Open Letter to the Community: I was assaulted and my life was threatened, forced home for safety while my assaulter remains on campus
In early October, I was threatened and sexually assaulted by a Pomona student. The threat was a double suicide, made explicit with a planned weapon, and repeated twice. They told me that it was not even a threat. It was like dominoes, it would just happen, and we both knew it.
My college flew me home the day after the incident and I reported to my school’s Title IX office once I felt I was out of danger. When I wanted to return to school I was told by both colleges that I should not, that the risk level was too high for me to be on campus. I waited three weeks until I could return to school, when the respondent (Title IX terminology for the accused party) was suspended for the duration of the case, after admitting to the threat.
I had been back on campus for almost four weeks when something was changed and the respondent was allowed back to Claremont. In the meeting with my college’s administration where I was given this news, I asked if I could appeal this decision. I was told that there is no formal appeals process, just as the respondent could not appeal the interim suspension dictated to them before. My cheeks burned and I stared at the floor, “but this is my life,” I said.
Campus Safety escorted me to my Pomona class later that day, but once I was dropped off, I saw the respondent outside my classroom. I later found out that the Pomona administration had arranged a meeting with them for that time, even though they knew my class schedule and the respondent was under severe restrictions to avoid my classes. I experienced an intense panic attack on the floor of a public bathroom before entering my class out-of-breath and puffy-eyed. I was not able to contribute much to discussion but at the back of my mind I wondered if this would be the last class session I ever attended at Pomona. It was. Then, the pre-arranged campus safety escort set to pick me up after class did not show up. I stood outside waiting where I had just seen, two hours before, the person who threatened to kill me. On the first day, the safety plan that my college had developed to protect me and the restrictions placed on the respondent by Pomona College had both failed.
For the next few days I did not leave my room or unlock my door except when escorted by Campus Safety to the gym and Title IX meetings. My friends brought me meals but my stomach twisted and burned. I needed answers, so I requested to meet with Pomona Title IX and restated the danger that I was living under on campus. On 11/20 an informal appeal letter was written from what I said in this meeting, and I have had no response from Pomona College yet.
I feared I was being pushed off of campus by Pomona’s decision to allow the respondent back, and I was right. The day after my meeting with Pomona, the risk assessment professional hired by my college gave a second, updated assessment, increasing the risk from moderate to high. My emergency contact was called and I was taken to a safe house that night and flown to my family the next day. Pomona Title IX has since told me that they did not realize I was removed from campus. I remain home today, while the respondent attends classes.
The news is filled with headlines of allegations against celebrities right now. It seems we are shocked that these men were able to hold power for so long--hurt so many different people--yet survivors take 20, 30, 40 or more years to come forward. I believe that while much of society does not shame or blame victims today, there are still patriarchal roots in the judicial system that silence us. When I let the administration know that I was writing this open letter, I got a lot of feedback that while I can do whatever I want, it may jeopardize my case and I need to carefully weigh the outcomes. I felt I was going crazy. What could possibly jeopardize my case? I have done nothing, broken no laws, but I can lose my case by simply telling my community my rights are being infringed? It is not in my best interest to stay silent right now. We know that abusers and their enablers thrive in silence, and it is clear from the media right now that when a survivor connects with their community and is open about what happened, the enabling and abuse stops.
I have voiced as clearly as I can to Pomona: I am not OK with the choices the school is making, I do not feel safe, and my needs are not being met. Every new day that I am home, not allowed access to my education, and not communicated to by Pomona hurts me deeper than the last. I feel that I am not being treated as a person, and for me to stay silent any longer on this issue fills me with the same traumatic apathy that filled me during the assault. I will never again accept being told that my life lies at the end of a row of dominoes, never again stay passive while I am violated, and now I will not be afraid of letting my community know that the administration has let us down.
I write this on 12/3 and I have been away from campus for a total of 34 days