University of Chicago Exposed: To The Students That Supported Me While My College Failed Me

Subject: University of Chicago Exposed: To The Students That Supported Me While My College Failed Me
From: Leah Shapiro
Date: 15 Nov 2015

To my nineteen-year-old-advocates*,

To my peers, my supporters, my friends. Those who sat through meeting after meeting after meeting with me as I fought every administrator who saw me as a liability, a statistic to be reported, rather than as a person.

Let me amend that—as we fought the administrators. Because in their eyes, my assault transformed me into a problem and you into a disruption. Because I became another number that threatened their reputation and you became a confrontational loose cannon.

To my nineteen-year-old-advocates,

The ones who contacted their parents, knowing we needed a real grownup on our side. The ones who called the lawyers they know, pleading for legal advice. The ones who stayed up until 5 in the morning researching current policies on sexual assault and the university mandated responses.

The ones who needed to be physically restrained from aggressing against the university faculty after the administration made me cry. The ones who swore at the university staff who blamed me. The ones who held my hand as I told them. The ones who hugged me while I cried. The ones who told me it wasn’t my fault. The ones who validated how I felt and reminded me I was loved. The ones who told me I was safe.

To my nineteen-year-old-advocates,

Thank you for being the people I needed when the adults, designated to protect me, let me down. Thank you for speaking out against adults with more power than any of us have combined. Thank you for being my real advocates when those people that the school call advocates blamed me.

You heard them tell me that I should have come forward sooner. That I shouldn’t have missed two class periods. That I should’ve pressed charges. That I was being dishonest to the system. You saw them shame me. Humiliate me. Force me to relive that horrible day over and over again.

And in response, you were the support I needed but wasn’t offered. You have provided continuous help and love and encouragement through this (now) six week ordeal. You have stood behind me as every school employee I sought help from not only looked the other way but also introduced barrier after barrier.

And to my nineteen-year-old-advocates,

Thank you for dismantling these barriers for me. Especially when I couldn’t do it alone.

Thank you for advocating for me.

*actual ages ranging from 17-20