Two students accuse the University of Richmond of fumbling sexual assault reports

Two students accuse the University of Richmond of fumbling sexual assault reports

In the past week, two University of Richmond students have publicly accused the school of fumbling their sexual assault complaints. 

Whitney Ralston, a junior at Richmond, came forward this week. In an essay published Friday on the Huffington Post's community platform, Ralston wrote the school did more to protect her rapist-turned-stalker than it did to protect following each new report of his threatening behavior.

"I never imagined that the worst pain I could experience would come from reporting my case," Ralston said. She wrote the man who raped her went on to stalk her, stole her passport and money, threatened her friend's life and harassed her family members. 

When she reported him to police, she "was told that the possible charges ranged from kidnapping, assault and battery, identity theft, sexual assault, dating violence, theft and both emotional and physical abuse," Ralston wrote. When she reported him to Richmond's Title IX officials, he used her PTSD to paint her as "unreliable witness" with an unreliable memory. 

Ultimately, he was given probation. According to Ralston, he continually violated the no-contact order against him — following her around campus, showing up at her dorm and trying to insert himself into her social life — and although administrators are aware of his behavior, they have told Ralston she can either transfer or "deal with it," because he won't be leaving the school.

"I learned a long time ago that a rapist's privacy is more important than my life," she wrote. "It makes it hard for survivors to come forward; talking about our experiences forces us to stand public trial for the crimes committed against us by men we aren't legally allowed to name."

Title IX, the 1972 civil rights amendment that protects against sex-based discrimination in education, should force colleges and universities to take action on sexual violence, harassment and misconduct as soon as it becomes aware that any or all are happening on campus. In Ralston's case, Richmond didn't — nor did it in the case of CC Carreras, a student who wrote an essay entitled "There's a Brock Turner in all o(UR) lives" published Tuesday on the Huffington Post

According to Carreras, a Richmond administrator told her he "thought it was reasonable" for her another student "to penetrate [her] for a few more minutes if he was going to finish," despite the fact that said student had admitted to having heard Carreras say stop three times during the encounter. The student who assaulted her received only "restricted access" to campus because he was an athlete, Carreras wrote, and "it seemed clear that Richmond would do whatever it took to keep him on the roster."

In response to Carreras' essay, the university sent around an email in which it alleged that "many of the assertions of fact" she made were "inaccurate." It referred students to its sexual misconduct policy as evidence.

But just because rules exist doesn't mean they're never broken. In June, the Huffington Post placed the number of Title IX violation investigations underway on college and university campuses at 315. Indeed, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is looking into an alleged 2014 Title IX violation at Richmond. Ralston and Carreras have both contacted the Office for Civil Rights over their cases, but have yet to hear back. 

"If something doesn't change, girls like CC and I will keep coming forward: More survivors will stand up to the institution that has silenced us for too long," Ralston wrote. "I just started my junior year at the University of Richmond, and I cannot survive at this school for the next two years if something doesn't change."