Consent Culture 

Rhodes student group pushes for change on sexual assault cases.

A student group rallied at Rhodes College last week, pushing for change at the school after a graduate went public earlier this month, expressing her disappointment over the way the college handled an allegation of sexual assault she made last school year.

Launching a campaign to support the alleged victim and other survivors of sexual assault, the group Culture of Consent held a rally last week to protest the college's response to the allegations, saying the school tried to buy the silence of the alleged victim, Emily [last name withheld], a 2019 graduate of Rhodes.

click to enlarge A Culture of Consent protestor at Rhodes in April. - CULTURE OF CONSENT/FACEBOOK
  • Culture of Consent/Facebook
  • A Culture of Consent protestor at Rhodes in April.

In a six-page letter addressed to Rhodes president Marjorie Hass, Emily explained "how disappointed I am in my alma mater for how severely it mishandled my sexual assault case," detailing many "glaring issues" throughout the process.

One issue she notes is that she was not given a hearing date until 124 days after she reported the assault. A day before the hearing was scheduled to occur, Emily was informed that a settlement had been reached in a related lawsuit filed by the student accused of assaulting Emily and that the hearing would not take place.

The Title IX office offered to reimburse Emily for expenses related to the hearing that didn't occur, but said she would have to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to receive reimbursement.

"I had now been victimized by John Doe and Rhodes," Emily wrote. "My well-being, like that of other student victims, was secondary to the reputation of the school."

Shortly after Emily's letter went public, Hass responded in an email to the campus community, saying, in part, that the college is committed to "upholding a fair Title IX process" and that "we need to work toward a culture where these horrible incidents don't occur."

Ahead of last week's rally, Hass sent a follow-up email to the campus, detailing further steps to "improve all aspects of the Title IX process and develop a stronger culture of consent at Rhodes."

One of those steps is implementing recommendations from the Sexual Misconduct Prevention Working Group that was formed in the spring. The group, which consists of students, staff, and faculty, will present its preliminary recommendations on December 6th.

Rhodes will bring in external reviewers to work with the group and Culture of Consent to review the college's process and implement the recommended changes, Hass said.

Abbey Bako, president of Culture of Consent, said last week that the primary goal of the campaign is to increase accountability on the Rhodes campus.

"Policies and procedures only work as well as the people implementing them allow," Bako said. "So how do we increase accountability within such a closed system? That's what we want to figure out."

Continuing the campaign, the group will host another event on Monday, December 2nd. The event, Flagging the Problem, will be a space to "visualize the problem, show solidarity for support, and be a part of the solution to ending sexual and domestic violence."

There will be victim support resources available, as well as information on how to get involved with organizations who work to address sexual violence.

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