Former Student Calls Out ECSU's Response To Reports Of Rape
A private firm was hired earlier this year to investigate how Eastern Connecticut State University handles reports of sexual assaults on campus, an investigation prompted by a former student’s social media accounts that helped others share their stories.
The former ECSU student, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Connecticut Public Radio that she was raped in 2017 by a person in one of her classes. She said she immediately went to the emergency room at a local hospital to undergo a sexual assault forensic exam. One week later, she reported the assault to the university and was surprised by the kinds of questions school authorities asked her.
“You’re getting told that anyone can go and get a rape kit for a variety of reasons,” said the former student, “... that they have no way of knowing if you normally bruise during sex; that one day you’ll find your Prince Charming and this will all feel like a bad dream; that if you had clearly said no. … When you are being asked things like this, you immediately lose faith in any of the services they are going to offer you.”
School authorities also suggested that she stop attending the class her attacker was in. By the time a formal investigation started, the alleged perpetrator had graduated.
The former student said the process of reporting the rape made her feel extremely alone. That’s why six months later, she started a blog and an Instagram account for sexual assault survivors.
“It was my sounding board to be able to share my story and talk to other survivors to feel less alone,” said the alum.
It wasn’t until recently that she decided to name ECSU on the blog and Instagram account, which is called Rape Survivors Support. Once she did that, other students and alumni started to detail their experiences in reporting assaults on campus.
The Instagram account now has more than 7,000 followers.
Beth Hamilton, executive director of the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, said many universities have come a long way in terms of the resources they offer.
“But I think there is probably still quite a long ways to go to make them truly supportive of the survivors who have experienced sexual violence on their campuses,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton found that many victims reach out to her organization because they’re disappointed in the way the schools handle their cases.
“Folks just really need to consider what it means to hold the trust of the students on campus and then how they maintain that through their policies and practices,” said Hamilton.
In a statement to students in late March, ECSU President Elsa Núñez said that in light of recent social media posts, the university would fully investigate the way it handles sexual assault cases. ECSU has brought in TNG Consulting to handle the investigation and declined Connecticut Public Radio’s request for comment while the probe is ongoing.
Núñez said the school will be taking any necessary actions to ensure the safety and well-being of the campus community.
Although victims often don’t finish their college careers at a school after an assault has occurred, this ECSU alum bucked that trend, completing her time on campus. She and other students have drafted a list of policy changes they believe the school should mandate.
“The students should be able to trust and depend on the university to take these proactive steps to prevent sexual violence,” she said. “And when it inevitably does occur, they deserve to feel heard and protected and believed and supported.”
Results of the independent investigation are expected in the coming months.