. It is terrifying to watch a university with such wonderful, bright, and challenging students only cared about after the fact.
BU touts itself on being a school that is above the typical stereotypes of sexual assault on campus and biased investigations, but what gives it the evidence to call itself that? You use your famous alumni to silence those they fought for. You can’t just call yourself a safe school just because you have created an environment where assault survivors feel too scared to make a report. You can’t just say it because you give freshmen a skit demonstration one time and never follow up on it. Who said you were above the other schools?
Even worse, more and more people are starting to argue using the false claim that many sexual assault claims are made-up. False rape allegations are proportional to false alarms in every other crime category, yet people act as though it is rampant in rape cases. False accusations do exist, but they are as rare as accusing an innocent man of robbing a bank. So why do you, a university, act like you need police authentication for proof?
My assaulter was only suspended for a year. He committed a crime, and the punishment BU thought fitting was for him to leave college for a year. His suspension ends in a month, and he will be back on campus, mingling with the peers of my peers and consuming spaces I call home.
The fact that this university has deployed a countless number of resources and work into a mass chemistry cheating scandal, but are mysteriously silent when it comes to rape on campus, is abhorrent. You threatened to expel students immediately after their cheating came into light, but you are not as swift and severe when it comes to those of us who have been raped.
In fact, the first time I saw BU publicly address a sexual assault case was in a Boston Globe article this year, when BU said: “Jane Doe could have protected herself if she had simply locked her…door. She “was given the tools to assure her safety, a door with a sturdy lock, but she elected not to use it,” BU lawyers wrote in a court filing…entitled…“The University Made No Definite Or Certain Promise To Keep Students Safe.”
What do you mean no promise to keep students safe? Is that not literally your number one job? Is it not to create a safe learning environment so you can help students become the leaders of tomorrow? You should start telling prospective students and parents that. We want you to pay 72k to attend this university, but we don’t promise to keep your children safe.
Victims of rape and any type of sexual assault wrongfully blame themselves for the crime, and the unfortunate truth is, so do school and police officials. Did you fight them off? Did you scream? Why didn’t you call 911 as soon as it happened? Were you drinking? Are you sure they just didn’t get the wrong idea?
College students who are raped face the unfortunate reality of seeing their assaulter on campus. Despite media depictions, a victim’s rapist is almost always someone they know — a significant other, a TA, the friend of a friend. Their rapist will be in their classes, their dormitory, and frankly, their entire life. Even on a large campus like BU’s, the odds of a victim running into their assaulter on Comm Ave. are higher than BU would like parents to know.
Rape is a scary word. It’s something you only hear in whispers and in hushes in hallways. It’s something that documentaries are made about. You see countless PSAs, and you attend workshops on what to do if you are in a bad situation. You learn to put your keys in between your knuckles and that you need to rip hair out of your head and put it in your Uber in case you are assaulted.
Boston University is a private university. The privileges we are presumed to have and the luxury that BU has in having its own donors is extremely different than public universities, and they should be leaders in helping with sexual assault policies across the country. What’s the point in having all that money and not using it to actually help your students? We don’t need to renovate the GSU; we need a serious change in policy.
As taken from KnowYourIX, these are the demands we hold for you, BU, to uphold as a university with the new Title IX ruling in place this upcoming year:
- Establishing the preponderance of the evidence as the standard of evidence in all campus sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination cases. Preponderance of the evidence is the only standard that values the education of both complainants and respondents equally.
- Establishing a formal time limit of sixty calendar days for the completion of sexual misconduct, harassment, and discrimination cases, with exceptions only for substantial extenuating circumstances. Lengthy investigations are emotionally taxing on survivors, often causing students to drop-out before their cases are complete and allowing for assaulters to graduate before cases are finalized. Drawn-out timelines are bad for complainants and respondents alike, leaving them uncertain of where things stand with their schools.
- Continuing to respond promptly to reports of and carrying out existing investigations into sexual misconduct during the global health crisis. The new rule makes clear that Title IX processes may continue remotely in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rights of student complainants and respondents alike hinge on schools maintaining their commitment to prompt and equitable investigations even during these unprecedented times.
- Guaranteeing all students access to reasonable interim measures regardless of where or when the violence or discrimination they experienced took place. The serious effects of violence and discrimination merit accommodations whether a student was harmed on-campus, on a study-abroad trip, or in their private apartment.
- Creating and following sexual misconduct procedures for investigating otherwise not covered instances of off-campus and study abroad violence. I understand that the new ruling does not formal Title IX investigations, but BU can still create separate sexual misconduct policies that ensure students can report off-campus violence. Whether you are raped in your on-campus dorm room or in another country, having to see your rapist in class equally interrupts your education.
- Barring the use of informal resolution mechanisms including but not limited to mediation in cases of sexual assault, rape, dating and domestic violence, and 2 stalking that is an extension of such violence. It is widely agreed upon that mediation is an inappropriate and even unsafe measure in these types of situations. It is traumatic and can only further hurt the victim, and it gives the assaulter an upper hand.
- Following the Department of Education’s rescinded 2016 guidance on protecting LGBTQ+ students in order to ensure all students have equal access to a safe learning environment, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. LGBTQ+ students are more likely to be victims of assault, yet they are less likely to be believed. BU should work with Q and SARP when they follow through in cases concerning LGBTQ+ students.
I started Campus Survivors after I saw multiple accounts of rape and assault on our campus being shared to the Instagram account BU Gigs. I, along with my three other founders, expected to get a few more stories, because we genuinely did believe BU was better. Imagine the surprise and disgust I faced when I saw story after story being submitted about girls being raped on campus, in frat parties, and assaulted by professors. There are stories of men being assaulted but no one taking them seriously just because they are not women. These are just a few of the stories we have received; I cannot begin to imagine the number of unreported stories.
We have been loud, and your silence is overwhelming. Fix the way your reporting system works. Shut down the fraternities that you know are problems. Defund BUPD and create more spaces for officers and directors that are trained in handling sexual assault cases.
We are just as important as your other students.
Prisha Sujin Kumar