Amherst College holds forum after sexual assault report released - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Amherst College holds forum after report released on sexual assault

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Amherst College officials say incoming students should expect to see more training when it comes to reporting sexual assaults on campus.

This comes after a report determined the college's response to allegations were inadequate.

A committee studied the response and found among several flaws that the college's process for complaints was unclear and some personnel were poorly trained.

Now college officials say they're making changes.

"We're very interested in trying to figure out ways to integrate first-year students better and in a more healthy way," said professor Margaret Hunt.

Hunt chaired the committee that drafted the report called "Toward a Culture of Respect: The Problem of Sexual Misconduct at Amherst College."

The report details a series of flaws that were found in the college's response to allegations of sexual assault on campus.

Tuesday night, Hunt and her committee held an open forum with students behind closed doors to talk about the issue.

Much of it stems from an October 2012 article written in the student newspaper.

In it, student Angie Epifano details her horrific rape in May 2011 and what she calls a lack of response by campus officials.

A passage from the article says:

"Eventually I reached a dangerously low point, and, in my despondency, began going to the campus' sexual assault counselor. In short I was told: 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? It might have just been a bad hookup…You should forgive and forget."

The letter was a wake-up call for faculty and students.

"What that October letter did was it certainly made us think much more about the larger surround," Hunt said.

"That article definitely made people pay attention to this and now the college is kind of feeling like they have to respond," said senior year student Kokaale Amissah-Aidoo.

The committee also recommended solutions including forums for first-year students, more training for faculty and revisiting campus alcohol policies.

Students say Tuesday night's open forum will help in the process.

"I think it will just make people feel like they'll have more of an outlet to talk about issues like this," Amissah-Aidoo said.

And college officials say they're learning from their mistakes.

"There's going to be a lot of attention to making it possible for survivors to say what has happened to them," Hunt said.

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