Tag Archives: it happens here

WATCH NOW: Middlebury Unmasked

 In a recent email to the student body, Barbara McCall, Director of Health and Wellness Education, introduced April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). The email included a link (go/saam15) to various upcoming events surrounding sexual assault awareness. Be sure to give it a look and watch out for future events. Aside from these initiatives, a small group of student activists recently worked together to create Middlebury Unmasked, a documentary project about judicial processes and sexual assault at Middlebury. Their work has been featured on VPR (Vermont Public Radio) as well as in various local news sources. To encourage dialogue surrounding this topic, middbeat sat down with two student activists, Maddie Orcutt ’16 and Michelle Peng ’15 involved in the production of the video. We definitely recommend taking the time to watch Middlebury Unmasked and read the activists’ thoughts below. As is the wish of those involved in the making of this video, we encourage healthy and respectful dialogue surrounding this topic during and beyond the month of April.  

Middbeat: Tell me about the genesis of this project? Is it affiliated with It Happens Here? 

Maddie Orcutt: Middlebury Unmasked started out of a dialogue between a few people who wanted to place Middlebury within this broader national dialogue about sexual assault and the Title IX claims going on at other colleges. What does all of this new legislation mean? Specifically, what does it mean for our backyard? This project started out as a storytelling endeavor. It was nothing more than six individuals getting together, talking together, and realizing that they had commonalities in their stories. So in the beginning, there really wasn’t a big political agenda behind this project. When we edited the video together it became rapidly apparent that there were some similarities across survivors’ experiences, and we were fortunate that the video edited together in a really organic way.

Michelle Peng: Middlebury Unmasked is not officially affiliated with It Happens Here, but there’s obviously a lot of overlap between the two projects, just considering that both aim to raise awareness for sexual assault but in different ways. I think Middlebury Unmasked does a really good job of looking at what happens after the assault: What can you do, what kind of judicial processes can you go through, and what have people’s experiences been?

MB: What would you like to see as a response from the administration and community as a whole?

MO: This video has been watched a number of times. It’s been profiled by VPR (Vermont Public Radio) and it’s been profiled on local new sources. I think the survivors involved with the video project deserve a conversation with the administration. I think that the administration should respond to this video in the form of a community-wide conversation. There aren’t that many people in a given year that go through a sexual misconduct process. We have six voices that have toyed with that very decision, and so I think that to not acknowledge that this video exists in an open forum is nothing short of disrespectful.

MP: I also think it’s about just having that feedback loop. Few go through these judicial processes, so you really want to make sure that every time you’re doing it you’re improving, you’re figuring out quality assurance. The project is also about more than just Middlebury. It’s a critique of Title IX and how colleges in general are asked to handle these sexual misconduct policies. Middlebury, like most institutions nowadays, is very concerned with compliance. But even at a college like Middlebury there are still so many things that can be improved upon. And who better to identify those needs than those who have actually been through the processes? I think there’s darkness and mystery with these things. You can say “this is what it’s going to look like on paper” but the point is on paper it’s way different than the lived experience and it’s important to just have that perspective out there.

MO: I totally agree. That’s why I’ve been really perplexed by the college’s lack of response because it’s not saying Middlebury College does a horrible job and we hate you and are angry at you. There certainly are some voices that are angry and I think they have the absolute right to be. But I think that this activism is more largely just trying to place Middlebury in this national dialogue. It’s very confusing to me why the school hasn’t acknowledged that this video exists, and why the administration is so resistant to having an open conversation about this project.

MB: How do we as students respect the initiatives the administration is taking regarding sexual assault while demanding more transparency? 

MO: I think that transparency is a huge part of it. I don’t think the average Middlebury student knows what these processes look like, and it’s not really something that’s on our consciousness all of the time. But I think that for the Middlebury case, it’s not so much about compliance because they’re definitely concerned about compliance and checking those boxes. It’s more about a compassionate response from administrators and leaving people feeling emotionally supported. I think that’s one of the biggest leaps that needs to be made, and the video project highlights that.

MP: It’s also about being very critical and very honest about these processes. The point is, there is a time X amount of years ago when they thought that having the survivor and perpetrator sitting in the same room in front of a jury of students was a good idea. And that seemed cutting edge and like we were doing something right. My purpose is not to claim that Middlebury is doing a bad job, just that there are clear areas of improvement. Anyone saying that we’re doing a great job is problematic in my eyes because we are fifty years from somewhere. I don’t want to look back at this time and say “what were we thinking.” I think one of the biggest issues is that there is one person deciding the ultimate verdict for these cases. You have thesis boards that have eight professors on it. That doesn’t really make sense to me.

MO: The video acknowledges that all of these best practices conversations are happening at the national level and at the Middlebury level. But the survivors are saying “my voice isn’t heard in that and I could greatly inform your policy-making and your decision-making.” I think this project is very much an attempt by survivors to raise their hands and say I want a voice in this too because I have a stake in this.

MP: Look at the statistics. There were 17 reports of sexual misconduct last year. Out of those 17, 5 started to go through judicial processes. Out of those 5, only 3 people went to a verdict. Only one person was found guilty. They were not expelled. When you look down at the details, you can say have we done everything right. But when you look at the bigger picture, the statistic is that one in five women will be raped by the time they graduate college. That is a staggering statistic. Who are the perpetrators? Middlebury students. It’s an opportunity to hold people accountable. And so far only one person has been held accountable and they weren’t even expelled. We need to be critical about that.

MB: What do you most want people to take away from the video?

MO: I think one of the coolest parts about this video narrative project is that we use the masks of other Middlebury students to hide the identities of the survivors. I think the symbolism of that is that our community and peers can stand as witnesses to this violence and stand as allies in this fight. I think hopefully people will feel similarly engaged in these issues and discuss them. For me, I’d personally like to see a dialogue come out of this with administrators. I think that we need to sit down and have this conversation about how we adjudicate these processes. We need to talk about how it can possibly be 2015 and it still takes this institution 145 days to adjudicate a rape that was videotaped. To me, that story is nothing short of enraging and absurd.

MP: I agree with that. When it comes down from it I hope it comes down to greater awareness of what the process is like. One in five. That is a huge number. We need to talk about being able to support friends. We need to talk about what a healthy sexual environment is like. What does consent mean? I would like to see more guys in on this conversation, too. Sexual violence affects everyone, the whole community. So let’s force administrators to have this conversation.

MO: The irony of the College’s response to this project is that it took voices which said “you aren’t hearing me” and once more refuses to listen to their claims. Let’s demand a higher standard for this community and make sexual respect a priority- in our bedrooms, in our conversations, and in our judiciary processes.

TONIGHT: It Happened Here Screening


It’s no secret that sexual assault on college campuses has received an uptick in attention from the national media over the past year. Middlebury has followed with a series of awesome events to bring light to the problem and its pervasiveness on our own campus. On the heels of Middlebury’s own It Happens Here event, tonight the Chellis House will be hosting a screening of the film It Happened Here. Maddie Orcutt ’16 writes in to middbeat:

Through intimate portraits of five student survivors, IT HAPPENED HERE explores the alarming pervasiveness of sexual assault on college campuses, the institutional cover-ups and the failure to protect students, and follows students’ fight for accountability and change on campus in federal court.

Watch the trailer here:

Date: Today March 12th
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 PM
Place: Twilight Auditorium
Cost: FREE

TONIGHT: It Happens Here

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 8.55.03 AM
 You know that It Happens Here, but do you know how to:
– Talk about it?
– Intervene to stop it?
– Discuss consent to prevent it?
– Support survivors of it?

It Happens Here has become one of the most powerful events on campus over the past few years. Students come together to hear stories submitted by their peers about their experiences with sexual assault. If this is your first time at IHH, prepare yourself to hear unexpected, thought-provoking, and brave accounts of what happens right here on our campus.

This event has filled up quickly in the past, so come early to make sure you don’t end up having to listen from Crossroads. The event is abbreviated to 1 Hour and will incorporate videos and surveys to cater to the changing needs of the college community.

Bring an open mind and an open heart as we support our peers.

Date: Tuesday, March 10
Time: 8pm
Place: Wilson Hall/McCullough Social Space
Cost: Free

It Happens Here: Tonight at 9 PM

Tonight marks the first It Happens Here of the semester which will be hosted in the Chellis House behind Proctor at 9 PM.  For those of you either new to the college or who have spent the your time here under a rock, It Happens Here occurs a couple times a semester as a way for victims of rape on campus to share their stories and raise awareness about the ever growing prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses nationwide.  Most importantly, however, the event provides a supportive forum where otherwise silenced voices can be heard to bring the talk of campus rape back to the individuals who are victimized by it.  IHH is always a powerful event, is open to all, and is especially timed following the first weekend of the year. The organizers are always looking for more contributors and readers, so make sure to check out their website here.

When: Tonight, September 15, 9 PM
Where: Chellis House (behind Proctor)
Cost: Free

‘It Happens Here’, TONIGHT

As mentioned, It Happens Here has been one of the most powerful and unforgettable events on our campus in the past, and we expect the same for tonight’s event. Over the last two years, more than 50 Middlebury students have submitted stories, poems, and monologues that detail personal experiences with sexual violence. The IHH board tells us:

 It Happens Here is about giving power to the survivor’s voice. Most of us have heard the staggering statistics surrounding the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses. Most of us have taken health classes that describe the horrors of date rape, acquaintance rape, and other forms of sexual violence. But seldom do we hear the voice of the survivor. Seldom do we hear from the very individuals who, due to lived experience, are best suited to explain the problem. This project is about amplifying that traditionally silenced voice in an effort to start a conversation about a problem that effects so many, but is discussed by so few.

Last year hundreds of students filled McCullough Social Space, flooding into Crossroads, so we suggest showing up early tonight. To hear some 2013 stories, check out the IHH site here. Full support to IHH for accomplishing their goal to “talk about what we don’t talk about.”

Middbeat plans to live blog this event

Date: Tonight, 1/20
Time: 8:30 PM
Place: McCullough Social Space

It Happens Here Story Submission Deadline: Tomorrow

It Happens Here is, undoubtedly, one of the most powerful events hosted on our campus every year. While we’re all for the fun, light-hearted J-term spirit, we believe it’s worth everyone’s time to dedicate one evening to some serious, jarring story telling/listening/scrutinizing, in hopes of changing the sexual assault culture that does exist on our campus.

Over the last two years, more than 50 Middlebury students have submitted stories, poems, and monologues that detail personal experiences with sexual violence. These stories are then read either by their author or anonymously in front of a (often extremely large) audience. For the first time, this year’s It Happens Here event will take place during J-term.

The success of this event depends on student story submissions, and IHH invites you to add your voice to the conversation by submitting a story for the January event here. Stories can be completely anonymous, and while difficult to expose, this courageous act is the most effective impetus for change. Last year, hundreds of students and staff showed up, check out the live blog here.

Story submission deadline is TOMORROW, though we encourage you to keep sending them if your crunched for time. Our bad for the late exposure!

WRMC’s “The Campus Voice” Premieres Today w/ Media & Sexual Assault Discussion


Tune in to WRMC 91.1 today at 2PM to hear the first installment of The Campus Voice, a weekly radio talk show about current campus issues hosted by Ian Stewart ’14 and Greta Neubauer ‘14.5. This week’s episode, “Breaking the Silence: Media in the Conversation about Sexual Assault on College Campuses” features representatives from on-campus media sources (including middbeat!), as well as sexual assault awareness activists from Midd and Swarthmore. If you’re basking in the sunshine off the grid today, no worries; you can always download The Campus Voice podcasts and listen later.


Middlebury Senior Charged with Felony Sexual Assault

The Addison Independent reported earlier this week that 22-year-old Middlebury College senior Dong Song has been charged with felony sexual assault.

The charges stem from an on-campus encounter that Song had with a female Middlebury student early on the morning of Sunday, May 12th. On Monday, Song pleaded innocent in Addison County Superior Court. If convicted, he faces a jail sentence of three years to life, plus a fine of up to $25,000.

Sexual assault has become a topic of increased conversation on the Middlebury campus and on college campuses across the country. This fall, the well-publicized account of a rape survivor’s experience at Amherst College sparked outrage over the institution’s inadequate response.

At Middlebury, Both institutional and student initiatives have brought to light the issue of sexual assault. Last April, the College revised its Sexual Assault policies, and this year founded a student-run Sexual Assault Advocacy Committee. In addition the first and second annual It Happens Here events have helped to raise awareness about sexual assault on campus.

Students who have experienced sexual assault on campus can file a complaint with the Office of Judicial Affairs, which will then conduct an internal investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, a panel of Community Judicial Board members review the report and determine a finding and sanction. The College also “encourage[s] students who have been sexually assaulted to seriously consider filing criminal charges,” either with the Middlebury Police/Vermont State Police Department or with the Addison County State’s Attorney’s Office. For more information about the College’s Sexual Misconduct Policies, visit go/saoc.

Grace Brown of Project Unbreakable

One of many photograph compilations by Grace Brown

One of many photograph compilations by Grace Brown

Last week’s It Happens Here was undoubtedly one of the most powerful events of the year. If you were moved by these stories, you should not miss tonight’s speaker: Grace Brown of Project Unbreakable.

Grace Brown, creator of Project Unbreakable, photographs survivors of sexual assault holding a poster with a quote from their attacker. In 2012, TIME magazine named her project one of the “30 Must-See Tumblr Blogs” and since then she has appeared on the Melissa Harris-Perry show and been interviewed by the Guardian. Grace will speak about the history of how her project came to be, share stories behind some of her images, and reflect upon creating sexual assault awareness.

If anything, be sure to check out Grace’s photos here!

WHERE: Dana Auditorium
WHEN: Tonight, April 29 @ 7-8:30 pm
COST: free