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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Rape chalking raises questions on campus

<nda Rutherford* ’09 has made a lot of choices during her time at Carleton. Some were trivial – what shirt to pair with those pants, what to eat for lunch. Others were more important – what classes to take, what major to choose.

One choice, however, wasn’t so straightforward. One choice forced her to choose between friends and justice, between what was easy and what was necessary.

Yet Rutherford chose to take the hard road. Rutherford chose to file a complaint of sexual misconduct.

Rutherford is a victim of rape. Rutherford is a victim of a rape that happened on the Carleton campus. And Rutherford is a victim of Carleton’s internal complaint process in its failure to, in her opinion, adequately punish her assailant.

So at 1 a.m. on Sept. 25, Rutherford and fellow survivors and friends of survivors as part of a group they called Sexual Assault Survivors and Supports (SASS) struck campus. The anonymous chalk messages they wrote and the posters they put up were intended to get people talking about the issue of Carleton’s complaint process on campus.

“We’re products of what Carleton has and has not done,” Rutherford said, speaking alongside fellow SASS members Kelsey Petrow* ’10 and Sally Brooks* ’09. “It’s just alarming that there are lots of people on campus [who have committed sexual assault]. The general campus has no idea. It’s a dangerous situation for everyone.”

The SASS members are frustrated. And it shows. They are frustrated that though Rutherford chose to file a complaint, the final result of the process did not satisfy her. They are frustrated that though Petrow filed a complaint, the person she accused was not found in violation. They are frustrated that Brooks didn’t even try to file a complaint after seeing others finish the complaint process angry and hurt.

From their frustration, however, spawned their self-described “incendiary” chalkings, which in turn spawned campus-wide controversy and conversation.

Jini Rao ’09, a Gender and Sexuality Center Associate (GSCA) and a member of Campus Advocates Against Sexual Harassment and Assault (CAASHA), was particularly interested in the messages that the chalkings spread.

“I saw them and idealized that this was coming from someone who was really, really frustrated with the administration and really, really hurting,” Rao said. “And I did actually really think that with this chalking the campus community was finally ready for a conversation about sanctions.”

Her optimism turned sour when controversy broke out. Other survivors of rape and assault, who weren’t part of SASS, were hurt and offended by the messages. Complaints called into the Dean’s Office resulted in the chalkings being washed away at approximately 2 p.m., according to Associate Dean of Students Joe Baggot. One upset student wrote a letter to the editor of The Carletonian.

Yet despite the initial bad reaction, the conversations slowly began. The Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) hosted a meeting on the Sunday following the chalkings to discuss the topic, as well as another the subsequent week.

Rao, Rutherford, Petrow and Brooks were all impressed by the turnout at the meeting, which included not only GSCAs and CAASHA members but also other unaffiliated concerned students, including freshmen.

“I think it was good to have that range of perspectives there,” Rao said. “There were people who really appreciated that someone had done this.”

Now, it remains to be seen where to conversations go. Baggot has already seen increased conversation of this topic and has taken note.

“What I’m hearing through this process is that students want a greater partnership in the politics and practices surrounding sexual misconduct,” he said. “A part of that is listening to students who are part of the community. I think the best solution would be to find a way to interview those who have gone through it [the complaint process]. Nobody’s satistfied.”

Nobody is satisfied – yet. Rutherford still feels victimized. Petrow has turned to the Northfield police. Brooks doesn’t even know how to define herself yet. But they got the conversation out there and started up with their posters and chalkings.

“I think it was all coming from an authentic place,” Brooks said. “It was an authentic voice. I hope that even without names attached, it can still be legitimate.”

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of students.

For those who want to get involved, SASS can be reached at [email protected].

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