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Emmanuel College freshman says she won't return after school's handling of sex assault case

Joanna Vandyke said she did not want to return for her second year after a school disciplinary hearing found insufficient evidence to hold a man she accused of raping her responsible.

Emmanuel College

Derek Kouyoumjian/Metro

A former Emmanuel College freshman says she won’t be returning to campus this fall after the school’s conduct board found a fellow student she accused of raping her not responsible for sexual misconduct.

The woman, Joanna Vandyke, announced her decision in an openletter on Facebook that’s since been shared over 1,500 times. In it, she says she was raped by the man during the second half of her freshman year and reported it to school officials.

Vandyke said she was encouraged by an administrator to handle the allegations through the school’s internal disciplinary code. In June, after a hearing and investigation, the college said there was insufficient evidence to find the accused responsible.

“My rapist is able to live on campus without a slap on the wrist,” she wrote. “You are fully aware of how he violated me several times and did not think a rape kit and countless accounts of the night was sufficient evidence.”

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“For this reason, I have decided to not return to Emmanuel in the fall. It is clear to me that you value your reputation more than you value your community. The compassion that you spoke so strongly about in the beginning of my time with you was only skin deep. You host events that 'empower' women like myself to speak freely of issues like sex and race, but these are just empty words.”

“I hope this letter reaches any young girls who are seventeen and eager to begin their college career with you,” Vandyke concludes. “I just want them to know that you were not on my side and certainly will not be on theirs.”

Vandyke said in a phone interview that she didn’t expect the note to become so widely shared, but was happy that it was getting attention.

“My original intent for the letter to be on Facebook was to explain to my friends why I wasn’t going back,” she said. “Over and over again, I’d have to explain why I wasn’t coming back in the fall and it became emotionally exhausting.”

Between a dozen and two dozen women reached out to her to share their own stories about being sexually assaulted on the campus, she said.

“I have 250 unread messages in my inbox from people that are just saying how much they love me and support me,” she said. “I never would’ve expected this kind of feedback.”

“I still consider the people [at Emmanuel] the best friends I ever made,” Vandyke said. “Leaving them is really hard and I wish I didn’t have to do it like this.”

In a statement, the college said it was “deeply concerned” about the post.

“Emmanuel’s mission is rooted in social justice and care for others, starting with our students,” it read. “Cases of sexual assault are tragic and the College handles all allegations in a comprehensive manner guided by sensitivity, compassion, fairness, and in full compliance with Title IX. ….The College maintains comprehensive policies and trainings to prevent sexual assault and harassment and provide caring assistance to victims. We are always willing to discuss and proactively address issues of concern.”

According to Know Your IX, an advocacy group that works to empower students to stop sexual violence on campus, many victims of campus sexual violence are reluctant to turn to the criminal justice system, and having a Title IXgrievance process for claims of sexual harassment or assault can help adjudicate such concerns without involving the criminal justice system.

Nothing about filing an internal grievance with the school would preclude a victim from going to the police, though the group notes that is a rarely successful recourse: only a quarter of reported rapes lead to an arrest, and only a fifth lead to prosecution.

“I went to the school and they suggested that it be internal, so I didn't report it to the police at all,” Vandyke said. “At this point I've lost faith in the system and will probably not pursue [criminal charges].”

For sexual assault support services in the Boston area, contact the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, 24 hours a day, at 617-492-8306.

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