The University of Richmond released new policies on sexual assault following public outrage after The Huffington Post published two students’ personal accounts of the university mishandling their sexual assault cases.
“The fear I feel in speaking up as a faculty member is just another manifestation of a larger problem at UR: rape-culture,” said Eric Grollman, a U of R assistant professor of sociology after the Huffington Post published the students’ accounts.
U of R President Ronald Crutcher published a letter on Oct. 7 outlining changes in the university’s sexual assault policies and steps the university will take moving forward to protect victims and prevent future sexual assault cases.
The university is going to create a Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and a President’s Advisory Committee for Sexual Violence Prevention and Response, according to the letter.
In addition, Crutcher said the university will hire a counselor in Counseling & Psychological Services who, starting in January, will be available weekend and evening hours for appointments. There will also be a survivor advocate who will be a confidante for students and help them access campus and local resources.
The changes came about a month after the first student, Cecilia Carreras, penned an open letter in The Huffington Post titled “There’s a Brock Turner in all o(UR) lives.” Carreras’ account published on Sept. 6 and described her case concerning a student athlete assaulting her.
“We have a problem at Richmond,” Carreras said in her open letter. “A problem that is made worse by an administration that justifies reported rapes and judges the survivor’s credibility on a harsher scale than the accused.”
The day after Carreras’ letter published, U of R released an email to its students discrediting the accuracy of information and events described in the letter.
In response, Carreras published another open letter in The Huffington Post titled “Richmond, all I wanted was for you to say sorry. But instead you called me a liar. So, here are the receipts.” on Sept. 8. The letter provided screenshots of texts between her and her abuser and emails from Title IX Coordinator and Director of Compliance Maura Smith.
The next day, a second student, Whitney Ralston, published an open letter in The Huffington Post titled “The Other Girl.” Ralston wrote how the school also mishandled her case and participated in victim blaming due to her history with mental illness.
“The investigating Dean told me that my assailant had reported that I had PTSD, and because of this, I was ‘an unreliable witness’ and my ‘memory couldn’t be trusted,’” Ralston stated in her open letter.
Ralston said her abuser also received little punishment, and he was only put on academic probation.
Hannah Parker, Contributing Writer