IN 1997, I was sexually assaulted by a fellow student at the University of Virginia. At a closed hearing, the university’s committee on sexual assault found him responsible. His punishment? A letter in his file.
It’s not clear how many women have won their cases through the university’s system since they were first allowed to enroll as undergraduates in 1970. I am one of the women who won, but winning wasn’t really winning, was it?
The hearing on my case took place in March 1998, two months after a criminal trial that ended in disappointment and frustration for me when the judge dismissed the charge that the Commonwealth of Virginia had filed against my attacker.
The weak punishment meted out to the student whom the university found responsible for assaulting me doesn’t seem to have been unusual; as far as I know, no one has been expelled after being found responsible for sexual assault by the university. Compare this with the fate of the dozens of students, perhaps hundreds, who violated the school’s honor code, which deals with lying, cheating and stealing, during the same period. If you are found guilty of violating the honor code, there is only one sanction: expulsion.