Angie Epifanos name rings to a Hellenic ear because it sounds Greek. In fact, the etymological roots of her last name mean “to reveal from under the surface” or “to shed light on the obvious” or “what is evident.” Her name will certainly do this for the cause of rape culture on American campuses. Her emotional story of rape and the victimization of women in rape in the larger institutions they inhabit have started a movement. Ironically, it is on college campuses, places of enlightenment where young people come to advance intellectually, socially, and emotionally even ones of elite status, even as women have surpassed men in numbers, that the culture of rape and woman bashing has become entrenched. It took her coming out with the minute details of her story in a letter to the Amherst newspaper, a letter that went viral on social media before getting picked up by national print and broadcast media two years ago to finally gather into a movement. Her story would bring shame unto her family even to repeat it.
Here is her story in short script of sorts:
She was invited over to a classmates house to watch a movie
It was late she was tired so she fell asleep
She awoke to cold wind and the man on top of her
She told a friend about the incident but did not report it
She thought she could forget about the whole thing but nine months later she broke down
she sought the services of the campus sexual assault guidance counselor who told her ” No you can’t change dorms, there are too many students right now. Pressing charges would be useless, he’s about to graduate, there’s not much we can do. Are you SURE it was rape?”
When asked if she was having suicidal thoughts, the counselor locked her in the room called an ambulance and had her transferred to a psychiatric ward
She spent four days a prisoner in a psychiatric ward
Meanwhile her assailant was never brought up on charges or called to answer for the alleged rape
Angie had to obtain a restraining order against her assailant
She decided to transfer out of Amherst
She has yet to finish her degree in African American art history with a minor in gender studies.
After dropping out of Amherst she published a personal essay chronicling her experience of the rape in the Amherst student.
Within the first week of publication of the essay, it received over 370,000 hits which snowballed into millions crashing the server of the Univ of Amherst
Angie Epifanos has become a test case for redefining victimization in sexual assault. Her case brings to light the status quo for dealing with victims of rape. In an ironic reversal of justice it is the victim who pays for the crime. She has had to pay an emotional price and a toll on her health; she has had to pay in inadequate and ineffective counseling; she had had to pay with lost time and her inability to complete her educational goals. Last heard she had yet to complete any degree but was working on a dude ranch in Wyoming.
However, her case has dominoed into a series of events that have cumulated in Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill, member senators on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and Education, to call for new federal funding to investigate and enforce sexual assault laws at colleges and universities. According to the press release on McCaskill’s site, “According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported nearly 5,000 forcible sex offenses in 2012. This puts college women at a higher risk for sexual assault than their non-college bound peers.”
It started with the epiphany; it took Epifanos to make the private public. It started with a letter to the Amherst student newspaper this led to the president of Amherst Carolyn Martin, a motherly matron otherwise known as “Biddy” coming out with a statement pronouncing the events and the colleges handling of them as horrifying. This led to other women coming out. This included a senior, Dana Bolger, coming out with her rape that occurred during the second semester of her sophomore year
A sexist t-shirt created by an Amherst fraternity added fuel to the debate
This spearheaded a site that publicized the issue of rape (it happens here) on campus and fought back with a rebuttal t shirt
The national press picked up the story;the LA Times and New York Times and kept its follow up with a series of articles marking its impact.
This put the issue in the public consciousness which heralded the legislation by Gillibrand’s office this past week.
The rate of rape on college campuses mirrors the rate in the US in general: 1 in 4. That is a startling statistic, but it is made more powerful when the persons behind it come out with a face, a story, a voice. Even Angie attests to her shock, “You always hear about the one-in-four stat, but it never actually processes. It never makes sense in your mind until you have hundreds of people coming out about what happened to them, and then it all starts to click and the reality sets in,” she said in an article in the Huffington Post.
However, it takes one woman’s candid coming out about something so painful and taboo to start an avalanche of testimony. What started as a candid coming up has now built into a movement that is gathering momentum. Spread the word and raise consciousness—rape cannot be blamed on the victim while the assailant walks free with little or no consequences. Rape is an act of violence against both sexes. It has to stop with you. Rape is especially taboo if you have grown up in a very ultra-traditional patriarchal culture, but that does not mean you have to take it. Get help organizing with your sorority, Greek club or college club. Angie Epifanos has been giving talks on several university campuses on the issue and actually welcomes invitations judging from her Twitter message.
Some of the responses from friends and frats with regards to the incident: