Editors’ note: It is the policy of the News not to publish anonymous stories. For these two cases, an exception has been made. The names of both writers have been kept confidential to give them the chance to speak freely and to ensure that the people they write about are also kept anonymous. The editors know the identities of the writers and have confirmed their stories to the greatest extent possible.
The recent Patrick Witt case has inspired a number of speculations about his future. Some lament the complainant’s silence: Witt can’t exonerate himself because he can’t fight charges that don’t exist. But demanding a formal procedure in the supposed interest of fairness to Witt unfortunately brushes aside the faceless, nameless person who accused him.
I was raped last year by an undergraduate older and more established at this university than I. I did not press charges, file a complaint or go to SHARE, nor do I plan on doing any of these things. No matter how neatly the SHARE website lays out rape victims’ options, it would be remiss to assume that all victims file some sort of complaint. I cannot speak for other rape victims, so I will just speak from my experience.
I am not silent because I think rape is acceptable. I am not silent because I want the male to get away with it, or so he can rape someone else. I am silent because a complaint not only would be unhelpful, but could even be detrimental.
Comments on the News’ website accuse the complainant against Witt of sensationalism. When I told my closest friends that I had been raped, they suggested that it was “no big deal” and that I had “asked for it.”
No one asks for rape. I recently recognized that I alone can be sure of what happened to me, but others cave to the pressure to feel guilty. Blame is the last thing a rape victim needs, and the intimidating prospect of recounting the experience opens victims up to that possibility.
Further, filing a complaint is not just about punishing the offender. Yesterday’s report of sexual misconduct complaints released by Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler shows that many victims ultimately decide not to complete a complaint. I am no longer angry with the male who raped me, and I don’t want to press charges and ruin his life. I can come to terms with the fact that we had sex.
What I can’t come to terms with is the feeling of safety that I lost. Rationally, I know not every male is out to stalk me or have sex with me. But two weeks ago, a male friend asked me if I wanted to go to his room, and I immediately blurted out, “God, I don’t want to have sex with you!” I knew he didn’t want to, but I reacted that way anyway.
As naive as this sounds, I just want back the simple idea that everyone is a good human being. Filing a complaint does nothing to allay my insecurity. I will not get my peace of mind back by ruining his life. Pure retribution and revenge are too logical and calculated for an experience as complex and emotional as rape.
I know we all want to believe in heroes: The image of a star athlete with a 3.91 GPA who chose friendships and teamwork over his Rhodes interview is hard to let go. The male who raped me is well-liked, and I didn’t say anything because I feared people would assume it was my fault. After all, good people don’t do bad things. So as much as I love the idea of siding with Witt, we should be cautious about that mindset.
SHARE’s website says that many find filing a complaint “empowering.” But for me, the prospect of prolonging the role this experience plays in my life is terrifying. I tentatively considered consulting SHARE or even pressing charges, but then what? I might have gotten mired in some long legal process with no assurance of emerging with a respectable reputation. It’d be my word against his.
Understandably, some will call my silence selfish. But to me, it’s self-preservation.
I won’t lie: I’m terrified even to publish this op-ed. Talking to SHARE or any institution about my experience is far beyond what I can imagine myself ever doing.
I know nothing about Pat Witt or the female involved: There simply isn’t enough information. While I have no way to verify her claims, I think the decision to file an informal complaint has been belittled. Informal complaints are not just the product of victims seeking the easy route.
But some of the discourse inspired by the Witt story is intolerable and in no way conducive to an environment that encourages people, especially victims, to talk. While it’s tempting to encourage a formal complaint in the name of what’s best for society, this mindset often slights victims. Their choice to talk should be their own. I am not at all commenting on the Witt controversy, but questioning the way we think and talk about it. We can do better.
The writer is a freshman.