Letter: UMass sexual assault survivors deserve better

UMass needs to hold sexual assault perpetrators accountable

By Letter Contributor

In the fall semester of my sophomore year at the University of Massachusetts, I was raped. When I was ready to come forward and report to the school, I was told that there was nothing that could be done on the school’s part to discipline the boy that raped me for his sexual misconduct. I decided that I wanted to take my case to law enforcement to learn more about the restraining order process. After meeting with Amherst Police and obtaining a restraining order against my perpetrator, I reported back to the school with a copy of the order, only to be told that the University would do their best to make sure that the boy would not be placed in any of my classes moving forward. At the time, I was living and working on the UMass campus along with a boy that I had a restraining order against. For nine months, I lived everyday attending classes, working, eating and sleeping on the same campus as the boy who raped me. I saw him various times at bus stops and dining halls. For a while, I was angry with the University and I blamed them for a lot of the trauma that I dealt with.

Fast forward to my senior year. I have learned to heal through my advocacy and artwork, which have helped me a great deal throughout this whole process. I have worked closely with many supportive faculty and staff and had finally started to feel hope that maybe the culture at UMass was starting to change. In the beginning of November, I placed a piece of my artwork in the Integrative Learning Center with the hopes of starting the conversation about sexual assault on campus. My artwork is a booklet of poetry, drawing and digital art that encompasses my assault, the feelings attached to it and my healing process. I did not ask for permission to place it in the ILC, but instead placed it where various students on campus are able to hang their flyers, informational packets, et cetera. For the one day that my artwork was up, I watched as the UMass community sat on, put trash on, vandalized and eventually threw away my piece of artwork. As I watched this happen, I was saddened to realize just how far the UMass community has left to go when it comes to the issue of changing campus culture.

Yes, I am proud to attend the university with number one dining, but the safety of students is more significant. Every year, the University works harder to implement new rules for tailgates and parties to get rid of the title “The Zoo,” but I think it is time that we start recognizing the issues that are affecting our school community on a deeper level. I understand that having an association with sexual assault is not something that any institution wants, but I firmly believe that it is better that we acknowledge that sexual assault is occurring on our campus and begin to act on it, rather than ignore the problem completely. I write this piece not to shame or degrade UMass, but instead to bring to light how prevalent the issue of sexual assault is on our campus. UMass is a great academic institution and I am proud to receive my degree from here, but I think it is time that we begin to change as a school community. We need to start holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. We need to come together as a whole, administration and students, and start combating this issue. We need to start working toward building a community that does not leave any more survivors in the dark.

Molly Hamel

Senior Psychology and Art Major

Director of Survivor Resources/Legal Education, It’s On Us

Editor’s note: The author sent this letter to UMass administration on Dec. 4 and has not received a reply as of publication in the Collegian. Her artwork can be found here.