October 19th, 2012 | University

Account of sexual assault at Amherst goes viral

Amherst College
Amherst College Photo by Daderot / Creative Commons.

Amherst College is the latest college to be called out for its sexual misconduct policies and the way administrators respond to cases of sexual assault.

Angie Epifano, a former Amherst student in the Class of 2014, published a Wednesday column explaining her account of sexual assault, describing the aftereffects of the incident and arguing that the college mishandled her case. The column, which has since gone viral on the Internet, prompted a Thursday response from the Amherst administration, which reaffirmed the school’s commitment to addressing sexual violence issues and announced an investigation into the claims made in the column.

“Addressing sexual misconduct and violence has been and is one of my highest priorities,” wrote Amherst President Biddy Martin. “Amherst, given its values, its commitment to community, and its size should be a model of education, prevention, and effective response when violations occur.”

In her column, Epifano describes the series of events following the sexual assault incident, including her enrollment into a health facility and discussions with her dean about leaving the college or going abroad. By the end of the column, she addresses the college’s inadequate measures for handling cases of sexual assault.

“Rapists are given less punishment than students caught stealing,” Epifano wrote. “Survivors are often forced to take time off, while rapists are allowed to stay on campus. If a rapist is about to graduate, their punishment is often that they receive their diploma two years late.”

Epifano’s story has struck a chord with many readers, who have expressed their support by the dozens. Others have posted more critical comments, calling into question the authenticity of Epifano’s claims.

Amherst’s situation reflects the ongoing scrutiny that has hit college campuses regarding sexual misconduct.

Last June, the Department of Education ended its Title IX investigation into Yale’s sexual culture, ultimately making no finding of noncompliance, though the department did say the University had underreported incidents of sexual misconduct for years.

Correction: October 28, 2012

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that the OCR found no evidence of noncompliance in its investigation of Yale’s sexual climate. In fact, the OCR made no finding of noncompliance.