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Sexual Assault and Victim Blaming Happen on Christian Campuses, Too

Sexual Assault and Victim Blaming Happen on Christian Campuses, Too

“It is estimated that one in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there. One in five,” Obama said in a speech January 22. “These young women worked so hard just to get into college; often their parents are doing everything they can to help them pay for it. So when they finally make it there only to be assaulted, that is not just a nightmare for them and their families, it’s an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. It’s totally unacceptable.”

Yes, sexual assault on college campuses is still happening, and it’s happening at supposedly “Christian” campuses.

A New Republic year-long investigation into the ultra right-wing “Christian” Patrick Henry College in Virginia, the college known as “God’s Harvard,” affirms everything that is wrong.

As the report states: “Patrick Henry College was supposed to be a safe place. For these young women, it wasn’t.”

What do we know about Patrick Henry College?

Here’s what their webpage says: “Patrick Henry College seeks to recreate the original American collegiate ideal with fearless learning for Christ and His Truth. We train young leaders in the American and classical traditions with our core curriculum while centering all truth on the person and work of Jesus Christ.”

Really? For Claire Spear, it didn’t work out that way.

Here’s her story:

The security guards were having a slow night, when Fisher and his partner (two security guards) headed out past the dorms, to discover Claire Spear lying in a field. There was grass in her long, red hair, and she was crying.

Fisher could tell something was very wrong. “Claire, we need to go find your R.A.,” Adam said. “I’m going to take you. Is that OK with you?” She couldn’t answer. She was panicking and having trouble breathing.

Adam picked Claire up and carried her back across campus to the dorms. She was limp in his arms, and her eyes were closed. Claire struggled to explain what had happened.

“She kept saying that she had been violated,” Adam remembers.

Spear recalled later that she had spent the evening with a fellow student, a Christian like her, who she believed was a friend. Driving her back to campus, he stopped the car, climbed on top of her and began dry-humping her. She was terrified, and managed to get away, ending up in the field where the security guard found her. Her “friend” denies everything.

According to the New Republic report, when Spear told the Dean what had happened in the car that night, she says, “it felt like I was just talking to a brick wall.” The administration “basically told me that they couldn’t do anything because none of the details of my story could be proven.”

It’s not hard to find similar tales:

  • At the University of Missouri, a swimmer, allegedly raped by one or more football players, committed suicide 16 months later.
  • At the University of Notre Dame , a 19-year-old freshman at a neighboring college committed suicide after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her.
  • At Vanderbilt University, four football players arrested and accused of raping a student in her dorm room.

And now, at Patrick Henry College, supposedly the home of good Christian folks.

Obama has created a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. A White House report also concluded that because many attacks occur at parties, victims are often “abused while they’re drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out or otherwise incapacitated.”

But as Vice-President Biden has pointed out:

No matter what she’s wearing, no matter whether she’s in a bar, in a dormitory, in the back seat of a car, on a street, drunk or sober — no man has a right to go beyond the word no. And if she can’t consent, it also means no.

Even worse than blaming the victim once is blaming her a second time. Over and over again, the young women involved in sexual assaults are victimized all over again when they report what happened.

Patrick Henry College is no different.

As The Washington Post reports:

At Patrick Henry College, the women were questioned about what they were wearing and whether they were flirting. One victim was assigned to read a self-help book on modesty. She was told by a college official to delete the e-mails, calls and texts from a young man who apologized for an assault after she asked about calling the police. The dean asked her to trust God, instead.

Patrick Henry officials released a statement calling the New Republic report “categorically false” and saying, “We take each allegation seriously and try to conduct appropriate investigations with a spirit of emotional support while seeking truth.”

Claire Spear dropped out of Patrick Henry at the end of her freshman year. According to the New Republic investigation, she is not the first female student to leave under similar circumstances.

This has nothing to do with women trying to prevent men attacking them. Men need to learn that they do not have the right to assault women, that they do not own women.

Furthermore, college officials need to stop blaming women for such assaults, and instead hold the accused male students accountable.

Apparently, Patrick Henry College, in spite of its Christian protestations, is no different from any other college.

Why am I not surprised?

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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122 comments

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9:13PM PDT on Mar 16, 2014

Here it is again. The male mentality that rape is an acceptable practice. Holy rollers are no different. It either happened because her skirt was to short, she blinked just right, God willed it, etc. Any excuse to blame a woman. Men have no responsibility. As shown by the anti-birth control issues.

6:46PM PDT on Mar 15, 2014

any religion that requires believers to convert non believers is neither loving or caring they only promote hate and violence,

5:15AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

Karen H girls should learn MMA from a very early age and give whoever tries to abuse them more that the cowards can take!! TIME WE WOMEN DEFEND OURSELVES!!!!!!!!!

4:44AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

Thanks for sharing

4:17AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

PS Not that there aren't any good Christians. There are good people of every religion and there are good atheists. If religion made people good I might feel differently about it.

4:14AM PDT on Mar 12, 2014

Duh. Since when have "Christians" behaved better, been more compassionate, generous, respectful, etc. than non-Chrstians?

9:48PM PDT on Mar 11, 2014

There's a book all young women should be reading. Survive the Unthinkable by Tim Larkin. It teaches women to take control of an attack situation and survive.
The biggest problem is probably the fact that the rapists are often someone the women know, and they're reluctant to use violence against them. Sorry, dude, but even if I've known you all my life, if you come at me with evil intentions, you're going down.

6:08PM PDT on Mar 11, 2014

Why is anyone surprised by this. If the church is going to go around and proactively hide/cover up their pedophiles and intimidate the pedophiles victims why wouldn't they also hide the rape culture within their institutions.

It's sad, it's evil, but it's also unsurprising

5:47PM PDT on Mar 11, 2014

Having read all of the comments, it's hard to know just what to comment. But since I"m not an apologist and want to stick with the article, I'll just say that I'm saddened that the administration took the tack (sp?) they did. I really feel for the young woman, in so many ways! I suspect that, if the college had dealt with the incident the way it should have been handled, that they wouldn't have made Christianity take one more black mark in a society that detests it when it's painfully hypocritical.

6:28AM PDT on Mar 11, 2014

Rape is NEVER the victim's fault. Nobody asks to be raped, nobody deserves to be raped, nobody makes themselves seem "available" for rape. Short skirt, walking down a dark alley at 4am, drunk out of their mind - it doesn't matter. The only person to blame for rape is the rapist. Stop teaching people not to get raped, start teaching people not to rape!

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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