To the Editor,
As a Counselor at Whisler, I frequently support and provide clinical services to survivors of sexual trauma. I am also a founding member of our Community Sexual Misconduct Awareness & Response Team, the students, faculty and staff who work with the Denison community to develop and implement prevention, education and response strategies related to sexual misconduct. I also advise the Sexual Harassment and Rape Education Advocates, whose mission is to support and advocate for survivors of sexual violence, prevent sexual misconduct, and promote healthy relationships. I am one of many on campus who work hard to address prevention, education, and response to interpersonal violence.
I first want to acknowledge my appreciation for staff members of The Denisonian who work long and demanding hours in addition to academic and other extra-curricular obligations. I admire your commitment to our community and to the art of reporting news. The Denisonian is an appreciated and valued institution on our campus that serves to better inform and connect our community.
I write now, however, because I am deeply concerned by The Denisonian’s recent article, “Expelled student sues Denison.” I write on behalf of silenced peers – the person sitting next to you in class or during a meal who may seem distracted or preoccupied. I write for the person who seems to be barely hanging on, struggling for reasons you don’t know. I write also for the students who came to me last week saying, “What now?”, “I told you”, or “How do I walk to class? I feel so vulnerable.” They expressed a mixture of outrage, sadness, and feelings of injustice. Because I work so closely with these students, I felt these emotions, too.
You published a story focusing on the respondent and HIS attorney’s response. Of course it is more difficult to get the perspective of the survivor. Who would want or feel safe enough to come forward as a survivor? But given that, it was your choice to instead write a story that was skewed and inaccurate. How can you possibly know that what one, biased party reports to you is the truth? I am deeply concerned by the chilling and silencing effect such an article has on our community and the message it sends to students who have experienced sexual violence.
The tenor of the article and the comments made by the one party who has no stake in the health or wholeness of our community left survivors on our campus feeling blamed, invalidated, and alone. I believe you had no intent to harm, but instead to provide information. But the article did do harm. It hurt those in our community who have already experienced great harm and pain and are working desperately to regain their lives.
We are a community and, as such, we should strive to ensure that all members feel welcome and supported. We each have a role in ensuring that the values of our institution are upheld, protected, and promoted. While I recognize that your recent article reported information and quotes provided to you and were not your personal perspectives, printing such biased and disrespectful remarks resulted in a message which is contrary to our community values.
I appeal to you to take steps to assure that, if you must report on such personal issues, you do so with compassion and sensitivity toward all parties and that you take every step possible to assure that the information you print is accurate. I ask you to not take lightly the repercussions of your articles for our campus and your fellow students.
– Crystal LaPidus-Mann, Assistant Director of Counseling Services, Health and Counseling Services