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OPINION: Rape Policy Needs Revamping

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by Laura Cassetty

In the four years I was in high school, Montpelier High School has grown so much. The school community has come so far in acknowledging rape culture. When I was a freshman, rape culture meant the boys in your classes felt the right to reach under the table and grab your leg. By my senior year, students from across all grades were coming together to talk about dismantling rape culture in our community. And when I came out as a rape survivor during my final semester at MHS, I was met with immeasurable amounts of love and support from my peers and the faculty that had watched me learn and grow for four years.

However ready my community was to support me, school policies were not. According to Vermont law, “a person shall be deemed to have acted without the consent of the other person where the actor” — the person charged with sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault — “knows that the other person is not physically capable of resisting, or declining consent to, the sexual act or lewd and lascivious conduct.” For instance, if the other person is too intoxicated to give or decline consent or the other person falls unconscious during the act.

The administration of Montpelier High School knew this and knew that stories like mine are all too common across high school and college campuses, but whether or not they believed me was irrelevant. The school mandates are not up to speed with what we know about rape today. A school investigation found that there was insufficient evidence to prove one way or another if I had been raped. The result was that I spent four months after my rape sharing hallways with my rapist, eating in the same lunchroom as him, hearing his voice outside my classroom doors. I watched him receive his diploma at my graduation ceremony. When I felt my most vulnerable, I saw my rapist walk around unchallenged for his transgression. After all these rape culture seminars, my peers know that an intoxicated person is not capable of giving consent, so why is school policy still tying administrators’ hands?

The writer is a recent graduate of Montpelier High School who will attend Wellesley College in the fall.

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