Amid Campus Uproar, Kenyon College Alumni Launch Blog for Survivors of Sexual Assault

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Michael Hayes shook Kenyon College's campus to its core in April when he wrote about his sister Chelsie's experience as a survivor of rape at the school. Now Hayes, a Kenyon alumnus, has teamed up with a handful of other former students to launch a blog about sexual assault at the school.

The blog, titled "KC Alumni for Title IX" and hosted at Medium, features the stories of alumni who have experienced sexual violence, as well as accounts from victims' friends and loved ones.

"What has become clear this past week is that Kenyon alumni collectively have a unique point of view about the issue of sexual assault on campus and that some of them are now ready to speak up," the alumni wrote in a post.

The editors of the blog include nine former students. Title IX is the name of a provision in federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex for educational institutions that receive federal funding.

"We give Kenyon alumni a chance to share their stories about sexual assault on campus," reads the group's bio on Medium. "We publish accounts from survivors + their friends + loved ones."

Submissions can be anonymous, and the guidelines specify that posts cannot identify others by name. 

Anna Bloom, one of the group's editors who graduated in 2004, said that while the blog would not turn down contributions from current students, the goal was to set up a space for Kenyon alumni who may have remained silent for decades about their experience.

"Most people don't report sexual assault when it happens to them, or even find the courage to talk about their experience thereafter," Bloom said in an email. "That means many people have been quiet for some time, maybe even decades."

Bloom described the project as an "organic extension" of a closed Facebook group for alumni that cropped up shortly after Hayes published his open letter. The group, which grew to include more than 1,100 within a few days of its creation, also composed and sent a letter to Kenyon College President Sean Decatur about the university's handling of sexual assault cases. Approximately 700 people signed the letter. The alumni also distributed 100 bouquets of flowers at a recent campus forum on sexual assault.

Kenyon alumna Sally Wilson hands out flowers following a campus forum on Title IX, the provision in federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex at institutions that receive federal funding.
Source: 
Fernando Rodriguez

In an open letter published online on April 25, Hayes expressed outrage at the university's handling of his sister's case. Chelsie Hayes was raped in her dorm room on the evening of Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015. After a lengthy administrative process, the university found there was "insufficient evidence" to sanction the attacker, who told Chelsie she was "too cute to be a lesbian."

"Kenyon has betrayed my trust — a trust with the strength of 23 years," Michael wrote. "Kenyon failed my little sister in a way that I, with her permission, refuse to be silent about."

Chelsie decided to withdraw from the school after the university's verdict.

Hayes' letter sparked sit-ins and protests on the Kenyon campus, leading Decatur to announce the school would hire an outside firm to review its sexual misconduct policy.

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Gabriel Arana

Gabriel Arana is a senior editor at Mic. His work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Salon, The Nation, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, and The Daily Beast. He has been a guest on television and radio talk shows including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, CNN’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation.You can contact him by visiting his website at http://gabrielarana.com.

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