Letter: Northeastern Needs to Confront Sexual Assault on Campus

Letter: Northeastern Needs to Confront Sexual Assault on Campus















As I sat with the nearly 3,300 other Husky graduates at the TD Garden on Friday, I thought about all of the amazing times I had had at Northeastern, the inspiring people I had met and where my future was headed. However, I was also forced to revisit the darkest memory of my time at school, as the student who sexually assaulted me on campus three years ago sat ten feet away from me.

In his address, President Aoun spoke about all the ways Northeastern had empowered graduates over our four or five years at the university. While this fact is undeniably true, I can think of one way that the university failed to empower me:  to have the confidence to speak up about my assault and to have the assurance that the university would stand behind me while doing so. While this is a bold statement, as I personally never reported my assault to the authorities, I did reach out to ViSION, who failed to respond to me for nearly a month, and after a bit of back and forth, failed to follow up with me. I also learned that only one of the six cases of sexual assault cases reported to the NUPD during the 2011-2012 school year was found as a student code of conduct violation. At the time, I feared that my case would not be appropriately handled by the current system in place, causing a greater personal struggle than I already faced.

There is no doubt in my mind that Northeastern empowered me to become a better person, challenging me to expand my worldview and push personal boundaries. I was an active student on campus and a summa cum laude graduate that traveled the world and gained valuable professional experience, all thanks to Northeastern. However, I can’t help but wonder if I could’ve done more or excelled greater if I did not have to dedicate so much of my time to fighting the anxiety, depression and PTSD symptoms I developed as a result of that night in a Northeastern dorm room.

As President Aoun closed out the commencement ceremony, he urged us to go out into the world and empower others. At that moment, as I confronted both the joy and trauma of my undergraduate education at Northeastern, I decided to make a difference for current and future Huskies. So, Northeastern, as you continue to become a leader in education in the United States and worldwide, I challenge you to also become a leader in combating sexual assault on campuses in three ways:  first, by actively engaging students in meaningful dialogue about consent and potentially threatening situations; second, by reviewing and upgrading the current reporting process and support programs, such as ViSION, so as to be sensitive to those affected by assault; and third, by taking meaningful action against the perpetrators of sexual violence to protect the survivors and other students against future attacks. These measures will reaffirm to students that Northeastern is capable of handling sexual assault cases and will empower our affected students to come forward.

I am a proud Husky alumna who thanks Northeastern for giving me an outstanding education both in and out of the classroom. I am glad to continue my support of a university that has continually challenged the status quo of higher education, and I think it is time for Northeastern to challenge the status quo on issues of sexual assault on college campus.

Empowerment goes far beyond a $1 billion campaign. Empowerment gives Huskies a safe space and a voice to reach out for help.

The 2014 graduate who penned this letter wished to remain anonymous.

Photo courtesy JessT-R, Creative Commons.

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