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Harvard Student: School Made Me Live With Attacker After Sex Assault

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A sexual assault survivor alleged that Harvard University administrators discouraged her from pressing charges and forced her to continue living in close quarters with her attacker in an anonymous essay published Monday in the Harvard Crimson.

The student first describes the incident:

I was intoxicated, I was in pain, I was trapped between him and the wall, and I was scared to death that he would continue to ignore what I said. I stopped everything and turned my back to him, praying he would leave me alone. He started getting impatient. “Are you only going to make me hard, or are you going to make me come?” he said in a demanding tone.

It did not sound like a question. I obeyed.

The student then writes that she was discouraged from seeking charges against her alleged attacker because her assault didn’t fit the narrow language of Harvard’s student handbook.

When I told my House Master that I was considering an Ad Board process, I was told it was a bad time of the semester, that there would be consequences for my assailant anyway, and that we shouldn’t go through the process if it was going to be fruitless. Shortly after, my resident dean told me that my assailant couldn’t be punished because he didn’t know what he was doing. The resident dean compared living in the same House as my assailant to a divorced couple working in the same factory.

The article has already been widely shared in the Harvard community and beyond as an example of yet another sexual assault that has been allegedly mishandled by campus authorities. The White House recently announced a task force to end sexual assault on campuses, as other top universities such as Dartmouth, Wesleyan and Amherst are also struggling to address a growing demand for administrative action to protect sexual assault victims.

Grace Mahoney, a Harvard student in the class of 2014 who works with Harvard’s CAARE program (Consent, Assault Awareness and Relationship Experts) placed the blame on Harvard’s campus culture. “There’s a lot in the culture that’s very male-dominant,” she said, adding that tough academic standards pressure students to put on a brave face. “There’s definitely a culture of braving it and just toughing it out and everything’s fine,” she said. “And sexual assault comes part and parcel with that.”

Numerous calls made by TIME to multiple Harvard resident deans were not returned.

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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com