By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
On Monday, Kiera Feldman — a member of the Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism — published a story in the New Republic about how Patrick Henry College (PHC) has handled sexual assault cases on its campus. The story, entitled “Sexual Assault at Patrick Henry College, God’s Harvard”, has caused an uproar among homeschool alumni, PHC graduates, and others. The story got picked up by Salon and other news agencies.
Yesterday, PHC’s Office of Communications released a “Statement by Patrick Henry College to concerned alumni and students about article in The New Republic.” It was disseminated yesterday to alumni and today to PHC’s general student body (and was met with student applause).
You can view the statement in full as a PDF here. An excerpt follows:
Many of you may be aware of an article just published in The New Republic magazine (and picked up by several websites/blogs) concerning allegations of sexual assault now being made in connection with events that occurred off campus some years ago – especially about one situation more than seven years ago, and another about four years ago.
…Patrick Henry College is absolutely committed to the protection and care of our students, male and female equally…
…The fact is that the information provided by the key individuals at the time differs from the allegations now related in the New Republic article. The College acted on the basis of the information made available at the time. Moreover, at no time did anyone suggest to any female student that she was somehow responsible, or more at fault for the situation…
…Where possible, we provided the reporter and the magazine with clarification of some of these allegations contained in her article, but she either chose to disregard the information or simply lumped the information into a single paragraph toward the article’s end…
…Any fair observer would conclude that a review of the entire evidence demonstrates that PHC earnestly sought to do the right thing in each instance, did not attempt to cover-up any sexual crimes, and did not seek to blame women for the improper behavior of male students…
…We are glad that the number of such situations involving PHC students is far below American campus averages…
(PHC Professor of Biblical Studies Darrel Cox also wrote his own statement, arguing that the New Republic piece was “a very angry (and honestly, shoddy) attempt at a hit-piece” and that the actual victim in all of this is Sandra Corbitt, PHC’s Dean of Student Affairs.)
Rachel Leon, who was cited in the New Republic article, gave the following response to PHC’s statement:
As Sarah’s friend and former roommate, it’s been deeply distressing to watch some of the direct and indirect attacks on her testimony and character from both the Patrick Henry College administration and the wider PHC community. Sarah is a humble, truthful, and brave friend who only came forward because she wanted to do something to help other victims of sexual assault at PHC. In the hellish days right after the assault, Sarah painstakingly drew up a detailed account of her assault to turn in to Dean Corbitt. This is the same account she turned in to the journalist who wrote the New Republic article. Sarah honestly believed that the administration would handle her case appropriately, and we both felt a sense of betrayal when the administration instead chose to discipline both her and her attacker as though her sexual assault had actually been a consensual encounter. Her account of the assault and her attacker’s account of the assault really only differed on one point: her attacker said it had all been consensual. That Corbitt chose to discipline her by having her read materials about purity shows that Corbitt believed Sarah’s attacker’s version of events from the start. This gives the lie to any notion that the college handled this investigation in a fair and impartial manner. I still vividly remember sitting in Corbitt’s office holding Sarah’s hand as she violently trembled while explaining the details of her assault and responding to Corbitt’s harsh cross-examination. I still vividly remember the way she sometimes screamed at night because of her nightmares. I still vividly remember walking her across campus after dark because she was afraid to walk alone. As I reflect upon some of the worst memories I have of my time at PHC, I challenge the PHC community to step up to the plate as a Christian community and demand greater support for victims and accountability for all who would choose to harm them.
- Kathryn Brightbill, “Are Women Safe at Patrick Henry College?”
- Libby Anne, “Michael Farris Responds to the New Republic” and “Patrick Henry College’s Sexual Assault Problem”
- Patriarchy Exposed, “Patrick Henry Chancellor Michael Farris Declares Sex in Scandal Was Consensual”
- Ramblings of Sheldon, “Michael Farris, HSLDA, and Patrick Henry College’s Silencing of Sexual Assault Victims”
- “The dark truth about Patrick Henry Circle” Tumblr
- David Sessions, “A Response to Stephen Baskerville’s Lecture at Patrick Henry College” **
- Daily Kos, “‘God’s Harvard’ and victim blaming”
** Note Sessions’s comment, made in September of 2013, months before the New Republic piece:
Girls have been raped while attending Patrick Henry College: girls who I sat next to in class, by men who I sat next to in class. Other women I know were at different times mercilessly harassed, stalked and frightened—all on the campus of Patrick Henry College. Often it was the “nice boys” no one in a million years would imagine could do something like that until they saw it with their own eyes.