The story of a student named Anna, who was a sexual assault victim at Hobart and William Smith College, came out in the New York Times on July 13; and I am happy to say that this article sparked some changes for good. Not all of the people mentioned in the article and who were involved in the case seemed to have evolved or learned from their mistakes.
In fact, the Ontario County district attorney, R. Michael Tantillo, who had closed the case without testing whether that seminal fluid matched the DNA of any of the accused, even after the victim had to pay for her own DNA rape kit to be processed by a private clinic, has refused to comment or admit any wrongdoing.
When a reporter attempted to question Mr. Tantillo in a previous interview, regarding sexual assaults on college campuses, and in particular, the statistics and reports for Hobart and Williams Smith, he told the reporter: “I guess that’s your job to find out why.”
Wow. What great work ethic. Boy am I glad that our tax dollars go to pay his salary. Where did we find this guy? And where can we send him?
Another sad truth was the college’s investigation and lack of procedures and training. Not only did the panel investigate and dismiss the accused football players in a mere 12 days; (The football players went on to finish their season undefeated), but one of the panelists admitted that they did not know what a rape exam or rape kit was. Yet others claim that the panelists were trained for sexual assault reports and investigations on their campus.
I have no doubt that the school’s president, Mark Gearan, has been affected by these events, especially since he has two daughters. And, like anyone involved with campus activities and college life knows, Mr. Gearan is aware of the “Red Zone”, which refers to the moment a freshman first arrives at college to the last week of finals in their first semester.
That’s when a student is the most vulnerable to peer pressure, binge drinking, being “roofied” or worse, being assaulted or being so under the influence of alcohol or drugs that they are not LEGALLY able to make a conscious decision regarding touching or penetration of any kind.
I am disheartened too, Mr. Gearan. I have been through a Clery Center Training. And now I have a better understanding of the challenging laws, policies, procedures, and ongoing changes and regulations that institutions are being asked to follow; while huge penalties, and fines are hanging over their heads.
I think that is is extremely challenging to train staff and student leaders in assault prevention, education, and response. And then also add having to investigate, assemble and attempt to “try” a fair and legal process.
My first thoughts were that colleges should just hand over the investigations to the authorities.
I honestly thought that would “solve” the problem with internal investigations and campus politics and lack of training for panelists, etc.
But then I kept reading about small towns with star football players. And it wasn’t just in the Finger Lakes region. It was in Ohio and Florida, and Oregon, and Maine, and everywhere. And it wasn’t just football. It was basketball. And other sports too.
My point is, over and over, local authorities who were paid law enforcement, people who were not affiliated with the colleges or universities, were still playing favorites because of their “teams”. Time and time again, reports were swept under the rug and many times, the victim’s name somehow was released. And guess where the stigma and bullying got focused.
And yet, I still have hope. Even if the DA still has a job, there has been a group called HWS Community for Change who has created a petition and a demand for change. Stay tuned for more on this courageous group of students and alumni.