- Women at Yale feel reporting a claim of sexual assault to the university triggers a process that is silencing.
- One student who reported an allegation of sexual assault said she fears she could be punished just for talking about it.
- Students responding to allegations of sexual misconduct also feel they’ve been sworn to secrecy.
Reporting an allegation of sexual assault to Yale University triggers a process that women on campus say is silencing.
“All I want is to talk about what happened, but I feel like I can’t,” a female student at Yale told Business Insider.
The student, who requested anonymity, said she feels as though she lost her voice after reporting a claim that she was sexually assaulted in the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity house by the 2016-17 DKE president. Yale investigated the claim and delivered a finding that the former president had engaged in “penetration without consent,” using a lower standard of evidence than law enforcement to reach a verdict. Still, she fears that sharing information, even with some of her closest friends, could result in Yale terminating her enrollment.
“Every time I hear a girl say she’s going to DKE, I feel indescribably sad and angry,” she said. “But I feel like I can’t say anything because I want to graduate.”
A representative for Yale said the student isn’t bound to confidentiality regarding the incident itself, though students are “explicitly prohibited from disclosing documents that they create or receive for the process.”
Business Insider is unaware of anyone being punished for discussing their claim, and students don’t sign an agreement with the university that prohibits them from sharing information.
But students are “asked to protect the fairness and integrity of the process by maintaining confidentiality.” Yale’s online statement on confidentiality is available here.
Still, students at Yale told Business Insider they feel the request for confidentiality is harmful.
“Women can’t band together – everyone is on their own,” a female student at Yale told Business Insider. “The process destroys the idea of strength in numbers. They take away that power, and then we are all stuck.”
Students who report claims of sexual assault aren’t the only ones who feel they can’t talk once they participate in a sexual-misconduct hearing at Yale. Those on the receiving end of complaints also say they aren’t allowed to talk about what happened.
“I really would like to share my side of the story,” the former president of DKE said in a statement to the Yale Daily News in January. “Although the UWC has caused me and my family a great deal of pain, I continue to honor its expectation of confidentiality.”
Yale’s use of language within its confidentiality request has a similar effect as nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, which are often used in workplace-harassment settlements.
Recently, the use of NDAs has been called into question as a tool that powerful men and institutions use to silence victims. Former Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein kept 30 years’ worth of sexual-abuse allegations against him quiet in part because of a one-two combination of settlements and NDAs.
Colby Bruno, a senior legal counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center, said it’s unclear what college students who go through university sexual-misconduct hearings are able to share.
“Ten years ago I would never think it possible for a college to punish a rape victim for talking about her attack,” Bruno said when briefed on the student who reported her allegation of sexual assault to the university. “But it’s Yale and it’s a different time.”