Christendom College, a small, Catholic, liberal arts school in Front Royal Virginia, celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Christendom is praised as a safe haven where young students can focus on their studies, grow in their faith, and “breathe the Catholic air.” But several former and current students say the school’s sheltered, highly structured campus culture actually facilitates sexual assault — and that the administration works harder to protect its reputation than it does to protect its students.
The Cardinal Newman Society, which publishes an authoritative annual guide to Catholic Colleges, says Christendom “makes a point to emphasize virtuous living, which translates to a faithful Catholic lifestyle and strong friendships. With this goal in mind, the College utilizes single-sex dormitories, visitation policies to promote chastity, planned weekly events as a way to proactively promote sobriety and counter any temptation toward a ‘drinking scene,’ and spiritual programs to foster students’ prayer lives and spirituality.”
Adele Smith, class of 2012, experienced some culture shock when she arrived at Christendom. Accustomed to a large, sociable, extended family, she knew Christendom would be conservative, but was bemused by the strict segregation of males and females. She describes the “open houses” that would take place in the dorms once a semester.
“The girls would get baked goods and candy, and the guys would come into the dorm and take a tour. It was very much like a museum, like an exhibit. It was the same with the guys’ open house, except they’d have TVs and video games. ‘This is how the native people on the men’s side of campus live!’ This is not how young people engage in a normal way. It felt like a human zoo.”
The school’s rigid rules governing male and female interaction weren’t just awkward, though. Smith claims they are dangerous.
Rigid student life rules drive students off campus
She says that the rules against romantic public displays of affection were so restrictive, it drove couples off campus. Because Christendom is in a rural, isolated spot with few restaurants, clubs, museums or theaters, going off campus generally means going into the woods or into a field.
“It’s just a natural human need to connect with someone you’re in a relationship with,” Smith said. “Just to hold hands, they’d go off campus for a date; and by ‘off campus,’ it could in be in the woods, or in a field down the road. There are not a lot of options if you don’t have a car. So you end up having couples potentially isolate themselves. They should be able to express themselves romantically in a public setting, which is a safer setting to learn how to navigate as a couple. Instead, you’re put into remote, isolated areas where things can get out of hand.”
That’s precisely what happened when Smith was raped by her then-boyfriend, a fellow Christendom student. The rape occurred on Friday, October 2, 2009, on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, about thirty minutes away from the college campus. We contacted the young man and he has not yet responded, so we are not using his name at this time.
“He had sex with me, and I didn’t want to.”
Smith, who was then a sophomore, says she was so naive, she didn’t even know to use the word “rape” until many months later. She told her friends, “He had sex with me, and I didn’t want to.”
Smith had hurt her back in a car accident when she was a freshman. On the day of the rape, she re-injured her back while cleaning her room for Homecoming Weekend, and so her new boyfriend suggested that they have a low-key, relaxing date.
He didn’t have a license, so, at his suggestion, they borrowed a friend’s car and she drove them up to a scenic point overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. He told her her back might be more comfortable in the back seat, and they could put the laptop in the center console to listen to music.
“In retrospect, I can say, ‘You’re a dummy!’ But back then, I was nineteen. He was my friend, I knew him, I knew his sister, and it felt very natural sitting in the back,” Smith said.
He started kissing her. She had no objection, as they had kissed before. But when he started putting his hand inside her shirt, she told him “No,” and pushed his hand away. She said, “I’m not comfortable with that,” and he said, “Okay.”
“Then he tried it again, and I pushed his hand away, and said, ‘Please, I don’t want to do that.’ He said, ‘Okay.’ Then he tried a third time,” she said.
They were in a confined space; the young man was around six feet tall, and Smith is five feet tall.
“If it was me vs. a kitten, the kitten would win,” Smith says.
“I can’t stop him, apparently.”
She had been diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder after graduating high school, and her anxiety kicked in at this point. She said she realized she could not stop the man.
“He’s not stopping. I’ve told him three times not to. I can’t stop him, apparently,” she recalled thinking.
The young man then started unbuttoning her jeans, and she again told him “No.” He pulled her down so she was flat on the back seat.
“I had my arms pushed together, my elbows to my hands pushed together in front of my chest, trying to keep myself covered. He pushed my arms apart with his hands. My legs were tightly closed. He took his knee and pushed my legs open, pulled my shirt off, and pulled my jeans down. I felt him,” she said.
“Up until that point, I considered myself fairly knowledgeable,” she said. “But it took me a second to realize what was happening. I remember thinking, ‘Is that what I think it is? Is that what’s happening right now?'”
“Why are you making such a big deal of it?”
Smith does not remember getting dressed after the rape. She remembers standing outside the car, smoking a cigarette and shaking, and her boyfriend saying he didn’t know why she was making such a big deal out of it. So she drove them down the mountain and back to campus.
It took all of her strength not to drive off the mountain. She returned the car to her friend, went back to her dorm, sat down in the shower fully clothed, and cried.
Although Smith’s patron is Maria Goretti, the teenaged saint who was stabbed to death while resisting rape, Smith said the concept of rape was foreign to her. She didn’t want to accept that something so ugly had happened to her.
“When I tried to figure out what had happened, I would say, ‘He had sex with me, but I didn’t,’” she said.
Smith texted her boyfriend the next day, saying she didn’t want to see him again. He responded by calling her a bitch and a prude, and saying, “You know you liked it.” She blocked his number.
The victims always blame themselves.
Smith skipped many classes her sophomore year, unable to endure being in the same room with him. Her GPA slipped to 1.2.
It wasn’t until the beginning of her junior year that she heard the word “rape” applied to her ordeal. She was at a party hosted by her theology teacher, Eric Jenislawski, after a meeting of the Chester-Belloc Debate Society. Smith and her brother stayed long after midnight talking, and Jenislawski told her he knew something had happened to her. He said she noticed a change in her, and wanted her to know he was there to help her if she wanted to talk.
Smith told him what happened
“I’m so sorry you were raped,” Jenislawski said.
At first she didn’t want to allow that word, and grew defensive, blaming herself for the assault.
“When you’re Catholic you’re taught that your virginity is one of the best gifts you have, a gift you can give your husband,” Smith said. “I had been a virgin. I had been waiting for marriage. I was that fallen woman, and I didn’t want my parents to see me that way. That was not how my parents were, but sex assault is unique crime. The victims always blame themselves.”
But Jenislawski was the first one who made her feel like the rape wasn’t her fault. He encouraged her to get counseling and to tell the school administration what had happened. An RA friend, Elizabeth Foeckler, also encouraged her to go to the administration.
“I had seen already something was wrong, something had happened,” Foeckler said.
The idea of reporting her rape scared Smith. The young man was charismatic, well-known, and well-liked on campus. When she told a few of her friends that something had happened between them, he began circulating the story that she had seduced him and then regretted it.
He then began approaching and provoking her on campus. One day, she was sitting and waiting for a friend to come out of his dorm, and the young man who had assaulted her came out. He sat beside her and began to make small talk, putting his hand on her leg. She felt frozen and could not reply. After what felt like hours, he left. She fled to her dorm and went to bed.
Another day, while other students played some sort of game on campus, the young man approached her and began to insist that she slap him across the face.
“He kept saying, ‘Hit me.’ He kept grabbing my hand and trying to make me slap him,” Smith said.
Smith thinks he might have been trying to make it appear that she was the one who assaulted him. He also told some students that she pulled a knife and forced him into sexual acts.
Smith’s grades continued to slide, and her mental and physical health suffered as students and even outsiders, people she didn’t know, would approach her in the dining hall to talk about the ordeal.
The chances of going to trial are very low.
In April of 2011, Smith decided to tell the police about the rape. Front Royal Police told her it was out of their jurisdiction, since it had happened in a national park. Discouraged, Smith hesitated, then eventually called law enforcement rangers and met with them at Shenandoah National Park.
They explained to her that a prosecutor would take her case, but that the chances of going to trial, much less of the young man being prosecuted, were very low.
Smith’s father consulted with a lawyer friend, who said that the best they could realistically hope for would be that the young man’s record would include an accusation of rape. If he was accused again in the future, the record would help support that accusation.
“But the job of the press would be to make me out a liar,” Smith said, noting that rape victims often find the trial to be more traumatizing than the actual event. “The idea of being torn apart in court by someone with a law degree, and it being in the paper, was too much for me to imagine. So I pinned all my hopes for justice on my Catholic, conservative college, to uphold moral principles.”
So she went to the then-dean, Jesse Dorman, and reported the rape and subsequent harassment. The school promised to conduct a “complete and careful investigation.”
In loco parentis
Next came many months of frustration for the Smith family. In a letter dated May 16, 2011, Scott Smith, her father, wrote to Timothy O’Donnell, the president of Christendom,
“Adele’s grades plummeted that first semester of her sophomore year. She sought psychological help from Dr. Patrick Divietri. She has nightmares about the incident. She developed Crohn’s disease, a disease exacerbated by severe stress. Adele has no ‘bad girl’ reputation on campus. Her subsequent behavior is entirely consistent with that of someone who has been traumatized and assaulted. She implored [her brother] Peter to continue to live in Front Royal and to visit the campus often because she felt so unsafe.”
Scott Smith states in his letter that he left messages for nearly a week before he was able to arrange to speak to the dean, and that the telephone conference was “disquieting.”
“We clearly received the impression that Mr. Dorman wasn’t going to do anything . . . Mr. Dorman showed no apparent interest in pursuing any sort of investigation,” Scott Smith wrote.
Dorman, who no longer works for Christendom, did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.
Smith’s parents also drove the four hundred miles to meet with the dean, hoping to encourage him to take the charges against their daughter’s rapist seriously.
“Forgettable as most commencement addresses are, I remember yours clearly,” Scott Smith wrote to O’Donnell. “You spoke to the parents of the graduating students gathered there of the profound sense of responsibility you felt of acting in loco parentis for our children and your gratitude that we, as their parents, had entrusted our children to you . . .
“But here Christendom has done the opposite. It has sent the implicit message to women at Christendom that the such attacks ‘within the Christendom family’ will be tolerated, that the attacker will receive no punishment, that women who are attacked will have to endure the fear of retaliation, both on a physical level, and on the level of damage to their reputations.”
“So now my daughter must endure the presence of her attacker on the campus. Each day that goes by, she is reminded that nothing will happen to him. Each day she is persuaded that the college has no intention of supporting her.
A week later, in a letter dated May 23, 2011, President O’Donnell responded.
“Respectfully, I must disagree with your recollection . . . [in loco parentis] is not a phrase that I use with any frequency,” O’Donnell wrote toward the end of his letter to Scott Smith. “But more importantly, I think that you might be using the term more broadly than is appropriate in this matter. In speaking with our counsel, it is my understanding that under Virginia law, the doctrine of in loco parentis as applied to colleges and universities simply means that Christendom has a responsibility to provide a safe campus for its students. Christendom is very diligent in making sure that it provides a safe campus for the education of our students.”
Throughout the letter, O’Donnell refers to the young man by his last name, but refers to Adele Smith by her first name.
In the letter, O’Donnell tells Smith’s father that the school “understands the anguish” the Smith family is feeling as they wait for a judgment against the young man, and that the college will make “a complete and careful investigation of [Smith’s] allegations before rendering a decision that will impact both the life of the accused and the accuser.”
“After a prior incident”
Two months later, the school explained what the young man would be charged with: harassing Smith “after a prior incident.” The charges do not mention rape.
In the charge letter delivered to the young man on July 19, 2011, then-dean Jesse Dorman wrote:
“The intent of the Student Life Office is to support each student as he or she works to grow in virtue . . .
“we have reports that indicate that you have violated the Code of Student Conduct by harassing another student and causing emotional harm. The reports indicate that Adele Smith indicated, after a prior incident with you, that she no longer wanted a relationship with you. Then on November 24, 2009, you sat next to her on a bench and made unwanted contact with her by placing your hand on her knee. Furthermore, it is alleged that you continued to harass her by trying to provoke her to slap you, hit you or kiss you. Another student instructed you to leave her alone but you continued. After Adele did slap you, you allegedly said, ‘If you slapped me really hard and it really hurt, I wouldn’t want to kiss you.’ It is further alleged that on other occasions you went out of your way to volunteer with groups of friends that Adele had seduced you.
“Therefore, you are being charged with violating the Code of Student Conduct.”
A disciplinary conference was scheduled for July 28 of 2011. The school determined the young man was “responsible for the violation of Harassment.”
His punishment: He could not live on campus for one semester, and he could not contact Adele Smith.
Smith and her family were floored. There was no mention of her accusation of rape, either in the charge letter or in the sanction letter. The entire passage describing his offense is as follows:
“Specifically, you admitted: to placing your hand on Adele Smith’s knee, attempting to provoke her to slap you and or to kiss you to deal with her frustrations with you, and finally for telling some students around campus that she had seduced you. You did emphasize at length with regards to the first two incidents that they were not done maliciously and you found them to be normal interactions. As I informed you at the meeting, I do not find these interactions with Adele to be acceptable, appropriate, or in keeping with our Code of Student Conduct. Therefore I found you responsible for the violation of Harassment.”
What does the handbook say?
The school apparently based its response on two facts: First, there was, in 2011, no clause in the student handbook prohibiting sexual assault. Amanda Graf, the current Director of Student Affairs at Christendom, confirms that student handbook did not include a policy against sexual assault until 2013, two years after Smith reported her rape.
Second, the rape occurred off campus; and so the school considered itself helpless to respond to it.
“[T]he alleged assault of Adele did not take place on campus. Rather, the incident apparently occurred in a national park several miles away from Christendom’s campus,” O’Donnell wrote in his letter to Scott Smith. “Moreover, both Adele and Mr. [redacted] are adults — meaning that Christendom faculty and staff have inherently limited options for enforcing standards of appropriate (or even prudent) conduct, especially when students leave the confines of campus.”
When you come back to campus, you’re still a rapist.
Students are, however, punished for coming back to campus drunk, even if the drinking took place off campus — for instance, at “The River,” a popular drinking spot where even professors are known to visit and socialize. “The River” and the drinking that occurs there is an open secret that the administration is aware of.
“I always find it interesting they always try to punish students for drinking off campus, if you come back to campus drunk,” Smith said. “I say, if you rape off campus, when you come back to campus, you’re still a rapist.”
Smith says that the administration cracked down on professors hosting off-campus parties, because they involved drinking. The message delivered was clear, according to Smith.
“We care if you drink off campus, but not if you rape off campus,” she said.
Although the school imposed sanctions on the young man, he was taken under the wing of one of its founders and professors, William Marshner, and he lived in Marshner’s house for the semester he was barred from living on campus. Marshner has since left Christendom.
After the sanctions were imposed, Smith and the young man still had classes together, including core classes that were required for all students.
“It was up to me to avoid him,” she said. “I would go down the road to the convenience store, and he’d be sitting outside, and I couldn’t walk in. I would go to the only cafe in town, and he’d be sitting outside. I would turn around and drive right back. All his body language was hostile and arrogant.”
Her focus and concentration were gone. Her grades continued to be low for the rest of her junior year.
“It was my story.”
Then, one day during her senior year, her friend texted her that Marshner was talking about her in his moral theology class, using thinly veiled language.
The teacher gave the class a hypothetical example of a young man and woman who were dating and decided to go off campus to Skyline Drive. In the example, they decide to fornicate, but then the young woman regrets her choice, and decides to claim the young man attacked her.
“In what world is this okay?” Smith said. “It was my story. Everyone knew.”
Smith complained to the school, and she says they gave Marshner “a slap on the wrist.”
Smith considered leaving the college, and looked into other schools. Her parents, brother, and friends encouraged her to transfer.
“But the stubborn Irish in me determined if I left, he would win. He’s taken enough from me; he’s not gonna take this.”
But he did take it away from her, she says.
“I can’t get into grad school with my GPA. It’s hard to explain why my GPA is so poor.”
It takes a long time to change the handbook.
The young man left Christendom in Smith’s senior year. His absence helped her reclaim some of her focus. But in that year, 2012, a year after she reported her rape, the school still had not added a policy against sexual assault to their student handbook.
“There was nothing to stop this from happening again,” Smith said.
Smith says the school claimed it “takes a long time” to implement changes in school policy.
“No, it takes opening a word document and writing it up: ‘Don’t rape people.’ If there’s a single member on your board who has an issue with that, they shouldn’t be on that board,” Smith said.
Smith continued to call the school after graduation to see if they had changed the policy. In 2013, after Smith had graduated from the school, she again downloaded the student handbook and was aghast to see there was still no language forbidding sexual assault by students. It wasn’t until August of that year that the language was added to the handbook.
The student handbook now includes a sexual assault policy.
Christendom College does not receive federal funding, and so is not subject to Title IX regulations, which would legally require it to respond to and remedy hostile educational environments. This also means there is no publicly available data about sexual assaults or other crimes taking place on campus, as is required of Title IX schools.
This story was researched and reported by Damien and Simcha Fisher.
christendom sign: By AgnosticPreachersKid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/l
176 thoughts on “Are women safe in Christendom’s bubble? Part I”
Asking questions are really good thing if you
are not understanding anything entirely, except this article provides good understanding yet.
I like this new group and their message about this whole ordeal: http://cascoalition.org/
The worst part is the hypocrisy.
I disagree…I thought it was the raping.
I don’t know what the college should have done or not done. I haven’t given it a lot of thought.
But what jumps out at me is that this happened not because of following the college’s policies, but because of disregarding them. The college has strict rules about students of opposite sexes being alone together. The rape in question occurred because two students of opposite sexes were alone together. In all likelihood it would not have happened on campus because they would not have been alone together.
The college had no policy on sexual assault? The policies the college had were precisely the ones that make sexual assault unlikely to occur on college grounds. Smith herself says these rules “drive couples off campus”. Well, yes and no. What drives couples off campus is the desire to do things that are prohibited on campus; things which the college prohibits precisely because they can lead people to tempt themselves and each other.
“What drives couples off campus is the desire to do things that are prohibited on campus”
When the things that are prohibited include normal and moral activities, then there is something wrong with them. It creates an unhealthy culture. If the regulations force people to leave campus to kiss, then they are actually encouraging the kinds of situations that make assault more likely to occur even while they discourage it in other ways.
“we have reports that indicate that you have violated the Code of Student Conduct by harassing another student … Another student instructed you to leave her alone but you continued. After Adele did slap you, you allegedly said, ‘If you slapped me really hard and it really hurt, I wouldn’t want to kiss you.’ It is further alleged that on other occasions you went out of your way to volunteer with groups of friends that Adele had seduced you.”
– It seems they pushed for this charge as there was an actual witness, perhaps more, to that specific behavior.
“Smith and her family were floored. There was no mention of her accusation of rape, either in the charge letter or in the sanction letter.”
– ok, but what evidence did the college have that he did? From what I have read so far, there would be nothing but he said/she said. Accusing someone, officially, with a VIOLENT FELONY, particularly one that even absent a conviction, or even if done falsely can utterly destroy people, is not something you can just get away with. Heck, if she had even maybe goaded him into admitting it in a text it would be at least something other than just he said/she said and they could have proceeded with charges against him (case like that was successfully pushed at my old college using that tactic a few years back).
It sounds from the way the witnesses say he behaved that this guy probably is a sociopath and I believe probably did rape her. This really sucks because it probably means he’s going to get away with it. BUT…. absent more data (i’m just going off of what I’ve read here so far) how exactly is a school supposed to punish someone for a violent felony for which they have Z-E-R-O evidence for?
It also unfortunately means this creep will probably try it again with another girl. If that happens, hopefully the young lady will have a CRKT S.P.E.W. hanging alongside her brown scapula.
I’m a current female student at Christendom, class of 2020, and I feel safe on campus. I feel respected by my fellow classmates, male and female. The men with whom I interact at school have consistently shown me respect whether it be through opening doors for me, saying good morning, supporting my academic pursuits, or courteously taking part in a discussion. I am not only respected by my peers but also my teachers. The faculty at this school is one of the most remarkable aspects of Christendom. I feel challenged, respected, and loved by my teachers and am so grateful to be their student. I understand that everyone has a different experience at college. This has been mine.
reads as if composed by a hypnotized 5 year old.
Karen wrote, “reads as if composed by a hypnotized 5 year old.”
The unwillingness of boorish cynics like Karen to accept purity and goodness nor to validate the positive experiences of other women says far more about herself than it does about Christendom or the sophomore student whom she was replying to.
I can tell you as someone who’s had to deal with rape incidents associated with schools he’s worked for, that Christendom is not a school that gives off a dangerous vibe. Her point is absolutely credible and relevant. The fact that a rapist actually had to go off school grounds to do such a thing says a lot about how the school conducts itself. While I’ll admit I’m not sure management dealt with the matter as well as they could have, I have zero doubt a great deal of these complaints are from people that want to exploit Christendom as a hypocritical Catholic institution. The fact that their anger is not directed towards say the park police, the legal system, but at a school that issued the ONLY punishment(however minor), is basically proof of this.
I currently attend Christendom. As a woman, a student, and a human being I am respected. Our culture promotes chivalry and kindness towards everyone at Christendom. From day one, the men of this campus are filled with a joy in being a gentleman to every girl. Yes, there are individuals at every school who break the rules and go against the culture their school promotes, but here at Christendom, we promote a sense of dignity and appreciation for women that I don’t experience in the secular world and not many other Catholic communities.
#1 . unless you are a member of the clergy etc YOU ”’ARE”” IN THE SECULAR WORLD.
#2. letter kind of reminds me of sessions of my 8th grade social dancing classes…
#3. ”’the men of tis campus are filled with a joy in being a gentleman to every girl.”’ (frankly, my dear, i would stay clear of all of those guys. they aren’t ‘normal.’
Question: are the writers ‘christendom 2020’ and ‘sophomore girl at Christendom’ the same ‘girl/ writer?”’ the letters read to indicate ”the same writer”. …duplicitous…. so: it is either a case of the ‘same writer’ pretending to be ‘two writer.’ or CC issues ‘pre-fabed letters’ that require only a signature- if that.
#4. do we know/ do you know who is funding CC??? no government financial help??? i would find out who is funding this ”school of etiquette” masking as an ”institution of higher learning” before i would give them a ‘plug nickle.’
While I was a student at Christendom, an off-campus, non-student male pursued a female student across the campus. She took refuge in one of the buildings until he left as he obviously meant her harm. When I approached President O’Donnel about it, I was stone-walled. There was no announcement or notification given to students to be cautious or to keep an eye out for strangers on campus. I clearly understood in that moment that Christendom College did not care about the safety of its students.
Others have already addressed most of my concerns here though I would point out sexual assault is something that must be reported promptly. If it isn’t it’s that much harder for anyone to investigate or deal with. But honestly what is Smith talking about when she refers to the “only cafe in town”?? I have been to Front Royal many times and it has LOTS of cafes.
The students don’t know Fro Ro very well. There are a few spots they frequent, but as an undergrad I didn’t realize there was much more than the Martin’s parking lot, where the campus van drops you off. Returning later, I was surprised how much more town there was than I was familiar with.
Curious. Why would the accuser’s parents ever, ever, ever send their daughter back to the place where she was abused and seemingly unhappy, uncomfortable and failing classes? What parent would not yank their child from that situation immediately?
This is part of the problem: college “kids” are not children but adults with agency to make decisions for their life.
The matters of consent and power (and agency and autonomy) are at play here with parents as well as with dating relationships.
By whose definition are they “adults”? We can’t be legal positivists and simply assume anyone 18 or older is an “adult.” We need to be realists and recognize that being an adult has objective meaning. Not everyone who is 18 or older fits the definition of an adult.
Thank you for writing this. I have lived in Front Royal for more than 15 years. While I am not a Christendom graduate, I know many graduates. A family member of mine is a graduate and while at Christendom, knew a few students that went to the police about sexual assault. Unfortunately, sexual assault is happening throughout the Catholic (and homeschooling) community in Front Royal, not just Christendom. Sexual assault by a Catholic homeschooler happened to a person very close to me just recently here in FR.
I am very sorry to hear of any sexual assault and it can happen in Front Royal. Unfortunately sometimes the police are notified and when they investigate the alleged crime they find out that everything does not add up as the accuser states it happened. The facts state otherwise.
Can we PLEASE stop framing this as something between women and men and acknowledge that assault and coercion also happen between men and between women, as well as from women to men? It’s not about gender expectations as much as it is about power and CONSENT, period, from anyone to anyone. Simcha is right on in insisting that consent be taught at Christendom and in Catholic bubbles.
I, a female, was molested at 10 by a female with power who was near to my age (but who wielded unequal power to me). I didn’t know about consent because, in my world, good Christian girls and boys were supposed to never have anything bad happen to them — that was what happened to so-called sinful, unChristian people. The molestation permanently altered the course of my life, most of all because I thought it was my fault, because coercion and sexual violation was always portrayed as something that happened from creepy men to women, and my experience didn’t fit that template. Only as an adult did I see the dynamics of power, coercion, grooming and (lack of) consent at play, and even when I began to tell my story, many people brushed it off as in onsequential. Never mind the mental health agony I endured in thinking I had brought on myself same-sex erotic involvement. What did this mean about me in my conservative Christian culture? What if anyone found out?
I could go on, but my point is that we MUST see sexual assault as a bigger issue than something that men perpetrate upon women. When we do so, the conversations about purity culture and what people wear will also become moot points, because it is about power and consent, regardless of gender.
Thank you for this perspective. Your experience is absolutely not inconsequential, in any way, on any level. It must have been completely devastating. To think that anyone could do that to such a young child is eye-opening indeed, and helpful to know for those of us raising kids to know what to beware of. I know even as a young adult my guard was down, and I was vulnerable, as are so many others, especially when we have no reason not to be trusting.
i believe that the world ”outside of CC” understands that sexual assault has many./.. an infinite number of manifestations. however CC is thriving on a 50s mentality that supports men as always being the bad guys and/ or the ‘immaculate prince’… and responsible for the assaults…………… and women (not ‘girls’) women as meek little things who ‘just go along.’ CC seems to be a very dangerous place for all. should be torn down. i am beginning to wonder if it really exists or is just a figment of a perverted imagination.
I understand the argument that Christendom had their hands tied due to the lack of criminal prosecution. However, a private institution has some flexibility in such matters, and it is not entirely dependent upon the acts of civil authorities.
First, Christendom College could have made their own report to the police. The result might have been the same, but at least it would have shown that the college took the accusation seriously and were willing to go the distance to see justice be done. Bishop Finn of Kansas City was convicted for failing to report suspected child abuse because he HESITATED to report it. I have seen no evidence that Christendom reported the accusation.
Second, I haven’t seen any evidence in this article or in Christendom’s response that the accused was placed before college authorities and questioned regarding the incident. I don’t know what transpired during their internal investigation, but the college could have called both accused and accuser (separately) to give testimony in the presence of an attorney. Even if an investigation were not able to definitely prove the guilt of the accused, if the college authorities were to make a prudential judgement that the accuser was guilty or, at the very least, was a potential safety threat, they could have expelled him (with a full refund) without giving any reason or giving a generic reason . A private institution that is not subject to federal collegiate regulations has such flexibility. Sure, they could get threatened by the student with a lawsuit, but accusations of rape could then be brought up in court, and such accusations are much easier to prove in a civil suit, so there would be protection for the college.
Are you comfortable with men being expelled if there is no convincing evidence either way, a he-said, she-said situation?
It’s not a matter of my “comfort.” It’s a matter of seeking the common good. I think people in leadership positions, especially those who are tasked with ensuring the safety of communities, have to man up and make difficult decisions sometimes, even at the risk of being regarded as unfair.
The reason I posited a scenario where the college questioned both accused and accuser is so someone in a leadership position could hear the testimonies with objectivity and discernment and make a prudential judgement on behalf of the greater good of the community. I don’t think “beyond reasonable doubt” is a necessary criterion in such a situation. Is it possible that they could get it wrong? Absolutely, but leaders have to weigh the pros and cons, of which there are many, and seek the greater good. Is it worse to let a rapist remain on campus or expel an innocent student? Whose testimony is more consistent and believable? These are some of the difficult questions the college should have asked itself. But by not questioning the accused on the matter of rape (it wasn’t mentioned in his disciplinary notice), the college forfeited responsibility altogether. It’s handling of the case may not have been malicious, but it was certainly pusillanimous.
“Is it worse to let a rapist remain on campus or expel an innocent student? ”
– Not that simple. There are legal ramifications to asserting guilt and punishment against someone with zero evidence other than heresay. It’s also a great way to smear the innocent and destroy reputations or get legally sued into bankruptcy.
“But by not questioning the accused on the matter of rape (it wasn’t mentioned in his disciplinary notice), the college forfeited responsibility altogether.” – No, they simply made the decision not to accuse someone of a violent felony with zero evidence. What was he going to say? “DOH! Ya got me! Yup, I sure did do it!” Reading the few witnessed sentences we have from the perp, the man sounds like a TRUE sociopath. He’s not going to fall for that.
Could more evidence have been gathered? I think so. He’s obviously prideful and arrogant. Perhaps could have been goaded into admitting he forced her against her will via text if tweeked in the right way. That would have at least been SOMETHING besides heresay. In fact, my old college had a case like that years back and the girl getting him to admit what he did in a text to her gave them enough to proceed to action.
You clearly didn’t read my comments carefully. I said the college had an obligation to investigate by questioning him directly (in a private setting) about the rape. I didn’t say they should immediately assume he’s a rapist, call him a rapist, and publicly expel him as a rapist. Again, this is the convenient thing about being a private institution: you can act in seemingly arbitrary ways in order to achieve what you know to be the common good. Civil authorities operate under much greater constraints.
The other allegations against him were also by hearsay, and they put those allegations in writing and asked him to defend himself. Why not with the rape?
No Rob, I read it.
“The other allegations against him were also by hearsay, and they put those allegations in writing and asked him to defend himself. Why not with the rape?”
– Read that section of the post again. It specifically mentions witnesses. There were witnesses there that confirmed that. It seems to me that that’s why they hit him with that.
I don’t know what the contents of the interview between the college and the perp are. All we know is that they did some kind of inquiry and issued that statement. Perhaps they did mention it. But like I said, you can tell this guy is a true, slick sociopath. What exactly did you expect to happen, or could have happened?
It’s bad because just by the quotes of things he’s said, I’m pretty sure he’s exactly the kind of guy who would force himself on a woman. But he’s also smart enough to skate around any blame when there isn’t any proof.
i Love this reply. As a graduate of Christendom, I see no reason why he couldn’t have been expelled. He further harassed her, had told several of his friends that she had seduced him. Christendom takes matters smaller than this issue into it’s own hands often. the Administration could and should have done better here. Having said that, the culture on campus is not what caused the rape. The culture on campus protects you from being raped on campus, which is why this incident took place off site. It still deserves to be addressed adequately by the Admins, but we were much safer than most campuses.
Unfortunately we can’t actually know if Christendom is safer when they don’t even write down that there was an allegation.
If they aren’t keeping track, then the are no statistics to tell you what happens on campus and of campus. So you know how safe it felt and looked. But you don’t know more than that.
There’s still a problem of not having places to have on campus dates. When she was there, it wasn’t possible.
This whole story made me so sad, especially reading it as a Christendom graduate and now mother who is raising sons and daughters in this confused and fallen world. While not commenting on this particular scenario, it got me musing (once again) on the whole problem of sexual assault and the current #metoo movement.
To you fellow women out there, I’m sure you all know the feeling of power that we experience over a man who is attracted to us. And I’m sure you also understand our need to be loved an accepted. There is a french expression a la folie; when you love someone a la folie, it means you love them to the point of madness. I used to ask my fiancée when we were engaged, “do you love me a la folie?’” Trying to live as a chaste couple before marriage, I was constantly struggling with worries over love and acceptance…many times after making out wildly with him but then walking away and saying goodnight. In my head I thought “he was able to walk away – does he really love me?” We women all love being loved, and physical intimacy is such a natural sign of love and acceptance. I propose for your consideration numerous scenarios of young women and men wherein even if the woman is saying “no” with her voice, her body language is communicating something entirely different. I remember this clearly from my own dating days…in your head your thinking ‘I don’t want to have sex, but gosh, I’m attracted to him right now and I don’t want to stop!” I was absolutely torn in two. And on the outside, this torture of wanting to stay chaste yet wanting to see that a man loves you and wanting to fully embrace him comes across in very vague and misleading body language. You keep going. The passion rises. You might think to yourself, as Miss Smith did for example, “Is this really happening?” with 50% terror and 50% thrill. The exhilaration is so much that you can’t think straight, you get dizzy. But then into your mind jumps the thought “no, I wanted to be married. We can’t!” Another “no” escapes your lips and you make another feeble effort to turn away or push his hands away. BUT you say it with a sigh and throw your head back – the man interprets it all as an indication that you actually want him to keep going. After all, how is this “no” different from the one you whispered 20 minutes ago when his hand brushed your breast and you were actually pleased, but you said no because you knew it should stop? At that point, he does not see the difference between this no and that one. And meanwhile, you get a certain thrill from seeing that now you’ve unleashed his passion and he DOES love you a la folie. And boy, you are right. You’ve pushed the boundaries so far that the man is no longer in control. The only thing that will stop him is a clear splash of water in the face, a “no” different that all the others, or getting out of the car and running away. Easier said than done, of course. Few go this far and remain unharmed. And it’s really sad when a woman is then abused in this way. But is it really fair to expect men to navigate all the mixed signals? How clear is our “no,” really? Is it supported by super-strength body language? In many cases, I doubt it.
Another tangential point: I don’t understand the outrage communicated by so many that the standards for women are so much higher than the one for men, and that a great amount of responsibility rests on our shoulders to keep men chaste. Yes! We do have a great deal of responsibility. Let’s embrace it. Does no one else see the greater responsibility as a compliment from our Creator? Doesn’t a higher responsibility denote a special power to influence culture? As Uncle Ben says in Spiderman “with great power comes great responsibility.” Let’s wake up, embrace our responsibility, and as Jordan Peterson would say “sort ourselves out.” None of this is said to let young men of the hook. I do think it unfair and infuriating that in the modern world where young people are wandering in a culture without any norms or mores, women are less protected and offer suffer much more than the men do. Rapists should be tarred and feathered (or worse). I don’t mean to down play the role that a school has in protecting its students and holding perpetrators accountable. I’m glad to see Christendom has made some changes and I certainly hope it will continue to educate its students and do all they can do to minister to needs and address wrongs.
But I want to illustrate the difficulty in really navigating the issue of consent and assault. We can’t even prove whether or not a marriage is consensual or valid in the Catholic marriage tribunals, and a marriage involves months of prep and numerous witnesses! So we expect sexual intimacy to be all nice and clearly delineated? And then we blame schools that are actually making efforts to establish some social mores to help guide young people? Not the most helpful thing, Mrs. Fischer.
That is exactly what you are saying, men can’t control themselves so woman have to. That is degrading to both sexes. Men have the ability to take custody of their thoughts and control their actions regardless of any other circumstance.
You are right, men do absolutely do have that ability to control themselves. It’s getting harder and harder for them in today’s society. Ask any psychologist who works with seminarians how many enter the seminary struggling in a battle against pornography. These are Catholic seminarians. Why? Not because they are animals, but because our culture is hyper-sexualized in a way that has been hitherto unseen. Purity more and more asks for a heroic virtue. Heroic. This sexualization makes things particularly difficult for men because on men simply of the way men are wired. The more men have to be heroic, the more women do as well. This is not degrading but a call to heroism on both sides. I’m in no way excusing behavior, but I think women need to understand a little bit about the way which men are wired and step up their game. I also think men need to be educated, be kept accountable, and step up their game. We are in this as a team and pointing fingers at the other sex gets us nowhere. It can, however, cost people their livelihoods and smear the reputation of people and universities. But this is all a rather side-issue of the #metoo movement more than a discussion of how Christendom is to blame.
I would posit that when a woman is ovulating her sex drive out strips a man’s, I think women’s sex drives tend to be ignored because “men are more sexual” which isn’t the case. What are men doing to “step up their game” for women?
I agree with Ren. It is this “women have to hold men accountable” standard that fails the college. Men and women BOTH have free will. The fact that students are taught that men can not say no and are nothing less than animals is degrading to the male gender and puts all responsibility on the woman without holding men accountable. Men should feel degraded by this way of thought.
The reality is men can say no, men can control their actions and they are humans with free will.
“No” does not mean “yes.” “No” doesn’t mean “I still want to.”
No means no. No matter how it is said, when it is said. No is no is no. That is all.
Yes, I can see now how that should be a good rule of thumb. No means no. Please read above reply concerning accountability. I think both sexes can rise to a greater standard. I wan’t trying to make things seem like a cheap sex novel, just trying to illustrate that things can happen quickly without us really knowing what is going on, which we can later regret. And I think hearing the other side is always critical.
Oh my gosh. You should realize how awful it is to give the impression that the woman who was raped merely only implied 50% no. 50% thrill?!!! Are you joking? There is no thrill in rape. If she simply made an error in judgment and regretted the decision, she would be stating she had sex and lost her virginity before she planned to. But when someone stated they were raped, you do not tell them oh come on, you gave in to the thrill more than the fear. Did you read where she said no to his hand in her shirt? And did in fact say no with her body language with arms crossed and legs locked tight? Maybe you didn’t mean to imply this to be the case for her, but using her name in the example makes it seem so…
This way of thinking is part of the problem and how dare you try and equate her rape with a cheap romance novel script.
Wow, I just can’t even! Not sure you thought through what you wrote at all and how that would affect rape victims. You have just illustrated the way of thinking that is a big problem: women being taught that they are responsible for men’s actions. Please teach your children that “no” always means NO so they will not be victims or predators.
Holy crap, anonymous. Way to play “Blame the Victim!”
That’s seriously twisted to put your struggles onto a rape victim. Please think twice next time before you do that.
I’m sorry, I would not want to hurt anyone and I certainly can’t judge the situation. My inclination is that this was rape and the man is guilty. But I don’t think we can fully judge any of these stories without hearing the other side. Is hearing both sides unreasonable? I’m also trying to highlight what I see as a global problem concerning the question of consent which I think is very nebulous.
Consent is only nebulous when you refuse to take responsibility for yourself.
But consent is not usually nebulous. And your describing it as such in the comments on a piece about rape is insulting and denigrating. The fact that you view consent as nebulous is a personal problem.
Let your no mean no and your yes mean yes. Use your words to express the difficulty of what you are feeling.
Never tell a rape or assault victim that consent is nebulous.
No one doubts that passion is difficult, that lust is strong and difficult to master. But that had absolutely nothing to do with rape or assault.
How insulting is this point of view: all men will rape given the right kind of “no.”
It’s not 50% excitement it’s 100% terror. Good job trying to romanticize rape, but your writing would be more appropriate in a pornographic novel, where creeps actually try to convince themselves women enjoy being raped. You’ve been completely infected by the porn saturated culture we live in. And all the fancy words you use can’t hide that. Which is probably why you hide behind your anon screenname.
I’ve never read porn, eeek! I’m only speaking from experience to illustrate what I see as a very nebulous scenario for both parties.
It isn’t nebulous.
You described lust and difficulty mastering it. You described an inability or unwillingness to use your words to say, “this is hard, but I’m saying no!”
Consent is not nebulous.
You may not have read porn, but what you wrote is beyond appropriate. You could have discussed it without illustrating it so clearly. If we want to read that sort of thing, we’ll buy cheap romance novels. Which most of us don’t want to read.
A recent blog, which contains misleading information and serious inaccuracies, was posted about Christendom College. Despite those inaccuracies, the hearts and prayers of our entire Christendom College community go out to all involved in the incidents described and to anyone who may be a victim of sexual harassment or assault.
We would like to apologize to any of those in our community who feel they were not properly responded to concerning an alleged sexual harassment and assault. Christendom College will continue to do everything it can to understand how to best respond to these very difficult and tragic situations. In retrospect, the College may not have served these victims as well as we could have, and for this hurt we are truly sorry for any additional pain that this may have caused.
Please be assured that Christendom College is committed to maintaining an academic environment free of discrimination and all forms of coercion that impede the academic freedom, security, or well-being of any member of the community.
As a campus dedicated to following the teachings of the Catholic Church, we strive to foster an environment where every student feels safe and respected and where the dignity of the human person is upheld and honored. Sexual harassment and assault is inimical to such an environment. As part of this commitment, the College undertakes to educate the student body about sexual harassment and assault.
• We have a new sexual harassment and assault policy published in the Student Handbook with instructions on how to report sexual harassment and assault and how to receive resources for recovery (page 29 of the student handbook).
• New student orientation includes a session that covers sexual harassment and assault, reporting, and on-campus resources for support.
• RAs are now trained in responding to and reporting sexual harassment or assault.
• Our on-campus nurse and counselor are available at no cost and can help with trauma and recovery.
• We now have a formal grievance policy students can use to make a complaint against any campus community member who is not covered by the student policy (e.g. faculty, staff, etc.). We can use this process to address inappropriate comments or unreasonable behavior that makes students feel uncomfortable.
• A female Residence Life staff member now lives in the women’s residence halls. This gives women more of an opportunity to share a concern or incident with a staff member they trust. A male Residence Life staff member also lives on campus to assist the men.
• We now offer both a men and women’s monthly formation series that addresses mental health, healthy relationships, and other gender-specific topics.
If some believe that our efforts and policies have failed to bring justice to their particular situations, please understand that despite being fallen human beings, the faculty and staff do their very best every day to provide a just and safe environment.
Respect and honor for women was at the heart Christ’s mission and therefore it is at the heart of the mission of Christendom College. We are committed in our policies, our procedures, and in our on-campus culture to uphold and promote the dignity of women and men.
We will continue to do so in fidelity to our mission: to restore all things in Christ.
Dr. Timothy T. O’Donnell
Would you like to explain, please, what you mean by inaccuracies? What in this story is inaccurate? I would like to know so that I can have a fair understanding of the situation.
Simcha’s piece was very specific. It would be good if Christendom’s response was similarly specific.
If the intent here is to correct inaccuracies — rather than, as it appears to be, an attempt to discredit Simcha as a journalist — then it would be appropriate to say what exactly was misleading or inaccurate in the original post(s).
Theresa Scott and Joseph Prever,
Regarding specific inaccuracies, one source has come forward to say her quote was taken out of context to imply something that she never meant it to. Simcha’s husband, Damien, proceeded to imply that she was lying and has contented multiple times that her quote was not taken out of context. For Damien Fisher to accuse his source Mrs. Foeckler of meaning what he wrote and not what she claims she meant is an act of astounding arrogance.
Christendom offered a bulleted list of things they have done which were not reported on by the Fishers, implying that this is basically a smear campaign which is only willing to report on one side of the story. Of course, the university wouldn’t be so tactless: that’s the engineer in me coming out.
A current professor (Dr. McGuire) who was actually involved in the Adele alleged rape case has come forward in the comments and stated things that were done to help Adele that the Fishers never reported on.
Gross inaccuracies in the story include quoting someone as saying men and women aren’t allowed to even sit next to each other. This is an insane accusation and was never the case, as students have stated. In addition, the article didn’t clarify that the college has gotten rid of many of the policies and rules that are being blamed in this article for the assaults (e.g., the no-holding hands rule was jettisoned a while ago). The college was criticized for in the past not including rules against sexual assault in their handbook, while not offering any idea on what is now included in the Christendom’s policy on sexual assault. Basically, Christendom University has set up a parallel court system to try these cases and determine guilt outside of the civil court system. That is not an easy thing to set up, yet the article claims that adding a sexual assault policy to the handbook is as easy as, “opening a word document and writing it up: ‘Don’t rape people.'”
It is alleged that a professor offered an example about Adele in class in an effort to smear her, however multiple students have come forward to say that his example was being used many, many years before Adela even attended the university, so it couldn’t have been about her. It was just a generic example used year after year.
The article makes the following claim without proof or attribution, and it has been contended with by several students, “But current students and alumni say the school has a “boys will be boys” attitude which allows the male students to harass and grab at the women.” No more specifics are given, but the implication is that men are allowed to grab women’s arses, etc., without repercussion even to their reputations. That isn’t acceptable, even in secular workplaces, and is a breathtaking accusation. Yet, it is offered without proof of any sort, or even a source willing to go on record.
There is much that reeks of shoddy reporting in these two pieces: basically only one side was presented when the facts were right in front of the Fishers (e.g., through the current student handbook and interviewees). I don’t doubt that injustices have been done in the past and will be done in the future: this is a fallen world. However, I’m not sure the reporting here accurately reflects of the issues at Christendom, and it certainly doesn’t lay out anything that can be done to improve conditions for future students, as the few things suggested have already been implemented. The reporting alleges/implies that young women aren’t safe at Christendom, that the university has an ongoing culture of assault and harassment toward women which is accepted by the community, and that the University doesn’t help women who have been raped. These are very serious accusations, and the reporting does not match the seriousness of those charges. If Christendom University has an ongoing serious problem (and it may for all I know), this article doesn’t demonstrate that.
DCNM, can you please explain a context, any context, in which that quote isn’t damning?
The inaccuracies you mention are minor. Gross means the opposite of minor. They do not invalidate the substance of the story. The woman interviewed described what she remembered from the time she was there.
The article linked directly to the current handbook.
“But current students and alumni say the school has a “boys will be boys” attitude which allows the male students to harass and grab at the women.””
you are correct about the implications. That’s pretty horrific behavior in Catholic men at a Catholic institution. No wonder Christendom is so embarrassed that they haven’t put their apology on their website yet. They know they are not as upstanding as they would like.
“However, I’m not sure the reporting here accurately reflects of the issues at Christendom, and it certainly doesn’t lay out anything that can be done to improve conditions for future students, as the few things suggested have already been implemented. The reporting alleges/implies that young women aren’t safe at Christendom, that the university has an ongoing culture of assault and harassment toward women which is accepted by the community, and that the University doesn’t help women who have been raped.”
If these things are happening, then it is accurate. They have pointed to several problem areas that are not yet fixed. Christendom has taken several steps forward. Good. They have further to go to create safe environments for women.
You are correct on what the report alleges and implies. And it is these serious issues which led the Fishers to dedicate a great deal of time and energy into researching and writing this article. Because these issues are so very serious, and it would be negligent to look the other way. They brought the skills of their craft to shining a light on the dark underbelly of this college. I hope and pray that the uncovering of these wrongs will enable the college to properly apologize and make amends for their failures. If they do, their efforts to grow as a Catholic college will surely be blessed by greater growth in virtue.
Sin and error should be brought into the light so that Christ can heal them.
“The article linked directly to the current handbook.”
This is a favored tactic of shoddy journalists who want to do a hit piece, and the Fishers followed the recipe quite well.
Recipe for a Hit Piece
1) Paint a picture of the college not doing crap to help victims. Do this by bringing up older, isolated issues and make it sound like the college has done next to nothing to improve. Imply that there is a pattern and that the pattern is indicative of the current campus environment.
2) If the college does anything to improve, don’t actually describe their efforts in the article. People might think they are trying to help women, and that is an unacceptable conclusion. Imply that what they did was nothing. Criticize them for taking a long time.
Imply that all it involved was “inserting a phrase, ‘Do not rape.'” into the handbook. Never, under any circumstances, admit that it was a complicated process that involved implementing a parallel judicial system. Once the implication is in place and the false picture is painted, insert a link to to one of several things they’ve done in order to cya. Especially, never talk about the training RAs have undergone and all the other things the university has done to improve their support of women in rape cases.
3) Reinforce this impression with nebulous allegations of serious problems in the current environment. Describe the current environment at the school with phrases like, “But current students and alumni say the school has a “boys will be boys” attitude which allows the male students to harass and grab at the women.” Even if you have no evidence that men can grab at women without repercussions, that doesn’t matter. Hit pieces only need to be tangentially accurate to get 1st amendment protections. The truth matters little.
The fact that you think men are walking around Christendom’s campus grabbing at women’s arses and nobody does anything because their is a ‘boys will be boys” attitude just shows how naive you are. For a piece of “journalism” like this to make such accusations without even one example just shows what a hack job they did on this hit piece.
In addition: Christendom is welcome, indeed it would be very good, if they could give an accurate list of the inaccuracies and mistakes in this article. It would do a lot to restore people’s faith in the institution.
It would do a great deal more to restore faith in their school if they would be open about the affair. As I said, virtue thrives in the light. Error thrives in darkness.
Theresa, I agree the Admin still needs to prove it is committed and i think the spotlight being held on them by this article will be helpful. However, I was a student at Christendom and nothing could be further from a “boys will be boys” culture on campus regarding sexual assault. We don’t stand for PDA, we certainly don’t allow for men “grabbing arses” in public. What did happen on campus was punished. Not as well as I would have liked, but it was punished. It is difficult seeing as how the incident was years old before she brought it to Admin’s attention and it happened without witnesses, like the on campus stuff, to determine one way or the other. I am with you that Christendom should enumerate the inaccuracies it sees in here, it would go a long way towards communication in this area. I understand the VP actually said Title IX prevented them from speaking out. Lol, they aren’t bound by such conventions!
“‘There was nothing to stop this from happening again,” Smith said.
“No, it takes opening a word document and writing it up: ‘Don’t rape people.’”
Kind of makes you wonder why there are any rapes in the many (50?) states that have laws saying “Don’t rape people”. Supposedly that sentence should “stop this from happening again”.
Wonder how that’s working on all those great secular and Catholic-in-name only colleges that don’t have those stupid single-sex dorm rules and have open alcohol and drug use in the dorms and on campus. Oops. A US NEWS & WORLD REPORT article says it isn’t working too well.
So, you are saying that because other colleges deal with it badly, that therefore it isn’t a scandal that Christendom handled it badly?
It is a Catholic college. It should do better. We should demand it be better. We should not be complacent about it failing students in such gross ways.
Several have contended that “having a policy” would have prevented the problem.
That is demonstrable nonsense.
It’s not that a policy would prevent the problem but rather that it would provide grounds for discipline within the school’s jurisdiction.
Out of curiosity, why did they choose to single out Christendom of all places? Assuming the research you have done here is all reported accurately (which the college disputes), it doesn’t exactly make the place a hot-bed of sexual assaults and sexual harassment issues. There are more than a few other academic institutions whose rates of rape and sexual assault are much higher and/or go under-reported. And one of the most glaring incidents you chose to report on didn’t even occur on campus, it occurred 30 minutes away. To me that sort of practice betrays more about the motivations of the reporter than the matters on which he/she reports.
Omigosh. The students aren’t punished for drinking off campus, they are punished for being drunk ON campus.
Is there a clause in the student handbook prohibiting murder? Does the handbook have to repeat the entire criminal code?
Thanks for writing this- I hope the college considers educating more students on assault and consent.
I was working maintenance as a student between the times of these incidents. The basement of the admissions office (a building which, I’m pretty sure, is condemned but still functions as an office despite the dangers) had a breaker room in the back behind 2 locked doors. Hardly anyone went down there for any good reason; it was the closest thing to a crypt. Anyway, while on a work call I found a mattress and sheets in the back room surrounded by rose petals and candles. Students weren’t forced off campus to have sex; they always found some place to do it, even if it was in a medieval dungeon.
Fixing a problem and addressing a problem are two different things. Not everyone can be brought to justice so easily, but if you make no effort to even recognize an issue as an institution then that can become something serious. My condolences for all the victims. Glad to hear everyone still hates those fountains.
Ugh, how vile. How unromantic!
I agree with you, they need to recognize the issue and address it more head on.
“Ugh, how vile. How unromantic!”
LOL — do you really think students who put a mattress on the cement floor of a basement were looking for romance?!
I’m glad you ran this story, and I hope it will help schools be more accountable. I hope the girls involved will know that sharing what happened will help others.
As a current parent at Christendom I was floored by this article.
I’m not sure what the point is, later comment by Simcha was that the college should be held accountable…..How are they not being held countable?
Calling down secular Title IX laws onto a place like this is stupid and illogical. Are you saying that because Christendom isn’t under governmental control this happened? Or are you saying that governmental control might make this sinful/violent act not happen. Open your eyes; the inward and the outward ones, Simcha, and realize that the secular law will never be more then a band-aid for these types of crimes with a festering wound underneath.
If these girls aren’t worldly and thats why this happened then there really is no safety left anywhere. How come more “worldly girls get raped too?Even from your writing it seems that Christendom did stand up from inside when Miss Smith felt comfortable telling her Theology! teacher what had happened. Simcha you must not be very up on your news, because from what I have been reading in the news of the secular world, it seems that these types of crimes sometimes take twenty years to detangle….Why mention Title IX?? Why insinuate the government is going to do it better. Think of roofies, frat parties, binge drinking..Im not going to go on, except to say that these don’t exist here and if that’s the bubble then Hallelujah. Frankly I think you have misused a term that is quite affectionate….school is a place to learn and at this particular school it is a place to strengthen ones faith. It isn’t Christendom’s fault this happened they can only learn as fast as the culture encroaches..that young man should have kept his hands to himself …period. Just like all men who overpower women should, personally I’d like to know if he grew up in a Novus Ordo mass if we are going to start taking these types of potshots….and if his parents did too..
What Adele says about not allowing PDA’s on campus may seem like an interesting topic for discussion but dragging Christendom down the road of shame because they don’t have coed dorms is really not the answer. Your article doesn’t make sense .
Trad bubble alert! I knew sooner or later someone would bring up the Novus Ordo Mass.
I love how liberal dissidents throw “trad” around like it’s some kind of slur.
Or how uber conservatives throw trad and Tridentine around like they are some kind of guarantee for sanctity.
Teresa, if the school is a place to strengthen one’s faith, but they have a history of taking rape and assault lightly, then what does that example say about the Catholic institution’s ability to accurately guard and present the faith to these students?
Her article makes plenty of sense. You don’t like the sense it makes, you disagree with it, but your disagreement does not make it illogical.
i grew up Novus Ordo and so did all my friends at Christendom. None of us were involved in the off campus drinking by the river–as were all the Trad kids–and no doubt the sexual assault that went with it. Most likely she was in a Trad house and that is why they considered it beneath them to discuss sex at all with their daughter and how to protect herself from seedy guys. Every Novus Ordo girl I know knows better than to get in the backseat of a parked car with a guy unless they are willing to risk rape. That comment So goes the other way.
It is genuinely baffling to me–though perhaps it should not be–that so many people read an article about a Catholic university so badly bungling its response to the sexual assault of its students and when they get to the end can ask with a straight face “what was your goal in writing this?” Or worse, claim that the writing of it was badly motivated or will have deleterious effects that outweigh the good done by shedding light on wrongdoing. Christendom is nearly unique among Catholic colleges and universities in that, because it accepts no federal funding, it is not subject to the legal constraints of Title IX. Accordingly, its students have less recourse when the school’s policies drastically fail to adequately protect them against such assaults. The clear goal of the piece is to call the school on to a more truly Catholic approach to handling this topic, and it does so effectively. Casting aspersions on the Fishers’s motivations reveals much about the commenter.
The alleged assault did not occur on campus.
It was not reported to the police for YEARS.
This is still America. The accused have rights — the right to an assumption of innocence, for one. That is a fundamental principle of justice. We ignore it at our peril
Have you seen the alleged rape rate at those colleges that DO accept federal funds??
Your comment is nonsense.
Miriel. yes! Well said.
Casting aspersions on the Fishers is an ad hominem because they can’t adequately address the issue in itself.
I don’t understand the logic of protecting the identity of the alleged rapist and meanwhile running the names of college faculty through the mud for not somehow preventing a rape that occurred on a mountain and for not expelling a student for a rape that went unreported for a year and a half with no evidence. Rapists should be burnt at the stake, but going on a witch-hunt for rape culture does not help.
“Rapists should be burnt at the stake, but only if the survivor immediately provides incontrovertible evidence of the rape happening and of the rapist’s identity, and if there’s any doubt, we will give the ‘alleged’ rapist a slap on the wrist and tell the survivor she should get over it.” Aaaand we wonder why women don’t immediately report their rapes.
Should rapists be burned at the stake without incontrovertible evidence?
For what it’s worth, I believe Adele’s story, and as someone who has been sexually assaulted (but not raped) and not gone to the authorities, I understand why she didn’t at first. But I also understand how difficult this whole situation becomes for Christendom, having no evidence whatsoever.
It may be that the whole thing wasn’t handled as it should have been, but then, how should it have been handled?
Burning at the stake fits the witch-hunt analogy, because that’s what this article amounts to.
I think rape should be a clearly defined and promulgated capital crime so there would be fewer instances and false allegations. But that’s not entirely relevent here.
I believe Miss Smith’s story too, but I can’t verify it. My criticism of this article is blaming Christendom for not doing the same thing this article can not; openly accuse the man in question of rape. The fact that little can be done in this tragedy is very much a fallen world problem, a human nature problem, and a justice system problem. Not a Christendom problem.
This is America.
Accused have rights.
Rights to a speedy trial.
Rights to presumption of innocence — meaning the burden of proof is on the prosecutor.
Right to present a defense — OR NOT.
Statute of limitations on many crimes, among others.
Which of these rights do you want to see eliminated?
That’s America. The accused do NOT have to prove their innocence.
Yes, the prosecutor has to prove BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT the guilt of the accused.
And victims have the right to be taken seriously, to not be dismissed. They have a right to speak about the crimes committed against them.
One of those places is a courthouse.
“They should be able to express themselves romantically in a public setting, which is a safer setting to learn how to navigate as a couple.”
I am having trouble understanding how policies against public displays of affection and against men & women being in each other’s dorms contributes to rape.
Are you saying that these rapists would have been content to make out on a public bench or in a public common room?
It seems to me that men who lure women into back seats of cars in secluded places would have an even easier time saying “Hey, come up to my room to watch a movie.” With the roommate being already asked to give them privacy.
Now, perhaps well-meaning couples end up going farther in private than they would if they could kiss in public, but we’re not talking about well-meaning couples, we’re talking about rapists and victims.
How law enforcement and colleges respond to sexual harassment and rape allegations is a different matter, and I agree that does need to be addressed. As far as our criminal judicial system people are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That often results in rapists going free and never even getting charged for lack of evidence.
College disciplinary boards, however, can set whatever standards they want, especially a completely independent institution like Christendom. And the fact that there was not even a hearing to address the rape allegation when it was brought to light is terrible. But I think what this often boils down to is “he said vs she said.” There are women who lie, even if they are a tiny minority. I sympathize with the people who want a man to be expelled based on one woman’s testimony (such as in the above article), but we have to admit that is at the expense of innocent men getting expelled as well. And no-one can really know the statistics.
We have to ask ourselves if it’s okay for innocent men to have lives ruined for the trade off of punishing all the men who deserve it. Our country’s policies right now generally say “yes” for potential terrorists, but “no” for potential rapists. That is a philosophical question where I think people can legitimately disagree.
It makes it hard for a young woman to keep herself safe if *all* the places where a date might happen are private. If they’re allowed to kiss in a common area, then if the guy says “come up to my room,” she’s going to say no, because there’s nothing she could do in his room that she can’t in the common area, except stuff she doesn’t want to do. When I was at Christendom, it bothered me that the standard setting for dates was the backseat of a car or a lonely bench in the middle of the woods, but …. it was that, or sit in a brightly-lit classroom, with “room for the Holy Spirit” between you, and since it’s a public area, anybody might happen by and join you. Not super romantic.
Christendom is NOT in the Arctic Circle.
The two students in the article drove past a large number of public places where they could have held hands or kissed.
Drove, Juana. They had to drive. If they had to leave public areas to show affection, then they might as well go to the prettiest. At that point, any option is deteriorating in safety.
Again, every college in America that has less strict PDA rules (nearly every college in America) has rape. Higher rates of rape, according to USNews&World Report.
The lack of PDA rules has not protected the women on those campuses.
And, of course, they could have gone for a walk down the road if all they wanted was to hold hands. Which they could now do on campus anyway.
The point has also been made — if a guy really is a rapist, do you think he would settle for PDA on campus anyway? And if the woman involved was going to say yes anyway to whatever he suggested in terms of where they were going, as she said in the article, how would this have been any different even if there were different — or no — PDA rules?
Christendom teaches its students to group date first. It is not uncommon, either. Most couples are friends of other couples and all hang out together both on campus and off campus. We were certainly not taught that a parked car on a lonely spot was a good idea for a date by any of the professors, Administrators, all who took pains to teach us a dating culture that could help us mature and protect us.
I appreciate your thoughtful comments. This is such a difficult and upsetting situation it is helpful to read your perspective.
There was always a (subtle enough that it could be gaslighted away if you tried to talk about it) sense that women just don’t matter as much at Christendom.
And certainty this is a universal problem, but Christendom was the first place I ever had to sit at a desk and be talked about in terms like “less rational”,”secondary” and “obedient”
Seriously how is this possible? Maybe because I studied theology and philosophy I did not experience this? The Church’s teaching on this, particularly Pope John Paul II really uphold’s a woman in her own right and this was taught quite clearly at Christendom.
Gigi, when I dated a man who attended Christendom, we had extended conversations about the “philosophy of human nature” that led one of the professors to conclude that, among other things, (a) women are ontologically inferior to men and (b) women shouldn’t vote. I am not making this up. Misogyny is woven deep into the school’s culture.
Can confirm. One professor was quite emphatic than women are less rational, and when I got upset about that … well, naturally he put that down to my lack of rationality, plus perhaps a dash of pride. The students’ views, whether they arrived with them or picked them up at Christendom, were wildly sexist — both men and women. And yeah, I knew a lot of people who thought women shouldn’t vote. If you admit to being a feminist, well, you might as well admit to worshipping Baal.
Feminist =Baal worshipper. Exactly. You can’t tell a Catholic girl to be suspicious of her fellow (male) students because that would make her a man-hating feminazi. All the people who are asking if Christendom girls could “really be that naive,” yes! we could! We trusted each other and believed ourselves to be a self-selecting group of the Good Guys. I didn’t exactly lose my instinct of self-preservation, but I definitely let my guard down at the school and treated it like my home.
And the sexist views of some professors didn’t help us stay safe. I mean, if men are more rational and authoritative and have more of the image of God in them, why would I be afraid to be alone with this superior being? He’s the one who lives in fear of me and my devious feminine allurements, right?
Oh ladies, I’m so sorry you had to deal with that attitude for any length of time. How unCatholic and how tragically demeaning!
I did experience the misogyny. I remember hanging out with some of them. Off campus. Just the two of us. Not a rapist. Not a one that I knew. Never did they go so far as to say the Imago Dei was less in us, either. However, I avoided the professors whose reputation for being ultra-trad proceeded them as much as possible. I will say that no professor I had ever backed up this position, but neither did I see them fight to overturn it. And, as I said, they were more balanced than the others. Never, though, would I equate that with saying rape is OK. It was still seen that women should be revered for other reasons by these men. I vehemently disagreed with their misogyny, but never was sexually harassed, assaulted, etc. nor were the other women I know who hung out with them.
Not even subtle, in my experience. I remember clearly two instances where a professor I respected and a male friend who I valued told me – to my face – that women were inferior in ability and authority to men and ought to accept that.
So places without rda rules have less rape? O.o
Simcha. What are you doing?
Your opening arguments point to the dorm situation on campus as a cause for a student’s rape. So this rape would not have occurred if the dorms were mixed gender? On what planet?
You are taking down the good name of a college because two students left campus in a car and a rape occurred. Like that has never happened before on a less stringent campus.
This article sound like the argument for legalization of abortion: if abortion had been legal, coat-hangar abortions never would have happened. Honestly, that is all I hear for the first half of the article.
Christendom is an excellent college with a delightfully wholesome atmosphere. People are fallible and improvements can always be made but I’m sorry, how would anyone miss that rape falls into the category of mortal sin ….and yes Moral Theology is covered freshman year. So printing, “rape is not tolerated” or whatever they expected to be printed in the handbook sounds a little naive. A policy for handling this should of course be on the books. Merely printing something against rape seems redundant, though.
An article about how a college should have handled a horrible rape situation better should not be couched in the fact that the college has separate dorms. Seriously. This is a good thing. This encourages privacy and some better behavior.
Could the students be provided with more places to hang out together in small groups? Sure, maybe. I’ve always thought that would be delightful and I graduated in 2000 from Christendom. However, then the college has to be careful not to be encouraging a back seat car scenario in their recreation rooms.
While this student should have somehow received better care, and more protection from this guy later, and while her story is heartrending, it should not be published in an article whose objective is obviously to smear the college and all the good for which it stands. You use false logic and your pen is sadly misdirected this time.
I think maybe it lies in the fact that, because interactions between the sexes are so tightly regulated, couples are far more likely to ensure they are completely out of sight of anyone else, thus providing more opportunities for those with less than pure intentions. For the record, my first year of university was spent at a secular institution in mixed accommodation with no regulations on behaviour between the sexes. I emerged with my virginity intact.
Well done. How’d the second year go?
I think she means she transferred somewhere else (maybe Christendom?) afterwards. Her phrasing seems to imply that there was no second year at this secular college. Or maybe she actually is a sophomore right now? Not really much in her comment to provoke a snippy answer anyway.
More concern for an institution than for victims. Have we learned nothing in the past 15 years?
When you have an educational institution; especially a residential one that does not have an explicit sexual assault policy on the books in 2010, it’s absolutely reasonable to criticize the institution and its actions. When the school’s response is to prevent the rapist from living on campus for a semester, and a professor welcomes him into his home while smearing the student who was raped in class, without serious consequences, it’s fair to criticize the school.
The man was not charged, let alone convicted of rape.
He may or may not be a rapist, but do you really want institutions denouncing a man as a rapist without a trial.
And what possible jurisdiction would the college have for activity that did not take place on its property?
I am astounded that the article says rapist rather than “alleged rapist”. We have video footage of crimes being committed and the persons pictured are still spoken of in the media and elsewhere as the “alleged” perpetrators.
Simcha does that, see? She’s a hater. Why she’s even Catholic I do not understand.
Extraordinary how you miraculously have the ability and the right to judge her soul from an article. And yet, with your ability to judge her soul, you don’t know why… That is mysterious indeed.
Your charity is overwhelming. What an incredible witness to the faith!
If you think this article was largely about how the dorm set up is responsible for this rape, you didn’t read the whole article.
In your own words, this article is about how “this student should have… received better care, and more protection from this guy later”. It is also about how Christendom needs to have safe, open, visible places on campus for men and women to interact. Beyond that, it is about how Christendom failed this student and failed others students, and in so doing, failed their Catholic mission.
It is a call to be honest about their mistakes, so they can address them in a properly Christian manner. Openly.
Thank you for writing this.
I also attended Christendom in the early ’90s and while I loved it there — I finally heard the truth about what the Church teaches — student life was neurotic. Opposite sex couple’s PDA was forbidden, while some young women regularly shared dorm beds with their friends. I must charitably assume (another term I learned there) this must have been chaste, but it still looked extremely odd. Going “Drinkin’ with Lincoln” before class on Lincoln’s Birthday and getting buzzed or worse. The whole “In loco parentis” thing was alive and well and enforced. I can understand completely the reasons behind not having visitors of the opposite sex in the dorms, however the upstairs magazine reading room in the library was also dubbed the “Romeo and Juliet” room since couples would go there to make out.
I hope and pray that the administration can get it together and respond better to sexual assault claims, because it IS a great place. I hate to think they’re covering up what needs to be exposed. And they need to get rid of those moldy carpets!
I want to know the rapist’s name. Why do we have to wait for the guy to respond? We’ll be waiting forever. I graduated in ‘08, did I know him? I feel so freaked out right now.
That bothers me as well. I was not aware that in journalism, one protects the names of alleged rapists. They’re usually published in any article I’ve ever read regarding assault.
Probably liability reasons. I don’t like it, but I do get why they can’t sling accusations around.
If Simcha can’t openly accuse the guy of rape, how can the school? It seems hypocritical to demand that the school find him guilty of rape and expel him if you are going to hide his name until he tells his side of the story. A journalist should protect his good name until he is proven guilty, but the school should not? It doesn’t make sense to me.
^^^^ What Meredith said.
She is very careful not to mention the perpetrator’s name without permission, but this courtesy given to the attacker is not given to any of the teachers and staff at the school. Inaccuracies did not have to do with Miss Smith’s heartbreaking account. It is beyond belief that the man has not ever been punished. But there were many inaccuracies about the school: we never had to get outfits approved for dates, you are allowed to sit next to each other, and we didn’t have to wear skirts all the time. Additionally, throwing out names of administrators and teachers as part of this story (good or bad) without their permission taints their reputation. For example, Dr. Divietri is just mentioned in passing but it did not say which side the author put him on, so you are left to assume that all names mentioned were complicit in the negligent handling of this case. His career and family may well be affected by that casual reference. It is not the victim’s terrible story that we don’t believe, it is just the illogical conclusions that the author jumps to and the careless damage she is causing that are wrong.
Seriously. I’ve been guessing and guessing … whoever it is seems to still have his good reputation intact. Which means, of course, he may very well have done it again.
This is garbage, not because there isn’t a problem at Christendom, but because your article contains obvious errors in judgment, is clearly slanted with the intent to make Christendom look bad, and doesn’t address the actual problems that make these things happen.
I’ll be brief, and in no particular order, but:
– The college cracks down on professors hosting parties with drinking, because they’re professors. It has nothing to do with thinking that drinking is worse than sexual assault. I went there for four and a half years, and my experience was the opposite — they were *really* hard on sexual issues, and pretty lenient on the drinking.
– I still live in Front Royal, and until very recently our police have been a joke when it comes to stuff like this. That’s certainly not Christendom’s fault.
– What policy would you advocate? Having the campus always on lockdown? Have girls refuse to be allowed in cars with boys, since it requires cars to go to Skyline Drive? How about holding the US Government responsible since they’re the ones that oversee Skyline? If you think about it for half a second, you’d realize you’re asking more of Christendom than literally any institution could ever do, at least when it comes to prevention.
– In Adele’s case it sounds like the college really did blow it by not giving credence to her rape charge, but did you *really* try to get their side of it before you published your hit piece here? Because what you have doesn’t pass the smell test. If I didn’t know better (and you know, I actually don’t) it sounds like you don’t like Christendom’s brand of Catholicism, and so you’re more than happy to treat them unfairly from your rapidly shrinking bully pulpit, using the #metoo zeitgeist to do your dirty work.
The problems with rape at Christendom are the problems with rape anywhere. You shooting in the dark hoping to hit a target, isn’t helping.
Thank you! I am a ‘92 graduate, and my oldest is a graduate, and I have three other kids currently there. This article smacks of a smear job, and there are so many lies and misrepresentations in this article, I don’t even know where to begin. For example, the articke states that Prof. Marshner “no longer works at the school”, as if he left due to this scenario. He RETIRED a year or so ago. That’s just scratching the surface. The school has a very thorough policy in place, and anyway, this was not in Christendom’s jurisdiction, so their hands were legally tied in their dealings regarding the actual rape. As for “strict PDA”, students are allowed reasonable PDA, but what is Fisher looking for – for the students to be allowed to have sex on campus. Come on. Rapes happen far more frequently on college campuses where anything goes. What is to blame there?? Her hatred for Christendom is glaring.
THANK YOU! I am incensed by the way Simcha makes it sound like Dr. Marshner condoned and sheltered a known rapist, and then was fired from the school.
The perpetrator denied the charge vigorously, and dr. Marshner was simply trying to help a student in need.
Um, no. If a Catholic institution is not doing this better than “anywhere”, what is their justification? There is a problem when Hollywood is doing a better job, and that problem deserves a discussion.
@CMFE But Hollywood isnt doing a better job. Woody Allen has an even more credible allegation against him, but still gets to make movies. It only works with Weinstein and Cosby because there were like 30+ allegations.
“The way I see it, and many may disagree with this, but the failure was not a moral failure, but an administerial one(if that).”
I see it as both. It was a moral failure that took the form of an administrative failure. A Catholic institution should have taken an accusation of serious sin much more seriously, and should have treated an accuser with far more charity. I’m not saying that the accused should have been expelled. He said / she said is a real thing and a difficult thing to manage. False accusations may be relatively rare, but they are still real. But I am saying, and I think Simcha is saying too, that the accuser was not treated properly. She was not treated properly from a Catholic perspective nor from an institutional perspective. Justice, and not just criminal secular justice, but justice from our institutions, is a part of Catholic moral theology. A reasonable process may not have been able to do anything about the situation, but a reasonable process still should have been pursued.
And I think the criticism of the PDA policy is quite apt. Students are prohibited from doing something reasonable on campus. They therefore leave campus to do that thing. By driving students off campus, the school is making the students, especially women, more vulnerable.
It sounds like from what the article describes, that they had to dig deeper to find a situation in which they could implement a punishment on the guy, and they told them that they understood their anguish. That doesn’t really sound like they didn’t take it seriously, but that they went above and beyond the accusation at face value and tried to address it by doing extensive research. “A complete careful investigation,” in their own words. The lack of process in place is about the same for most schools that size and design. I didn’t feel like the article clearly painted a picture of how she was personally treated poorly. It says she felt like the provost didn’t care which is entirely subjective, and wasn’t able to respond promptly, especially since extra duties were imposed on him and probably didn’t have an exact answer ready for them anyway. I also disagree with your assessment that author doesn’t have a clear stance on whether the student should have been expelled. The whole narrative actually seems quite dependent on that, as they pretty much did everything shy of that. “His punishment: He could not live on campus for one semester, and he could not contact Adele Smith.” While maybe that’s small in comparison to rape, it’s not a small step for a school to take. I can’t think of anything more serious than that, that’s shy of expulsion.
The fact that the school is Catholic really seems quite irrelevant. Most of secular culture righteously denounces rape, and praises consent. If you presume that because Catholic teaching is against rape, that must mean that they’re able to appropriately address rape allegations, I think the fault is in your expectation and the reality of the situation, but not the school itself. I’ve seen way too many crises in my time, where people just went on acting as if nothing happened, not because they didn’t care, but because it’s all they knew how to do and weren’t really able to fathom it, much less solve it. Here it seems that the expectation was not only that she be believed(fathoming), but that immediate action be taken(aka solving). It took about a month to find a solution, which given the resources for the investigation, makes perfect sense considering they’re not a team of forensic scientists with knowledge of legal prosecutions. You may think that’s not what Simcha is actually advocating for, but her complaint comes across as about as realistic.
And no…. I don’t consider C’doms PDA policy unreasonable. While it is reasonable for a Catholic school to allow chaste PDAs, it’s not necessary that do so. College students are able to refrain the same as monks, office workers, single adults and most adults in public life. I’m aware that C’dom extends this into private life as well, but it’s not a stretch that adults would all around be able to practice self control. If it was truly necessary that students seek sexual/affection outlets, then I don’t blame C’dom for wanting to have no part in policing or monitoring, “how far is too far.” Chastity is their moral prerogative and they would rather err on the side of caution than participate. Don’t like it? Then send your kids to a Jesuit school where they get free condoms.
There is a moral failing when a founder’s son is a perpetrator and this is covered up continually over the years
Andrew, you said: “I still live in Front Royal, and until very recently our police have been a joke when it comes to stuff like this. That’s certainly not Christendom’s fault.”
I’m not sure I agree with this. If Front Royal is a tiny rural town, as these articles say, then a college, even a small one, is a large part of that town. If law enforcement is not protecting its students (or at least diligently investigating student claims of assault), Christendom should be making a great effort to effect change. They must have some political sway, as they probably provide a great deal of the town’s revenue. Is Christendom even trying to address this problem with town government? Or going to the county if the town is not addressing it?
The town and the college have a very interesting relationship. The College is actually small enough, and physically remote from the built-up town center, that it is more ignored than anything.
The town has over 14,000 people, so the college isn’t a large part of it. However, if you combine Christendom, Seton Home Study, and the many Christendom grads who have settled around town, it’s a sizable bloc … if they actually all agreed that something should be done.
Sure. They could end abortion, and poverty, and racism, and poor educational opportunities, and lack of jobs, and poor housing, and nepotism in the local government, and drug use among teens, and unresponsive bureaucracies, and lousy healthcare in the local hospital, and the high cost of medicine locally, and the massive local traffic jams on peepers weekends.
Are you saying that campus security police are supposed to be policing the town? That’s not how it works in any of the college towns I’ve lived in, and I live in one now, where we also have a military base, and the base police don’t have jurisdiction outside the base, for the most part. They can work *with* local law enforcement, but that’s as far as it goes, because they’re federal. Anyway, campus police are a whole different bear. I went to a small all-women’s college, and we had an excellent campus security force; if you were feeling unsure about walking to your car at night you could call them for an escort. They would come around to the dorms (I worked at a front desk) to check in and see that everything was okay on a regular basis. BUT I never heard them saying they were going to patrol outside the campus borders. That wasn’t their gig.
Christendom doesn’t have anything like that. It’s way too small. Now that everyone has cellphones, it would be cool if the school set up a service where you could text for a pickup if you’re in trouble … for instance if you’re at a party where you’re being pressured to drink, or alone in a car with a pushy guy. The Dean or an RA could drive out and get you.
But actual campus police on a campus of 400? I just don’t think they could afford it. I believe in my day there was one security guard who wandered around at night with a flashlight, and that was it.
Oh, this was before cellphones. I was at Saint Mary’s in South Bend and we had a student body of about 1,500, tops. We’d use the in-campus phones in the lobby or in our dorm rooms to call security. Obviously they wouldn’t escort us if we wanted to, say, walk across the road to Notre Dame, because that was going outside the campus bounds, but there was a nice shuttle bus system running between SMC and Notre Dame.
Bear in mind I never heard of anybody calling security if they were at a party in South Bend that got out of hand…but I didn’t run in very party-like circles. Yes, there were party girls at SMC.
Thank you for writing that. I think there’s definitely room for improvement in the college’s dealings, but as DCLM already made clear, the school was being asked to provide a parallel court, which is not easy. Rob, earlier in the comments, gave wonderful suggestions as to what the school could do, and what he would expect them to do(that they did not), but it’s still worth noting that the article itself mentions things the school DID do to try to protect the students. The irony is not lost on me that the one institution that offered any solution, band aid solutions they may be, is also the one institution least responsible for the event, and the one that’s being blamed the most. This is a legal matter, and the school is right to wash its hands clean of that responsibility as they are not qualified to deal with such accusations on their own. The Bishop scandal was about the Bishops taking the law into their own hands and trying to cover up and cure people with their own minor penalties, without reporting anything. The Christendom “scandal”, is about an administration, who got ahold of a case after the legal authorities were already informed and failed to do anything, and then tried to fix the problem in a very lowkey diplomatic way, that would prevent them from being sued by the kid’s family. I believe Adele’s story 100%. Which, I don’t suppose I have any obligation to do, but it’s unfair to simply expect the school to just automatically presume the worst. When the administration said they would look into the matter, it seems like that’s exactly what they did. The incident does not seem too unlike the OJ trial in that OJ killed someone and was trialed for something far less severe later on. Here he was accused of rape, but they got him on harassment to be banned from the campus. It’s not good enough, for some because the school didn’t have the authority or the power to adequately punish someone for rape, and I personally have no problem with the rapist receiving a degree, and being forced to stay off campus with a restraining order. This sounds like a solution I would expect from a small school, where something major is placed on them.
Meanwhile, these suggestions that it’s the no PDA policy that’s to blame, really is bizarrely pseudo Freudian. I’d hate to echo that ridiculous article from the Remnant, that accuses Fisher of being in league with Satan, but he was spot on with that point. The idea is that if you don’t have make out places, you’ll get rape places. Umm okay? If you don’t have weed places, does that mean you’ll get crack places? This is bad reasoning and I don’t see it as incumbent on the school to drop its strict standards on sexual morality, in order appease people who think it might help with the problem. The school, itself, is actually quite safe, so safe that even when rape happens among its own students, it has to happen off the school grounds. Now the students may be less prepared for rape, rape that happens off campus(like a clean house doesn’t prepare a person for germs), due to their sheltered background, but that’s not exactly the school’s fault. That being noted, it would actually makes MORE sense, and would seem MORE effective, to refuse students the option of leaving, than to allow them make out spots. Neither of which am I suggesting.
Now with thoughts regarding sexual assault, I don’t think it bad for a school to have a policy, but the presumption that that must mean they condone it, or don’t care about it, isn’t realistic. If you think writing “don’t rape people” would solve anything it should be noted that most universities don’t have a “don’t commit mass genocide” policy either.
People will actually believe this ludicrous drivel. This actually hurts good people doing their best to make the world a better place every day. Your objectives have nothing to do with the truth, the several patently false claims you’ve made about Christendom are evidence of as much. The administration handled a tough situation, that had no evidence supporting the claims of the girl, as best as can be expected. It’s portrayed here as poorly as possible but you can’t just go ruining guys lives like this.
If it was patently false, the college would have grounds for a law suit. But their response was not a legal cease and desist, or demand of retraction. Their response was a poor excuse for an apology. Clearly the college doesn’t think it is patently false.
When was the last time you heard of a lie or series of lies a journalist told being prosecuted? The only time that happens is when the entire story is based on a provable lie that they should have known about. The first amendment offers incredible protections for shoddy journalism like this piece offers.
LOL, the “chastity” policy was a joke when I went there. All it did was push people into secret places where chastity was more in danger. There was that one time I got a booty call from an upperclassman with a key to the administrative building. That whole place was dressed in golden robes lined with lead.
Right. Because if there were no chastity policy, people wouldn’t be pushed into secret places andcould be openly unchaste.
Yes they would hang out in more open areas because they could be openly affectionate. Holding hands, a warm hug, perhaps even a peck on the cheek totally sins against chastity.
Not everything that the school chooses to ban has to be a sin.
The wonderful thing is that in America there are thousands of schools that allow all of those things. Surely, prospective students are aware of the rules at Christendom when they choose to apply and go to the school. There are so many other choices that don’t have these rules. If only for the sake of that important virtue “diversity” — shouldn’t there be ONE school in the country that has these rules for those who CHOOSE to attend?
It is getting totally repetitive, but here goes:
1) Christendom is very small and a step off campus puts one right back in the non-PDA world. Any student can stroll on the public road or in the neighborhood across the street – nonPDA world, let alone the town, or the rest of the known world.
2) The schools which do not have PDA rules, or whose rules are less strict still have rape.
I can tell you personally when I read the hand holding policy I thought it was a paper rule, I had no idea the lengths of its enforcement. Same thing with the dress code. It was oppressively stifling there.
Before I went to Christendom I was the head of my diocesan youth council, so to say I was active in my faith was an understatement. The hollow piety I encountered there was so devastating, I expected everyone to be devout, not just going through the motions.
Case in point, when I started going off the rails I would have expected my fellow Catholics to guide me back, especially the older more experienced upper classman I tried to lean on. What I found was the opposite, the longer a person had been at Christendom the less likely they were to show Christian charity, or even a spirit of evangelization. It was only people in my freshman class greener than I was who were willing to lend any support. Most didn’t know what was going on or how to handle me but at least they tried to hold out their hand. The upperclassmen represntives of what Christendom molded you into slapped my hand away. Only when my self destructive nonsense lead to the police being called did the administrators step in and not to fix my problems but to put me back in line. Christendom has no love, and without love there is only tyranny.
Lol there was the one time I said I was suicidal “you’ll go to hell” he replied “I don’t care” I responded “your psychotic” he said
Was there ever a police report filed? Were charged ever filed? If not, then how is the school supposed to levy public punishments that would permittly alter this guy’s life if the woman would not go forward to authorities? I understand it is difficult for her to go forward, but if justice is to be publicly served, accusations must be publicly leveled.
The statute of limitations for rape in the state of VA is 20 years (unless I am mistaken). If she feels so strongly about it now and is willing to come out publicly and smear the College, bring him forward as well.
She did go to the police. The criticism is directed towards how the school handled the matter after the legal authorities failed. It doesn’t discredit their criticism, but it does show an obvious bias that the scandal is associated with the school and not the park police or FroRo police.
There is no statute of limitations for rape in Virginia (https://www.rainn.org/pdf-files-and-other-documents/Public-Policy/Legal-resources/2009-Statutes/09VirginiaStatutes.pdf).
want more proof of sexual assualts? Here’s my letter that i wrote to Christendom last month.
I am so sad you had to live through that. You are very brave.
Have they replied yet?
That takes a lot of strength to write to them like that. You are very brave to speak up.
I hope and pray that your bravery results in changes that help other women.
God bless you and keep you.
Simcha, I’m honestly curious what your objective is in publishing something like this?
In one way, I’m glad I have this information. It’s something I can share with bubble parents. It’s not completely new to me, since “Gasp! Catholics are sinners just like everyone else.” I went to a small Catholic school in the 80’s and knew all students there did not live up to the standards of the college or the faith. It was usually fairly evident who those people were and if you didn’t want trouble, you stayed out of their circle. Maybe that needs to be spoken about more openly among students. It seems to be a bigger problem now that the sexually charged culture doesn’t help young men and women relate to each other without sexual overtones in every encounter.
I’m giving Simcha the benefit of the doubt and assuming she had good will in this reporting. I really, really hope that she isn’t approaching her stories with a big chip on her shoulder towards anything “conservative” Catholic. She’s taken a lot of crap from that quarter and it would be a misuse of her great gift of writing to use it as payback. It wouldn’t quite be in keeping with her recent essay about letting go of anger.
My objective is to make Christendom more accountable for the safety of its students.
Was there ever a police report filed? Were charged ever filed? If not, then how is the school supposed to levy public punishments that would permittly alter this guy’s life if the woman would not go forward to authorities? I understand it is difficult to do so, but if justice is to be served publicly, accusations must be made in public.
How can a school prevent a student from going off campus to rape another? I’m sorry, but your logic is misconstrued here.
A school cannot beyond a shadow of a doubt prevent rape, but you can reduce the risk of it, and one of the key arguments in this piece is that excessively strict PDA rules result in private, remote areas being the normal location for healthy romantic affection. This puts students at greater risk.
A school can also have clearly defined sexual assault policies on the books, and discuss these policies with their students. In 2010, after the church sex abuse scandal, the air force academy sexual assault scandal, among others, it’s horrendously negligent not to have these policies.
A school can also take rape allegations seriously, and remove the accused person from campus. Banning them from living on campus and allowing a professor to shelter them does not protect other students.
The PDA does NOT push kids into private remote areas.
That is absurd.
The entire town is PDA-rule-free. Strolling hand in hand, allowed. Kissing allowed.
Every street, business, coffeehouse, fast food place, restaurant, movie theater, shopping center, library, store, park.
Students who go to remote areas are by-passing safe, public places where they could engage in the PDA behavior you complain is banned on campus.
jlhyacintha wrote: “A school can also take rape allegations seriously, and remove the accused person from campus. Banning them from living on campus and allowing a professor to shelter them does not protect other students.”
Are you seriously suggesting universities ban men from campus who are accused of rape with no proof and without an accuser who is even willing to go to the police or a local hospital for a rape kit exam, etc. Whatever happened to justice? The last thing Christendom needs is a kangaroo court that believes everything that comes out of accusers’ mouths.
Because Simcha has an ax to grind.
Where would be a better Catholic college to send your daughter, Simcha?
I hope you will also do an expose on colleges such as Notre Dame–the wackadoodle attitudes I encountered there regarding women and sex would make your head spin.
Simcha, I’m not quite sure what any of the rape allegations have to do with Christendom College. Rape is always absolutely horrific and of course a criminal offense. The young woman went to the police, and due to the lack of evidence, they could not press charges. Is the suggestion that Christendom should act in the place of the police, even without evidence of the rape? This article is a libel suit waiting to happen.
Accountability, yes, definitely. That is different from critiquing the PDA policy and segregated dorms.
““I always find it interesting they always try to punish students for drinking off campus, if you come back to campus drunk,” Smith said. “I say, if you rape off campus, when you come back to campus, you’re still a rapist.””
The comparison between rape and public drunkenness is egregiously unfair. When someone returns to campus drunk there is solid proof, and it is easy to immediately punish the person for the offense. That is not the case at all with rape.
“Smith says the school claimed it “takes a long time” to implement changes in school policy.
“No, it takes opening a word document and writing it up: ‘Don’t rape people.’ If there’s a single member on your board who has an issue with that, they shouldn’t be on that board,” Smith said.”
Actually, if you read what the new sexual assault policy is, it is much more than Smith claims. The school decided to implement internal juridical means for determining the truthfulness of rape allegations outside of the civil process. That is no small feat. It is also questionable whether colleges and universities are equipped to handle such investigations internally. Deciding to proceed with creating a parallel court system over allegations as serious and difficult to determine as rape is a momentous decision fraught with difficulties both legal and practical.
Clearly, both the young man and the young woman had people on their side who believed one person over the other in this he-said-she-said situation. This article does not do justice to the university’s apparent efforts to remain impartial, while also considering how to better serve women who have been raped. Smith’s criticisms of the university are reported on at length, while nowhere is the university’s current policy on sexual assault quoted or described.
Not quoted or described? She links to it directly!
Exactly as DCNM said: NOT QUOTED OR DESCRIBED.
One of a half-dozen links at the bottom of the article. The other items linked ARE quoted and described in the article.
Why not the new policy? Could it be because the policy might show the school in a favorable light?
This article sounds like Stephanie Meyer had a hay day, so if that’s what you were going for, good job!
This response sounds like a trolling hay day, so if that’s what you were going for, good job!
Enjoy your sparkles.
Same sex dorms is considered strict segregation? PDA rules that no longer exist, criticizing faculty that no longer are there? Come on. They re-wrote the handbook over the summer? A handbook that has to be revised and reviewed by the college’s legal team I assume? A handbook that is not going to stop a rape. I am so sorry for this woman, rape is a horrible crime on so many levels, maybe one of the worst aspects is the lack prosecution. It is an extremely difficult crime to convict someone of, and unfortunately, without proof or conviction, legally not much can be done. Sexual assault happens to 1-6 women. Some of those rapists are in places like Christendom, places you would think would be safe, you know, like the company of priests when you are an altar boy. The college’s response is a legal response to an alleged crime. Christendom is not perfect, as far as I can tell, they are doing the best they can to foster an environment of spiritual and educational growth. What is your point really?
Her point is that they did not do their best. They had a legal responsibility to investigate throughly, and a moral responsibility to respond appropriately, which they did not do. They haven’t apologized for the harm caused by their negligence in failing to treat these matters as serious. The steps they have taken are a good beginning, but only that. They didn’t make any changes until after pressure had been applied over the course of several years.
But you aren’t asking that question seriously. She said all of that, and you are intelligent enough to have reading comprehension. Your point is that you disagree and you don’t like her shining a journalistic light onto this mess.
I have to wonder why people entrust a liberal arts school board to be able to fairly assess rape allegations, when law enforcement weren’t able to. As far as I can see, either your outrage should be with park police and the legal system that did nothing, as opposed to the school which actually did something(albeit minor), or you should be mad at yourselves for not hiring a bounty hunter to mutilate the guy. Hardly seems fair to hide behind a university and blame it for this problem.
“I have to wonder why people entrust a liberal arts school board to be able to fairly assess rape allegations, when law enforcement weren’t able to.”
As a Catholic, I would imagine you agree that there are actions that are not criminal but that are still wrong. And this is ore than just a liberal arts school, it is a Catholic institution. If you read the original article, it was clear that the school failed on many counts to do what an institution that claims to be Catholic should have done. It’s not just about getting justice for victims or punishing perpetrators, it’s about HOW the institution responds to allegations and the environment the institution fosters to start with.
The way I see it, and many may disagree with this, but the failure was not a moral failure, but an administerial one(if that). I don’t wish to discredit those who are appalled by the rape epidemic and Adele Smith’s case, as it is horrific matter; but there are campuses where this stuff is much more frequent, and it’s not because they aren’t Catholic in a nominal sense, nor is it because they endorse rape, but it’s because there’s not always a clear procedure as to how to address it. The fact that every situation is different, makes it a matter of prudential judgment, and this seems completely lost on the author who partially blames the PDA policy, which I find insulting to college students and drastically counter intuitive to challenging the prospects of rape. It’s a campus so safe, that rapist actually have to convince their victims to leave in order to rape them. Adele Smith, in the article above, expected to perpetrator to be expelled based on her narrative that she presented. While I fully believe her narrative is true, it’s not unreasonable to also suppose that a college would have to do a kind of balancing act where legal authorities are absent. Catholic or nonCatholic, If one interprets this as a endorsement of rape, the fault is on them. While it is true that C’dom, as I understand it, expels people for far less, it is usually for things in which there is more evidence or for matters that are more in their jurisdiction. This is an event that took place off campus, with literally one witness. The school restraining order, if properly enforced(which I suppose to the author’s credit, could very rationally be called into question), should at least be acknowledged as an attempt to guarantee her safety. Imagine for a second if he was expelled, but decided to stay in Front Royal anyway. This would be a situation in which she’d be even less safe as the university would literally have no leverage over him. Or even if he left Front Royal, this would not guarantee the safety of other women. The fact that they used a separate situation to impose a restriction on him should give you a sense of how they had to act within their own evidentiary boundaries to avoid being sued.