After Former Students Say They Were Sexually Assaulted on Campus, Christian College Accuses Them (!) of Harassment

Pensacola Christian College, one of the most conservative Christian campuses in the country, has a problem. (In addition to all of their other problems, I mean.)

Like other fundamentalist institutions, they’re brushing off reports of sexual assault on their campus basically saying those things didn’t happen, have never happened, and never would happen.

In this case, the story begins at Fred Clark‘s site with a guest post by Samantha Field, a former Pensacola Christian College student who suffered through her own assaults and now tells the stories of two of her peers:

when ‘Beth’ arrived back on campus with a black eye and a broken arm, her family was confronted by the dean of women and told that Beth was being expelled “because she is a fornicator.”

… in December 2012, during his sophomore year, [“David”‘s] roommates in his male-only dormitory woke him up in the middle of the night, restrained him, gagged him, and then gang-raped him.

Confused and scared, he told his floorleader what had happened. A few days later he was called into a meeting with his residence manager who refused to listen to him and then gave him the maximum number of demerits for being “deceitful.”

But, the meetings didn’t end there. He was also called into Student Life, where he met with the assistant dean of men, “who asked me if I had been ‘harassed.’ I said ‘Yes, but…’ and he cut me off.” The dean then told him that he was being expelled.

Obviously, I can’t confirm her stories, but part of the problem here is that schools like PCC promote an idea of “purity” that condemns anyone who has done (or is accused of doing) anything sexual. That makes it virtually impossible for people to come forward with harassment claims because, in this messed up culture, they may be incriminating themselves by saying anything.

Yesterday, Pensacola Christian College officials responded to the allegations in an awful, yet not entirely unexpected, way.

They blamed the victims for harassing them.

Pensacola Christian College is being harassed and victimized through recent online accounts. We have no way of verifying the unverifiable stories, but an exhaustive review of our records has revealed nothing to support these claims. Not only were such incidents never reported, but we categorically deny that any student has ever been expelled from PCC for being a victim of rape or any other crime.

The internet provides an open forum that allows unfounded assertions to be spread without proof. There seems to be no defense against such attacks getting started when someone has an agenda.

While we cannot speak for how well other institutions respond to victims of crime, PCC has upheld the law, will continue to uphold the law, reports criminal acts when we are made knowledgeable of them, and fully cooperates with any investigation. Further, the college, its administration, and counseling staff stand ready to support and assist victims.

You know, even if any of that was honest, surely they could have mustered up a bit of sympathy for the alleged victims… or explain what they would do (or have done) to ensure that all future allegations are taken seriously.

I suspect it’s also hard to find evidence of assault in your records when you don’t appear to document such statements in a serious way in the first place.

The problem isn’t the “open forum” of the Internet; it’s the dismissive, naïve culture on campus that makes these kinds of attacks more likely to happen and that PCC is showing no desire to change.

Samantha’s response to PCC’s non-apology is here:

I know that the last paragraph is absolutely false. One of the respondants was a PCC staffer who was expressly forbidden — by three people in the administration — from reporting a child sexual assault to the police and informed the staffer that they would not make a report. This was confirmed by other staffers. While this was not technically illegal at the time (it was 2011, before the 2012 change that makes every Florida citizen a mandatory reporter), it still flies in the face of what they claim here.

Fred Clark can’t believe it either:

Notice also that PCC’s “exhaustive review” of its records did not include reaching out to any of its former students or alumni.

Notice too the utter absence of the slightest concern for the wellbeing of its former students and alumni. Notice the lack of any trace of sadness at what these young people say happened to them while at PCC. Pensacola Christian College’s “response” doesn’t give a flying fig about those students. The school doesn’t care about what happens to its students — only that no one speak of such things publicly in a way that might harm the institution’s reputation.

It also essentially confirms one central point in the post here that has PCC so upset. In that post, several former Pensacola Christian College students testified that the school did not care about what happened to them. PCC’s official response is to affirm that, indeed, it does not care about what those students say happened to them.

It’s a shame for the students and a black mark on the decent professors and staff members at that school who genuinely care for the students but don’t have the power to do more to help them.

Dr. Troy A. Shoemaker, the school’s president, has the ability to change all that… if he wants. He can put in place a protocol that would guarantee any student who reports assault be immune from punishment. He can make sure students are made aware of resources in the case such a tragedy ever happens again. He can overhaul whatever the current procedure is for handling assault charges to make sure all future reports are taken very seriously and that law enforcement officials are brought in ASAP.

Anything would be better than the tripe written in that statement.

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