Forum Post: Brown Student Lena Sclove Speaks Out After School Lets Her Accused Rapist Return to Campus
Posted 5 years ago on May 2, 2014, 3:26 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Brown Student Lena Sclove Speaks Out After School Lets Her Accused Rapist Return to Campus
Friday, 02 May 2014 12:04
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Interview
The issue of sexual assault on college campuses has been in the spotlight this week with a White House task force urging schools to take action. The government launched a new informational website, NotAlone.gov, and a public service announcement featuring President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden alongside famous actors. But long before celebrities and senators entered the picture, the battle against sexual assault on college campuses was led by students who have risen up to hold their schools accountable. We are joined by Brown University student Lena Sclove, who says she was raped and strangled in August 2013 by a fellow student. Her alleged rapist was found responsible for four violations of the student conduct code, including "sexual misconduct that involves one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force or injury." But his penalty effectively amounted to a one-semester suspension. Students say Sclove’s case is not unusual as universities across the country have come under fire for mishandling sexual assault cases. More unusual was Sclove’s decision to speak out by holding a press conference on Brown’s campus last week.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: The issue of sexual assault on college campuses has been in the spotlight this week. On Tuesday, a White House task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden released a report urging colleges to take action by conducting surveys, promoting bystander intervention and improving their disciplinary systems. Citing studies that show one in five women are sexually assaulted in college, the government launched a new informational website, NotAlone.gov, and a public service announcement featuring President Obama and Vice President Biden alongside famous actors.
BENICIO DEL TORO: We have a big problem, and we need your help.
DULÉ HILL: It’s happening on college campuses, at bars, at parties, even in high schools.
STEVE CARELL: It’s happening to our sisters and our daughters.
DANIEL CRAIG: Our wives and our friends.
SETH MEYERS: It’s called sexual assault, and it has to stop.
DULÉ HILL: We have to stop it. So listen up.
BENICIO DEL TORO: If she doesn’t consent or if she can’t consent, it’s rape, it’s assault.
STEVE CARELL: It’s a crime. It’s wrong.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If I saw it happening, I was taught you have to do something about it.
BENICIO DEL TORO: If I saw it happening, I speak up.
DANIEL CRAIG: If I saw it happening, I’d never blame her. I’d help her.
DULÉ HILL: Because I don’t want to be a part of the problem.
SETH MEYERS: I want to be a part of the solution.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We need all of you to be a part of the solution. This is about respect. It’s about responsibility.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It’s up to all of us to put an end to sexual assault. And that starts with you.
DANIEL CRAIG: Because one is too many.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Daniel Craig, Seth Meyers, Benicio Del Toro, Steve Carell and Dulé Hill, with President Obama and Vice President Biden. The PSA will air in movie theaters and on military installations and ships. Meanwhile, Senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand are leading an effort for increased funding to address sexual assault at colleges.
Well, long before celebrities and senators entered the picture, the battle against sexual assault on college campuses was led by students who have risen up to hold their schools accountable, sometimes risking sanctions themselves. Students have filed federal complaints at Columbia, the University of California at Berkeley, Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt, Amherst College and Occidental, among scores of others. The number of complaints against colleges related to sexual violence has tripled since tracking began in 2009, with 33 in the first half of this year alone.
Most recently, attention has focused on Brown University, where a student, Lena Sclove, says she was raped and strangled after a party in August 2013. Her alleged rapist, a fellow student, was found responsible for four violations of the student conduct code, including "sexual misconduct that involves one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force or injury." Sclove says a university panel recommended a two-year suspension, but a dean reduced that to one year. Sclove appealed, seeking a harsher sentence, but was denied. Since her accused attacker remained on campus throughout the hearing and appeal, his one-year suspension effectively became one semester.
The case has caused a nationwide uproar. But students at Brown and elsewhere say Lena Sclove’s story is not necessarily unusual. In fact, in her letter denying Sclove’s appeal, a Brown University official cited, quote, "the precedent of similar cases." More unusual was Lena Sclove’s decision to denounce the university in public. Last week, standing outside Brown’s Van Wickle Gates, surrounded by supporters, she described her injuries.
LENA SCLOVE: It turned out I had a cervical spine injury in my neck from being strangled. It’s very common for trauma injuries like this to take several months to surface. I could not walk for about two months, from January and February. I was bedridden and was forced to take a medical leave. So I lost my one semester of freedom, and now my next opportunity to come back as a student to matriculate here at Brown is the same semester that the rapist is allowed to come back and matriculate here at Brown. I feel like I should have been thanked by the administration for keeping this campus safe; instead, they kept him safe.
AMY GOODMAN: Lena Sclove, speaking at Brown University on April 22nd. Following the uproar over her case, her accused assailant has decided not to return to Brown in the fall. Lena Sclove joins us now in New York along with Wagatwe Wanjuki, an organizer with the Know Your IX campaign, which helps empower students to file complaints against their schools under Title IX. She’s also a contributor at Feministing and a former student at Tufts University, where she filed a complaint in 2008 after two years of alleged rape and abuse by a fellow student, but Tufts did not take action. She was in Washington, D.C., Tuesday for the announcement of the White House report.
Lena and Wagatwe, welcome. Lena, let’s begin with your case. And thank you very much for joining us. It’s extremely brave to speak out as you are doing. Can you talk about what happened to you?
LENA SCLOVE: Sure. The perpetrator was a friend of mine. We had met at a midyear transfer orientation. He seemed like a nice guy. We spent time together over the summer. And then we had been intimate a couple of times. And I think it’s really important to be open about that, because many survivors feel that they can’t come forward because not only did they know the person, but maybe they had been intimate or dated the person before. That does not mean that it can’t be rape in the future.
So, we had decided that it was over. We weren’t interested in moving forward. We were at a party on August 2nd, 2013. Both of us had been drinking. We left the party. And sort of there was definitely flirtation, and at this point it was all consensual, until I was basically pinned against a telephone pole. He had his hand wrapped around my neck. I couldn’t breathe, and I couldn’t move. And that is the moment it became completely unconsensual. And the rest of the night is the nightmare that keeps reliving in my head.
AMY GOODMAN: You said you were strangled twice, and you were raped.
LENA SCLOVE: Yes, I was—yes, he then got me back to his apartment, saying that he would just get me some water and walk me home. Instead, he proceeded to undress me and rape me, and choke and strangle me during the rape again, a second time.