Former Williams student speaks out on college's handling of sex assault complaint


WILLAMSTOWN -- A former Williams College student, who has publicly criticized the college's handling of her alleged sexual assault case, addressed her reasons for doing so in a column published on Wednesday in the Williams Record student newspaper.

Lexie Brackenridge and her parents, Heidi and Alec Brackenridge, both Williams College alumni, first accused Williams College's administration of mishandling the case in an interview with WBUR that aired on Monday.

Lexie told WBUR "the assault happened during her first semester at the private four-year institution in the Berkshires, during a party where alcohol was served."

"In October of 2012, I was sexually assaulted by a member of the men's hockey team on campus at Williams," she said during the interview.

Nationwide, colleges and universities have come under scrutiny for their handling of sex assault complaints. The Obama administration recently put 55 colleges and universities under investigation for potential violations of federal law as a result.

Now a sophomore at Columbia University, Lexie and her parents told WBUR they were upset to learn the college is allowing her alleged assailant to return to campus in the fall.

The Brackenridges said they did not file a complaint with the Williamstown Police Department, but chose instead to address the alleged assault through the college's disciplinary process.

Her alleged assailant was suspended from Williams for three semesters.

In the column published online by The Williams Record titled "A Survivor Speaks Out", Lexie wrote: "At the time, neither my parents nor I focused on his being suspended rather than expelled; it never occurred to us that the suspension was merely administrative and that Williams would re-admit a known sexual assailant. By coming forward and sharing my story, my intentions are to encourage the college to take the adequate measures to prevent another student from being put in the position that I was: victimized, threatened and overwhelmingly isolated."

She also alleges the college administration failed to protect her from harassment by her alleged assailant's teammates and assigned her to the same dorm as several of his teammates for the 2013-14 academic year. She transferred to Columbia last September.

Williams College President Adam F. Falk issued a statement on Monday in response to the WBUR interview.

"We support survivors and hold accountable anyone found to have violated the college's Code of Conduct, which prohibits sexual misconduct -- a term that encompasses a wide range of behavior, none of which can have a place at Williams. We encourage all students who've been subjected to or have information about a sexual assault to report formally to both the college -- the first step in a disciplinary process -- and to the police -- the first step in a criminal investigation," Falk wrote.

Falk's statement also addressed the college's policy for disciplining those found to have committed a sexual assault: "For a student found to have committed sexual misconduct, the college's established policy follows federal law and allows for a full range of sanctions, including suspension (separation from the college for a fixed period of time) or expulsion. Our policy gives both parties the right to appeal a sanction within a specified time. The outcome of an appeal may be to confirm the original sanction, to decrease it, or to increase it. As is the case at most colleges, it has not been the policy at Williams to impose mandatory expulsion for every finding of every type of sexual misconduct."

According to a Williams Record article about the alleged sexual assault's mishandling, Falk sent out an all-campus email on Monday, which stated: "No sexual misconduct, including sexual assault, can have a place at Williams. We must all work together diligently to prevent it. Specific cases are confidential to protect the complainant, the respondent, and the students who were spoken to as part of the investigations. The future integrity of these processes depends on student confidence in their remaining confidential. Our commitment to confidentiality is firm, even if one party chooses to go public."

On April 8, Williams College Dean Sarah Bolton issued a statement announcing the college's updated Rape, Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct disciplinary process.

The announcement states that six sexual assault cases were reported to the administration during the 2012-13 academic school year.

"Consistent with the national picture, the six reports we received in 2012-2013 likely represent only a small fraction of the sexual assaults that took place at Williams that year. Our anonymous survey data collected in spring 2011 indicate a total of 45-50 acts of penetration without consent (rape) and many more sexual assaults of other kinds occur here each year," Bolton, the chief judicial officer in sexual misconduct cases for the college in 2012, wrote.

College officials have declined to comment further about the case or Brackenridge's accusations.


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