"The Rape Was Bad, But Being Denied Justice Was Also Horrible"
Photo Credit: Patricia Evans
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The following is an excerpt from Lived Through This: Listening to the Stories of Sexual Violence Survivors by Anne K. Ream. Reprinted with permission of Beacon Press.
The More Things Change: Beth Adubato
The 112,000 signatures on the 2013 Change.org petition delivered to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan—a petition demanding that the federal government hold universities accountable for failing to protect students from sexual assault—were more than just names. They were a bundle of outrages, some of them decades old.
The women and men who signed it were calling for American universities to do things so basic, and so seemingly obvious, that the real shock was that a demand for action was needed at all: Take rape charges seriously. Investigate them swiftly. Stop asking women who have been raped by a fellow student to “take a semester off.” Start recognizing that when a popular young man commits sexual assault on campus, it is not a misunderstanding, a youthful indiscretion, or an infraction. It is a crime.
The signers included college students who had been raped by a classmate and then denied justice by school administrators, university alumnae who had experienced similar violence and institutional failure decades earlier, professors grown tired of seeing their schools fail rape victims, and parents who had experienced the heartbreak of sending a child to college and seeing her come home a crime victim.
People signed the petition to the Department of Education in anger and sadness. But mostly, they signed the petition with stories: This happened to my roommate. This happened to my daughter. This happened to me, last month. Last year. Too many years ago to even remember.
Beth Adubato, an assistant professor at New York Institute of Technology, owned one of those stories. She was nineteen years old when she was raped while a student at The College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Attending William and Mary had been Beth’s dream since she was a girl. She was a straight A student, and school was everything for her. “I was born on the same day as Thomas Jefferson—one of the earliest graduates of William and Mary—so for my college application, I wrote a really feminist essay about how I was going to be like him, someone who changed the world,” Beth recalls.
She remembers the day she arrived at William and Mary, during the 1980s, as one of the happiest of her life. “Everything was new,” Beth says. “Everything was beginning.”
Beth became an active and engaged student. “I worked on campus, I lived on campus, I loved the William and Mary life.” She was nineteen years old when a fellow student raped her. He was a popular lacrosse player Beth had met at a Friday night fraternity party. They spoke briefly, and when he offered to walk her home at the end of the evening, she remembers politely saying no. “I thought he was cute and nice, we all did,” says Beth. “Maybe it was my sixth sense, but I told him good night and left with a girlfriend.”
Later that night, he entered through the dorm-room door that Beth had left unlocked for her roommate and raped her repeatedly. A day later, it was discovered that someone had broken the building’s exterior card-key lock.
The details of that night remain clear to Beth. She wishes that they didn’t, but knows that there are some things she will never be able to forget. Yet Beth’s memories of the days that followed are what most unsettle her.
“The rape was bad, but being blamed and denied any sort of justice was also horrible,” Beth says. “It’s that ‘wrong on top of a wrong’ that gets to you.”