'Law and Justice Aren't the Same': Interview With a UVA Rape Survivor

In the history of UVA, only 14 students have ever been found guilty of sexual misconduct. One of these cases was adjudicated in September 2006, while I was attending the school as an undergrad, and—though I didn’t know it at the time—in class with the woman (who we’ll call Kelly in this interview) who’d spent 10 months waiting for her case to be tried.

We haven’t seen each other since that semester, but when I saw her allude to her experience on Facebook, I reached out, wondering what it takes to get a case through UVA’s fairly complicated internal system. We talked on the phone this weekend, and what I found out was: it takes a lot.

So, the Rolling Stone article.

I want to say right off that I think UVA is fairly unremarkable. That everything I went through was pretty par for the course. People are saying stuff like, “Don’t send your daughters to UVA,” and even after what I’ve been through I don’t agree. I got a really good education in spite of the system. A friend of mine was assaulted the same time that I was at another elite school in the South, and her Title IX trial was super fucked-up. Mine was bad—I went through the documents today and found some significant issues—but hers was so much worse.

I agree with you that UVA feels like it’s par for the course—although to me that’s more an indictment of the average than credit for the school—but I would also guess that the fact you were able to get a good education is indicative of the same tenacity that got you through this process.

Yeah. But my point is that girls aren’t really better off at any other schools in particular. The culture and Title IX procedures at other schools are just as bad as UVA, if not worse. They all need to change.

Let’s start from the beginning. You got to UVA in the fall of 2005.

Yes. I think my first few months of school were pretty average. I was very social, I had a big group of friends, I went to class, I went out. And like it said in the Rolling Stone article, and I bet you remember—Rugby Road in August and September is just choked with first-years, and you’re walking around like, “Let’s go into this random party and dance our faces off.” That’s how it was when I got there. It was really fun. I didn’t have any problems or come to any harm.

There were some guys on the first floor of my dorm who’d started to get to know these guys in this one frat. And they were like, “We know the brothers, we can get into the party faster, we can drink upstairs.” At the time, that sounded great. Free booze, you know?

Oh, definitely.

So I probably hung out upstairs at the house with these frat brothers four or five times without incident. I’d go dance with my friends on the dance floor, then go upstairs and drink with them, and it was a good time. I’d see them walking to class, we’d all say hello, they’d ask me if I was hanging out that weekend, I’d say yes. We were cool with one another.

And then it was November 11, 2005. I went out with my friend for her birthday, and we planned our meal around our later drinking—we got heavy Chinese food, made sure to eat a lot of rice. We decided to go to that frat afterwards. So we get in the line, and you remember how they ask you two questions at the door: are you a student, are you 21?


We said yes to both. And then we get some beers, start dancing. I probably had had about four beers before I got into the bathroom line. I should say I’m sober now, but at the time I didn’t understand how heavy a drinker I was—and of course, the bathroom line was taking forever. One of the brothers I knew said, “I’ll take you upstairs, you can use the bathroom there.” I said thank you and followed him. Then he was like, “Would you like to hang out in my room and have a few drinks?”

That wasn’t abnormal—we’d done that before. So I went into his room. I was sitting at his desk chair, and there were two other people in the room, one frat brother and another first-year girl. I didn’t know them. The guy’s back is to me as he’s mixing his drinks, but the other two people—as I’d find out later—had a clear view.

So he comes over, hands me a drink. It was gross, like Aristocrat vodka and Crystal Light. He says, jokingly, “I put three roofies in yours.” He looks at the other girl and says, “I put two roofies in yours.” And to the brother: “I put no roofies in yours.”

I felt a little uncomfortable, but I didn’t think he was serious. We’re joking, drinking. Then he comes over and is like, “Don’t nurse that, hurry up.” He’s trying to tip my cup into my mouth; he mixes me another drink before I’m done with the first one. I was uncomfortable, but I also didn’t know how to politely say no. He’s like, “Chug it, don’t be a pussy.”

I drink awkwardly. Then I say I’m going to go downstairs and find my girlfriends. He follows me, he’s glued to me like Velcro. I try to lose him in the party—there are like 200 people there—and I find my girlfriends, then the guy finds me again. He’s like, “Why did you ditch me?” I get away from him with my girlfriends again.

But then later, we’re back in the bathroom line, and he finds us and tells us we can use his bathroom upstairs. So we do. And we go into his room when he offers us drinks. And he did the same thing he did the previous time—poured me a strong drink, and then gave me another before I was done with the first. He only gave my friend one drink. And I remember sitting in that room leaning on my friend’s shoulder, thinking how fun it was, saying, “Laura, I love you.”

That’s the last thing I remember.

What happened when you woke up?

I woke up with an awful feeling. The first thing I noticed was that my hair was dripping wet with sweat. I was burning up. I was in a bed, not my bed, not Laura’s bed. When I recognized that I was in that guy’s room from last night I immediately felt even sicker. I couldn’t move at all. I felt so physically ill. I’d never felt anything like that.

Were you roofied? I’ve been roofied—at 16, by a guy who was in his mid-twenties—and the physical sensation on waking up was the most insane thing I’ve ever experienced. Not a hangover. It’s distinct and different.

It’s inconclusive. I know exactly what you’re talking about: I was roofied a few years after that in a situation where there was no question about what had happened—and the feeling in the morning was the same.

But in this case, the two students who were in the room the first time said they didn’t see him putting anything in there. And, counting up the number of drinks I’d had, I could have just experienced an alcoholic blackout. He was pouring me vodka doubles. I didn’t know he had put that much vodka in them, and I had four to six of them, according to him.

Either way it’s immaterial.

Yeah. So you wake up super sick. Had you been feeling sick at all the night before?

I’d felt completely fine the night before. So my boots are off, my dress is on, but it’s twisted. I have no underwear. I look around and see my underwear on the end of the couch, on the other side of the room. I tried to get out of bed but I literally couldn’t move. I couldn’t even crawl.

I lie there for a while. No one is in the room with me. And then I hear voices in the hallway. One is the guy in question, and there are two other guys talking to him. I hear one of them say, “[This guy] is a necrophiliac, he likes to fuck dead girls.”

I realized they were talking about me. They keep joking, like, “What are we gonna do, there’s a dead girl in your bed.”

I went into immediate survival mode. I start thinking, I need to play this smart. I can’t confront them and say, “You motherfucker, what the fuck happened.” So he comes back in the room, like, “You’re awake? I was really worried about you.”

I was like, “Oh yeah?” I ask him what happened. I tell him the last thing I remember was sitting in his room drinking. He says, “We did some shit, we hooked up, and then you got sick.”

That was the end of my emotional bandwidth. I stopped asking questions.

How did you get out of there?

It was not good. It was the day of the Georgia Tech game—a home game—so there’s bumper-to-bumper traffic across Charlottesville, no buses running, no cabs. I was too far away from [my dorm] to walk in the state I was in. [ed. note: it’s at least a mile from any frat house to Kelly’s dorm].

So they offer to give me a ride and I say yes. I’m trying to play it cool. One of the brothers—not one of the ones who assaulted me—borrows a car and takes me home. He drops me off, says, “We had such a good time last night.”

It was November 12. I went in the shower, which was a mistake, but I didn’t think about that—all I could think was that I just needed a shower.

Was your mind on what had happened the night before?

No. I couldn’t deal with it. I was just trying to manage being so physically ill.

When did you start to process what had happened?

Sunday night I was trying to do my homework, and I couldn’t. The thoughts of what happened on Friday were too invasive. I turned on some TV to white-noise it out, and Grey’s Anatomy was on, and it was an episode about date rape. This girl was like, “I don’t know if I’ve been date-raped,” and then she tells this story that’s not too different from mine. On the show the doctors say, “You’ve definitely been date-raped.” And I was like, holy shit.

I went downstairs to a guy on the first floor. He said, “I think you should talk to an residential advisor.” I find an RA, who says, “I think it would be good to report this. I’m going to call the police.” So the police came. Everyone in the dorm starts talking—word spreads that someone’s been raped. I was mortified. The cops take my clothes, take stuff for evidence, they take me to the hospital to get a rape kit.

The hospital was the worst experience of my life. Rape kits are intense to begin with: You have a group of people examining your body, they take hairs from your head, 25 pubes, they’re looking at every single orifice, swabbing everything. And the nurses who did it were awful, talking about me as if I weren’t there. Finally when they do talk to me, they’re like, “Wow, you’re not crying very much. Most people cry a lot. Are you really sure that you were raped?”

I was like, fuck off. But I didn’t say anything. I was just doing what I needed to do to get through each event. And I’m from an Irish Catholic family, you know? We put our shit in a tiny little box and lock it down.

Let me ask you. Did you know you’d had sex with him?


Had you known as soon as you woke up?

Yeah. I could feel it. I don’t know what kind of sex—he says that he just inserted his fingers in my vagina. I’m not sure about that. We agree that something happened, anyway. And I never got the results of the rape kit. They were like, “You took a shower, it’s been more than 24 hours, we can tell you probably had sex and that’s about it.”

So the rape kit was a waste of my time, almost. But one of the cops told me—and I’m glad he did—that even if I didn’t decide to pursue something, I shouldn’t shut doors on myself.

Let me ask you another question, which I want to preface by saying I understand, personally and well, that there’s a massive difference between drunk or even blackout sex and rape. But, some people really fear the potential gray area—they fear that some girls will think “regrettable” and cry assault.

I find that idea very out of step with reality, but it’s worth asking: how did you know the difference? How did you know when you woke up that you hadn’t consented? That it wasn’t just, you got drunk and had sex?

Because I couldn’t take a breath without hearing those guys joke about fucking my dead body. I knew very deep down that something horrific had happened. I knew I had not had the chance to make the choice. I did not want to fuck that guy. I did not in any way want to give him access to my body.

I know, when I’ve had drunk sex—vague memories, unclear situations—that I was an active participant. People would tell me the morning after, “You said this, you did this,” and I’d be like, “Sure, that sounds like me.”

There is a difference between having drunk sex and having someone penetrate you when you are lying there, basically unconscious. The thing is, I had a previous experience. I’d been raped in high school. I had gotten really drunk, and my friends dropped me off at my house and put me in bed. This person broke into my house and had sex with my unconscious body.

Wow. That’s horrific.

And this time felt just like that time. The feelings inside me were wrong in the same way.

Had you told anyone?

I told my two best friends, who told me I was a drunk slut. I never told anyone after that.

What made you decide to say something at UVA?

I wasn’t 15 anymore. I wasn’t that much older—I was 18—but I had been sitting with the knowledge that the guy in high school was still hurting other girls. And I couldn’t stand the idea of letting this frat guy keep doing it.

What happened this time when you told your friends?

People were more supportive this time around, but not everyone. Two of those guys who had introduced me to the frat in the first place were like, “Well, we really want to rush that frat.”

I’d say, “You know they did this to me.”

They’re like, “Well, they say you’re lying.”

What did they say you were lying about?

The guy was saying, “I asked you, you said yes, you don’t remember.” I had to explain over and over again that I was too incapacitated to consent, and I never would have to begin with.

When did you start thinking about bringing the issue up formally?

I started talking to deans at the school right away. The part of the Rolling Stone article that vilifies the deans at UVA—that wasn’t my experience. Every single person in the administration said, “I’m sorry. Here are your options. What do you want to do?”

That was important. If you have been traumatized and had your power to choose taken away from you, it doesn’t help to be railroaded into any situation. You can’t be forced to testify, forced into an investigation. Bringing your rapist to light isn’t always going to make the trauma better.

When did you decide to go through with proceedings?

Later that month.

What made you decide?

I was mad as hell. And one of the things that pushed me to the point of feeling like I had a case was that my girlfriends had been trying to find me before they left that party. There are always guys guarding the stairs, and they asked about me—they said, she was with [this guy], we need to find her. The stair guards were like, “They didn’t go upstairs.”

They described the guy, named him. The stair guards flat-out lied and said, “That guy isn’t a brother here. We don’t know who you’re even talking about.”

My friends got suspicious. They waited for the stair guards to leave. It was like 3 a.m. at this point, and they went to the room I had been in before—the room I woke up in—and they knocked and knocked and no one answered.

That’s chilling that they pretended they didn’t know him.

Then later, I found out that a guy in my dorm—a guy who didn’t know me—had been at that party. He came home that night and said to one of his friends, “I just saw something really fucked-up.” He described a girl being carried up the stairs, arms around guys’ shoulders, someone pushing her legs up. He went to the stair guards—the same guys—and said, “That girl doesn’t look okay.” The guys said, “She’s drunk, but we’re taking care of it.”

He came home freaked out. And he kept talking about it, and later he was with one of my girlfriends, and he told the story, saying, “I heard someone in the dorm was raped, and I’m worried that it was that girl.” And my friend realized it was me. They put the stories together. So the guy contacted me and said, “I saw this and I want to help.”

I’m so grateful to that guy. The only reason I think I got traction was because he was a third-party witness who didn’t previously know me. His testimony made my case for me.

What was the frat guy’s versions of events?

That we walked up the stairs totally fine, and started making out. He said I pulled down my dress and exposed my breasts, and he asked me if I was okay with everything, and I said yes, and then he started fingering me and asked me if I was okay, and I said yes.

And then I started puking, and they “took care of me.” But one of the brothers had an older sister who was visiting. She was a nurse, and she testified, saying, in these words, “Her breathing was ragged but she was breathing. Her pulse was low, in the 20s and 30s, but she had a pulse.”

At that, some people on the panel’s jaws dropped. Like, her pulse was in the 30s and you didn’t call the fucking ambulance? That’s the fundamental issue with his story. “We were taking care of you.” If they gave two shits they would have called 911.

So you had third-party witnesses. Did you consider a criminal trial?

I did, for a while. I spent probably 20 hours in the police department—the office ultimately was like, “We want you to help you, but it’ll be really hard to win beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.”

I don’t think it’s wrong that they told me that. I think it’s good they told me the truth. They told me that all of my life choices would be dragged through the mud, and that was true: the Liz Seccuro trial was happening at the same time, and even for her—a 17-year-old virgin at the time of her rape—all her decisions were being questioned.

I was not a perfect victim. And I couldn’t have done a criminal trial without my parents’ help, and I couldn’t tell them. I didn’t tell them about the first rape, and I couldn’t tell them about the second one. They are great, supportive parents who always loved me unconditionally and I couldn’t bear to break their hearts.

Do they know now?

Yeah, they’ve put it together. They know now. My dad called me crying after I posted that Facebook status about the Rolling Stone article. He asked me why I didn’t ask them for help. I told them the truth—that I wanted to protect them.

But now, if I were to give anyone advice, I would say: tell your parents.

Yes. So, you decide against the criminal trial. What are your options?

So, through Title IX, any school receiving federal funding has to create an atmosphere of education that is not hostile, which means one in which sexual assault is taken seriously. Each school develops its own programs under those guidelines. (Ed. note: here is UVA’s policy.)

The first option is a formal trial in front of the Sexual Assault Board. Each person has an advocate—someone from the school who’s trained in this type of case. You can also have outside legal representation who guides you, but who can’t ask questions or cross-examine. The cases are heard by a chair—usually a dean—and two faculty members and three students. You give your position, present your witnesses, wrap up with an impact statement; the panel deliberates and gives a judgment in writing in two weeks.

Your other options are less formal. A dean can hear both sides and make a decision; or, you can go in with the accused party for mediation, which works well for harassment but not for this.

I want to say, again, that at every step the deans were very helpful. It was only the kids around me who were saying, “You were just drunk, you’re lying.” I think the deans are working in a broken system. (Ed. note: Dean Eramo, the current head of the Sexual Misconduct Board and the subject of attention in the Rolling Stone piece, took her position shortly after Kelly’s trial in 2006.)

What specifically do you think of as broken?

After the trial was over, I was given a packet of manila envelopes with details about the proceedings that I never went through, because every time I think about what he said I want to puke.

But I opened those envelopes today. Reading through them, they made some really big mistakes. First, they used a standard of evidence called “clear and convincing.” The legal standard of evidence that should be used in these cases is “a preponderance,” which is a lower standard of evidence.

This is a major problem, and it was only officially corrected at UVA in 2011, when the school came under investigation by the Department of Education following the “Dear Colleague” letter, which clarified Title IX responsibilities that had been on the books in clear wording since 1972—that is a massive fuck-up.

Another problem was—well, to give background, Dean Laushway really went to bat for me. He found out about my story, and in the spring of 2006, he brought charges against the frat to UJC, saying they had violated numerous policies.

(Ed. note: UJC is the University Judiciary Committee, which hears cases of alleged misconduct by UVA students or student groups. Anyone can file a case, and the UJC can impose any sanction. This is separate from the Honor Committee, another internal governing entity at UVA, which adjudicates allegations of lying, cheating, and stealing, and only has the single sanction of expulsion.)

Was his complaint successful?

Yes, they lost their charter and were kicked off campus.

It’s good that you didn’t have to bring that charge yourself.

Yeah. In that trial, I was a witness and not the complainant.

But afterwards, in response, the president of the fraternity filed honor charges against me and my two friends—saying that we had lied at the door about our age, and that we had admitted as much in the UJC trial. He served us with papers on a Friday and we couldn’t do anything about it until Monday. And we had lied about our age, and we’d admitted it. There was clear grounds to expel us. We were terrified. (Ed. note: as the Rolling Stone article pointed out, 183 students have been expelled from UVA for honor-code violations, but none have ever been expelled for sexual assault.)

The charges quickly came under bias review, and they were dismissed, but the fraternity president just got to walk away knowing it would stay on all of our records that we were accused. One of my friends had to have Dean Laushway vouch for her before taking the bar exam, and has had to deal with this accusation every time she’s applied for a government job.

Also, within that UJC trial, my side was defended by a fourth-year college student; the frat was defended by a law student. It wasn’t fair.

But the frat lost their charter anyway.

And their activities were suspended until trial was over.

Did they actually suspend their activities? I remember the frats that got in trouble always just had smaller parties.

They did carry on hanging out, but the situation affected their pledging (Ed. note: UVA rush happens in January)—and all of those guys fucking hated me.

On a personal level, how were you dealing? Did this change your sex life?

The guy who did it to me was an international student. He looked a particular way, and I ended up sleeping with a lot of people who looked like him. One of the things I’ve talked a lot about with my therapist is that—it’s very well documented that a lot of people who were raped seek out situations that recreate their rape, except for the fact that they’re in charge.

So the UJC frat trial happened in the spring of 2006. When did the Title IX trial start?

The next September. The student knew I had lodged a complaint against him, and he had been gone from school since the fall semester of 2005, on advice from his family and lawyers.

Why did it take till September 2006 for the Title IX trial?

I don’t know. I always said, I want to do this right fucking now.

Right now like after the UJC trial?

Right now like November 2005.

So it took 10 months. Where was your head at?

I was a ball of rage. And anger is not always useful, but at the time, it was my only fuel.

What specifically were you angry about?

He betrayed me. I had considered this guy kind of a friend. And he genuinely believed he had done nothing wrong. He would not for a second admit he had done anything wrong.

Right. Like to have sex with someone that has never expressed any sexual interest in you and that you personally got so drunk as to require medical attention—like that’s just part of college.

Yeah. He genuinely believed that, and so did all of those guys. He was honestly an average dude. Bro McBroster. They all thought it was okay. And as much as I love UVA, that’s really part of the foundational culture—the capacity to sustain a deep lie. The whole school venerates Thomas Jefferson, the man who said all men are created equal but also owned slaves.

I understand the capacity of people to lie to themselves. I’ve done it. I denied what happened to me in high school for years. And everyone at UVA is smart. They are smart kids, smart people. They entered a good university with a frat culture where you’re told, “You get girls drunk and then you can fuck them and that’s what we all do.”

That’s real.

There’s a definite difference between getting drunk and having sex you don’t totally remember and being so drunk that consent is not attainable at all. People say it’s a fine line, and it might be: but only if you’re not interested in consent—if you feel that you don’t need to obtain it.

And these guys just enter this culture. They didn’t create it. They just inherit it and then perpetuate it.

It also works to their favor. The Greek system is about organizing social capital and leveraging it: people will always want to keep whatever power they’ve got.

Yeah. And first-years at UVA can’t really drink in dorms because they’ll get in trouble, and they can’t go to bars, and sororities are dry (Ed. note: an across-the-board UVA tradition), and they don’t know the upperclassmen that have house parties, so they go to frats.

The fact that UVA sorority houses don’t allow alcohol at them is dumb. Let the girls throw the parties. Everyone will get drunk and far fewer people will be assaulted.

I lived in my sorority house and my boyfriend couldn’t spend the night there. Compare that to frat houses, and it’s just—

It sounds like a joke to say that sororities should loosen their regulations as a means to lessening violence—but at least as far as UVA goes, if the Greek system lasts much longer, I think that’s true. There’s a double consciousness there—a sustained, public-facing lie about who wants what and how they can, or have to, get it.

Yeah. You can’t end rape. But you can do big things to change the environment and reduce the risk. As it is right now, like the Rolling Stone article said, girls are barreled into a default situation where every variable is controlled by frat boys.

Back to your Title IX trial. What’s it like?

11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and deliberation the day after.

You had to wait 10 months for a single day’s trial?

Yeah. The guy called in for it—he’d withdrawn from the university.

Was that mandated by UVA?

No, it was voluntary. In the meantime, though, the frat boys were still on my case. One time someone walked up behind me on campus and whispered in my ear, “You fucking lying whore.” I froze, too scared to turn around.

Would you have wanted him off campus no matter what?


But you didn’t have to formalize his departure, because he left.

Yes. And so, he phones in to the trial. The panel’s asking me questions that they never ask him. The first question they ask me is, “Are you gay?”

What? Why?

My understanding was that—in their reasoning—if I didn’t like dick, I would be less likely to have consented. But at the time I was 19, what the hell did I know? I was so unprepared. I wish I had lawyered up. I wish I’d had a Title IX lawyer to tell me that wasn’t fair.

You never consulted with one.

No. I trusted the school would treat me fairly. I couldn’t afford a lawyer myself and I didn’t want to tell my parents. I’m so glad that alumna started a Crowdrise fund to help girls with legal defense—I could have used that.

What else did they ask you?

The male faculty member on the panel, a computer science professor, kept repeating these questions over and over: Had I ever cheated on a boyfriend? Had I ever had sex with multiple people at the same time? How many sexual partners?

Those kinds of questions are explicitly prohibited by Title IX, but they had a real effect. I started being like, “Did I deserve this? Maybe I deserved all of this.”

Right. People draw a connective line, and it feels like a real one.

Yeah. And they didn’t even ask the guy how much he drank that night, anything about his sex life. That male faculty member kept asking me, “Why the hell would you drink so much? Why?”

That was a question that I was really beating myself up about internally. I’m an alcoholic, I know that now, but all I knew then was that I had a hard time stopping drinking once I started.

You’ve been sober now for how long?

Two years.

That’s great.

Yeah. I did honestly use alcohol to cope during college, and it did help me, until it couldn’t help me anymore. I went to UVA mental health services multiple times during the wait for that trial and said, “If you do not lock me up right now, I am going to commit suicide.” Once there were no beds in the hospital, and they gave me a bunch of Seroquel and kicked me out the door.

I called one of my girlfriends, who had to carry me to a bus stop, and carry me back to my dorm. I was drooling and nonfunctional—Seroquel is nothing to fuck with. She put me in bed and I slept for 36 hours straight.


Yeah. If she hadn’t been there—

Did anyone acknowledge that you were experiencing a normal response to trauma?

They did. A few people at Counseling and Psychological Services helped me—they would email my professors, let them know I needed extensions, explain why I missed class.

Did you ever consider withdrawing?

My academic dean suggested I withdraw and it made me mad as hell. Sometimes, of course, it’s the right choice to recover and not fight. But at the time I felt like, I would rather die than give my education up. That it was my school, I deserved to be there, to get my fucking degree.

So, the trial. What was the verdict and how was it given to you?

I got a letter that is still very hard to read. They decided he was not guilty of sexual assault, but he was guilty of sexual misconduct. It was because he knew he’d served me those drinks, four to six double vodka drinks and a beer. The sexual assault board agreed that I was intoxicated past the point of consent—but they also said that he did not intend to cause me any harm.

Let me find the wording here for why it wasn’t sexual assault. [papers shuffling] So, in the decision, they said he would have had to have recognized the conditions of my intoxication and exploited it for it to be assault. They don’t think he did that.

I think they are wrong.

It’s probably important to note that no one is doubting his story.

Yes, and his story includes my pulse being at 30 and him not calling 911.

I do wonder if they had used the correct standard of evidence—a preponderance, rather than clear and convincing—if he would have been found guilty of assault as well as misconduct.

So the difference between sexual misconduct and sexual assault is essentially the intention to harm? They said he didn’t have it?

Yeah, and I disagree.

You think he did mean to harm you.


I wonder if he never even thought it was harmful. If he thought that having sex with a vomiting, basically unconscious person was really just okay.


What was his punishment?

He was suspended for three years. The point was that he wouldn’t be on campus while I was there. He was totally banned from grounds.

Was that a good punishment to you?

Yes, it was. It was pretty serious. If he wasn’t expelled, then at least I wouldn’t see him. He couldn’t contact me, to return he would have to complete a class about alcohol and responsibility, he’d have to complete a class about consent.

To be clear, I think expulsion was the right punishment, but this was the functional equivalent. I felt that the punishment was warranted. After 11 months, he still didn’t think he did anything wrong at all. And that’s what still scares me.

Nine years have gone by since this happened. How often have you thought about it?

Every single day until April 8 of this year, when intensive therapy started to feel like it was working.

Do you think you’d have reached that point faster if UVA had handled your case differently?

Yes. I would have recovered faster. A lot of my traumatic flashbacks are to the trial, to the questions they asked me.

And you are a success story, so to speak.

I got a good outcome, but the process was terrible.

Only four out of 38 complaints even made it to UVA’s Sexual Misconduct Board last year. Not a lot of people have the wherewithal to stick this process out. Are you glad you did?


Would you do it again?

Yes. It would have been more awful to see him around, or see parties happening at that frat, and me walking by wondering if there was some other girl in there.

And now there are girls at UVA who are supporting each other openly in this in a way that they weren’t able to nine years ago, or even five. That’s really the essence of Title IX—it’s not punishing the attacker, but helping survivors rebuild their lives. Even if your attacker doesn’t get kicked off campus (even though I think he should), Title IX makes it so he changes classes, changes dorms, makes it so you don’t have to see him.

There’s this fundamental misunderstanding that schools are somehow able to mete out justice, and frankly, they’re not. When you go to the law looking for justice, what you often get is just the law. Law and justice aren’t always the same thing. Universities aren’t supposed to be determining criminal guilt. Punishment is not the most important thing. It never has been.

Instead, the priority should always be on helping people recover. The sun is still rising the day after someone commits violence against you. How do you recognize that and move forward? That is where the emphasis needs to be.

Anyone seeking advice on this process can contact Kelly at [email protected].

Image via Karen Blaha/Flickr.

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