On the edge of the University Center Court Yard, as music blasted and students handed out free hotdogs, senior Paige Taylor stood with a shirt that read, “My rapist still goes here.”
A handful of supporters, either supporting t-shirts or holding signs, stood in solidarity with Taylor on Tuesday, Oct. 2. Senior Ariel Tucci wore a shirt that read, “#WhatWereYouWearing,” Dr. Andrea McClanahan held a “#BelieveHer” and Devonna Marshall wore a shirt written with permanent marker that said, “Serial Rapist. No Expulsion. Why?”
“I feel like I’ve taken every other avenue to try to get people to listen,” Taylor said. “I went through the school, I went to the police, and nothing really happened. They just did enough to keep me quiet and I’m sick of it.”
The Stroud Courier is not aware of any criminal charges filed in relation to the attack.
The alleged assault happened almost a year ago, but Taylor said she still holds that fear with her every day. Because the alleged perpetrator is still allowed on campus, Taylor said she has avoided places like the local bar and gym because she knows he’ll be there.
After the alleged assault she came forward a month later. A university-based student conduct hearing process occurred from November to February where, according to Taylor, the alleged perpetrator was found responsible for the assault. (The student conduct records are not accessible to the media.)
According to Taylor, in the student conduct investigation, the alleged perpetrator was not considered a “threat to the community,” and he was still allowed to attend ESU but was given deferred suspension.
The ESU student code of conduct lists deferred suspension as “the most serious level of disciplinary sanction short of Suspension or Expulsion.” A student with deferred suspension is considered not in “good standing” with the university and may be denied certain campus privileges.
“The purpose of deferred suspension is to give the student who is responsible for violations of the student code of conduct an opportunity to finish their coursework at the university,” said Maria Cutsinger, director of student conduct and investigation, “with the understanding that being found responsible for another violation of the code while on deferred suspension may result in an immediate suspension.”
Since the results of the hearing, Taylor said she has been working with officials to try to get the perpetrator expelled but has been unsuccessful.
“Several times they pretty much said it was my fault, after my hearing, a woman came up to me who ran the hearing and said, ‘I hope you learned something about hookup culture from this,’” Taylor said.
Tucci said that the protest comes at a much-needed time.
“There’s too many times that people have tried to get up from the school and didn’t get the help that they needed,” she said. “Paige is awesome doing this protest and speaking up and saying the things that students need and we’re not getting the support that we need.”
A Huffington Post analysis conducted in December of 2017 found that less than a third of college students who are found guilty of sexual assault are kicked off campus.
The survey analysis of 125 schools from 2011 to 2013 found that 30 percent of students found guilty of sexual assault were expelled while an estimated 20 to 68 percent were suspended.
“We need to value survivor’s voices and we need to make sure everything is up to par when it comes to holding people accountable,” said Dr. McClanahan. “Many of us know individuals that perpetuate sexual assault tend to do it more than once and if we don’t stop giving them a free pass then it’s never going to stop.”
Taylor hopes the demonstration allows people to understand that not expelling perpetrators is something that doesn’t just happen at bigger or even nationally recognized schools.
“It’s happening here. I’m a real person,” she said. “Unfortunately, I guess women need to be more careful walking around at night because ESU harbors rapists.”
Even though Taylor graduates this December, she said her work is not going to end there. Throughout the semester she plans to try to wear a shirt with different sayings each week related to sexual assault and create a support group for survivors later this month.
“The more I learn from Annie Clark and other resources, I’m going to fix it. Women aren’t going to come here and have to worry about [sexual assault],” Taylor said. “I’m not going to be silenced.”
The Stroud Courier normally practices a policy of not naming victims of sexual assault, but in this case, because an alleged victim named herself and came forward in a most public way and for the purpose of advocacy, a decision was made to allow it. – Editor
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