by Aaron Warner
The most watched conservative channel on Youtube is Louder with Crowder. Host Stephen Crowder, himself a twenty-something, has become popular with the college-aged demographic in part because of his unabashedly patriotic approach to free speech. He has also raised many eyebrows with trips to college campuses for a “Change My Mind” bit where passersby are encouraged to change his mind about controversial topics from building a wall to carrying firearms to campus rape culture. In each he takes the ‘obvious’ conservative position – pro-wall, pro-second amendment, etc..
He also asserts that campus rape culture is, statistically, a myth.
The University of Vermont seems to be dealing a blow to this supposed myth with a culture of reported sexual assaults on campus that has many students flocking to social media to seek support for their stories.
ShareYourStoryUVM (SYSUVM) is the Instagram page created for anyone who attends or works at UVM to get a platform to speak up and speak out about being a victim of sexual assault either prior to or while at UVM.
Awareness of this page came as a result of a student who was dealing with her own story of sexual harassment at the hands of a professor. The student described the incidents as both “unwanted comments” about her personal appearance and “unwanted touching” when accosted by the professor on campus.
Seeking counsel from friends and family she started the process of filing a Title IX complaint. It was then she found the hurdles and incompetency put in place by those tasked with helping assault victims. Five phone calls and messages later she finally got a live person to hear her story. She was told the online link she’d been pursuing should have been removed two years ago.
Undaunted, she continued the process, primarily out of concern for her transcript given she wanted to drop the class with the offending professor, but was told by UVM that she would not be able to remove the dropped class from her record. They also said her complaint didn’t rise to the level of needing disciplinary action and, essentially she would need to move on. This would leave a mark on her spirit to go with the mark on her record.
Frustrated, she began to speak to other students, which was when she discovered ShareYourStoryUVM.
ShareYourStoryUVM currently shows 340 posts of separate incidents. With 4,562 followers of the page that equates to more than one quarter of UVM’s approximately 13,500 students.
The SYSUVM lists its purpose as “empowering survivors” as a “place for UVM survivors of sexual assault, abuse and harassment to share their stories anonymously, on their terms”.
Though one could take the time to read them all, the theme is obvious. There is a pattern of abuse by UVM students, employees and even faculty, that seems to not only go unchecked, but is creating a culture of permissiveness for those bold enough to take advantage of their fellow Catamounts.
Currently the most talked about story involves a Resident Assistant (RA). His name was given by an anonymous poster who described her incident in quite graphic detail. She reports he began assaulting her while she was asleep, after which she awoke and found him choking her while asking if she was “ok with it”. She also provides a screen shot from a text he sent which reads awkwardly as a mea culpa, though not in explicit terms. He describes the incident vaguely, offers some equivocation and then ironically plays the gentleman by saying he’d be willing to drop out of their shared reading club.
Having worked in the field of sexual assault back in Oregon, where I was a Program Specialist in a house of highly functioning and developmentally disabled pedophiles, I am familiar with both true and false allegation language used to describe one’s experience. The complaint by the young woman is without artifice, nor does it call attention to her other than to warn others about the RA and his unfitness as an UVM employee. Sadly, as of now, she has not been received by the UVM investigators as credible, despite the obvious evidence given.
Another UVM RA has multiple accusers on the site. More than one report says he sought contact via the dating site Tinder. What followed was another apparent pattern with his alleged victims sharing similar details in their stories.
The story grows like a leprous sore from there. Alleged perpetrators include student athletes, one a UVM men’s basketball player, fraternity members, alumni, and even a few women on women instances.
The fraternity and sorority Alpha Gamma Rho is mentioned on several occasions. Both current members and an alumnus are accused of gross assault on targeted women. Copious amounts of coercive drinking and trips to unattended basement rooms, followed by black out memories only awakening at having been branded with markers on their private areas seem to be a thing for UVM frat houses.
Another anonymous poster describes the UVM men’s and women’s soccer teams as “disgusting” having been groped by members of both at the same party. One might think athletes who are trained to respect the boundaries of their sport would translate to their fellow students.
Even the UVM fraternity and sorority life coordinator is accused of assaulting a younger man after meeting through the homosexual dating site GRINDER. The younger man commiserates wondering if this is just part of gay culture.
The argument against campus rape culture, at least at UVM, is weakening by the day.
Here are some national statistics provided via the DOJ database to consider:
- 13% of all college students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).
- Among graduate and professional students, 9.7% of females and 2.5% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.
- Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females and 6.8% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation.
- 5.8% of students have experienced stalking since entering college.
College-aged adults are at high risk for sexual violence.
- Male college-aged students (18-24) are 78% MORE likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.
- Female college-aged students (18-24) are 20% LESS likely than non-students of the same age to be a victim of rape or sexual assault.
We reached out to the UVM Title IX sexual harassment liaisons, the campus police and the public relations representatives on Monday. We received this response e-mail from University spokesperson Enrique Corredera:
The university takes sexual assault and other forms of sexual misconduct seriously. As a result of ongoing, constructive dialogue with student leaders, UVM has established several new programs and initiatives over the last seven months to help prevent and to address incidents of sexual misconduct on our campus.
I am sharing with you the link to a recently launched website: https://www.uvm.edu/wehearyou
I hope that you will take the time to digest all the information on the site so that you can get a sense of the university’s comprehensive and swift response.
I am also sharing a set of stories (see below) that may help you provide a national context.
The assortment of articles collectively tell the same story – universities in the US have a sex assault problem. Campuses everywhere are having protests and student led accountability meetings to address this growing issue. UVM had their own rape awareness march back in 2020.
After several exchanges with the host of the SYSUVM I realized their anonymity is paramount and I don’t blame them. I decided to read through several of the 380 listed posts and found myself descending into grief and depression at the depravity of how college aged students at one of the most prestigious schools in New England treat each other. Having been victimized myself as a young boy it brought up feelings of powerlessness and shame that, despite my successes as a world class strength coach, remain forever a painful scar buried inside.
I also reached out to my Hartford congressional representative Becca White who laments the issue and is working on a resolution to address it. She likewise expressed frustration with the situation, mainly because the other less dealt with cause is the careless use of alcohol that seems to set up either victim, perpetrator or both for these moments of horrible boundary shattering.
What can be done? I suggest a nationwide campaign to discourage partying, drinking and drugs with an express focus on the sheer magnitude of the problem. Encouraging responsible partying and monogamy can help too. Instagram does boast a club for those who have chosen to remain virgins appropriately titled UVMvirgin. I didn’t hear of any alcohol or sexual related problems among them.
If 380 reports are posted for UVM alone, how many are there on average nationwide? Possibly many, many thousands. Students need to take responsibility for putting themselves in these situations, but so do parents and faculty. A return to saner times where partying and hooking up were seen less as a rite of passage and more as a sign of immaturity and lack of wisdom.
The author is a Hartford resident and Vermont Daily Chronicle contributor.