A professor at the College of the Holy Cross stopped to talk to me early this morning at the Vigil for Justice and then told me, “You’ve become an icon.”
People are recognizing me in other places in Massachusetts and even two hours from Holy Cross in another state, and there is loads of ongoing support on the sidewalk. An icon? A shy public school kid?
Rev. Joseph LaBran, SJ, provided words for these times during the Spiritual Exercises at a retreat house in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Like these words on a card he gave us on retreat when I was a sophomore at Holy Cross (that I saved for a long time):
“For all that has been — Thanks.
“For all that is to come — Yes.”
- Dag Hammerskjold
I don’t know what is next on this road, but I am keenly aware of the path. All I knew when this Vigil for Justice was planned two years ago is I could not stay silent when the college ignored serious problems for years. Just had to speak up and take a stand for justice when nobody cared about fixing problems. People are surprising me every day with the light they give. I’m not yet grateful for the past, but for all that is to come — okay. It’s an adventure.
I am asked this question every day I am at Holy Cross now. Sometime in early November, the question went from being asked occasionally to being asked daily, every day I am there. And today – - all the people who stopped to talk to me asked me this question: What is the college doing to work this out?
There seems to be an expectation among people at Holy Cross that the college WILL make an effort to work this out. I don’t know where that expectation came from. For my part, I know that I will stay with this Vigil for Justice for as long as it takes. I will stay forever if that’s what it takes for the board to take responsibility and address the many problems I told it about. Since the board of trustees hasn’t even contacted me or asked for more information, I don’t see this ending any time soon.
The college made half-hearted efforts in 2012. Almost 600 days ago, in April 2012, the college agreed to engage in settlement talks. In September 2012, I had a meeting with college officials, and those officials said they would get back to me about going to mediation to work it out.
And that is it. There were no more efforts by the college. College officials never got back to me as promised about mediation. There was no effort toward resolution in all of 2013 — instead, there was plenty of retaliation. College officials haven’t acted like people who want to work it out.
I don’t know why the question is being asked so often now, why the expectation has grown that the college will do something to work it out. Maybe this expectation comes from the hope that grows during holiday times and the beginning of a new year. Who knows. I can go the distance, however many years it takes. I am doing the right thing at the right time in my life. I have plans for when this is finished, but the plans will wait until this is over and I see the board of trustees take responsibility.
It took awhile to dawn on me, but it finally did. The Vigil for Justice at the College of the Holy Cross is a prayer. It is many things — a public declaration of the many problems with reporting sexual assault at Holy Cross, mostly — and it is also a prayer.
I am a public school kid, the daughter of very deeply prayerful Catholic parents. I went to Holy Cross and majored in philosophy and later got a graduate degree in ministry at another Jesuit place. Many, many times in my life I have been asked to lead a public prayer service, a liturgical service, and I declined, because I am a public school kid.
So many times when I met with my spiritual guide (a Jesuit) he would tell me what I was doing was a prayer. Praying isn’t only about words and images. Prayer can be actions.
Today it just fell into place and became a lot clearer. The Vigil for Justice at Holy Cross is many things, and it’s also a prayer.
I’ve written often this year about how thankful I am for many things that happen on this little Vigil for Justice. I am fortunate my little vigil is at Holy Cross — where I’ve had such great experiences talking to people and where I have constant reminders of the wonderful teachers I had.
Today I am grateful again for neighbors — people in the Worcester area who stop to talk to me. People stop on their way to work, some people drive to Holy Cross just to meet me, people stop when they are simply driving by. I’ve had so many interesting and helpful conversations. It “normalizes” things. We talk about our dogs, about trees, about hardships, about deaths, about sexual assault in the military, about genital mutilation, about sexually abusive priests and the power structure that protects them — we talk about anything!
But something new began to happen recently. When I am out walking, miles from Holy Cross and not “vigiling” and not carrying signs, people wave and honk at me. It blew me away the first day when it happened many times. Yesterday it happened again — drivers tooting friendly hellos and waving at me – several miles from Holy Cross where I have the Vigil. One driver tooted his hello for a quarter mile down the road when I was out walking — it was hilarious! People know me from the Vigil!
I really never predicted so much of what I have experienced on this road. All I knew was that I could not be silent or walk away after my letters to Holy Cross were ignored for years. I knew I had to take a stand and make this ordeal public. All the rest — nice people, unexpected support, good conversations — it’s all wonderful and totally not imagined ahead of time. I am a very blessed and fortunate woman to have this experience — and to have this experience in the midst of exposing how poorly Holy Cross handles sexual assault — well, sometimes the world works in a sweet way.
The College of the Holy Cross has a Penn State mentality: cover up and obscure the details of crime, ignore or attack victims, and let the same bad actions of perpetrators continue while protecting the college image at all costs.
This Penn State mentality is what Holy Cross was using when it immediately retaliated against me for using my voice to tell about problems. All the acts of retaliation by Holy Cross are BANNED by Holy Cross written policies, but Holy Cross did this to try to intimidate and shut me up. It has not and will not work.
I know about another approach to problems on a college campus. The Jesuit who sexually assaulted me was once the president of another Jesuit university. He was fired from that job as president after the university’s football team beat him up after he sexually assaulted a young woman. To repeat: he was fired from his job after the football team beat him up, for sexually assaulting a young woman. (I was sexually assaulted less than 5 years later by this Jesuit, because another Jesuit university hired him…..)
Holy Cross could choose a different way than Penn State — it could put victims first. Holy Cross could easily choose not to retaliate, but it hasn’t. Holy Cross could make efforts toward reconciliation, but it hasn’t. Holy Cross could try to make things better, but it hasn’t. Holy Cross is squarely in the Penn State mentality, focusing on silencing victims and protecting its image.
Since I know Holy Cross can do much better but refuses, I will have a lifetime of work exposing the problems.
I’ve run into two very significant problems at Holy Cross with the Department of Public Safety.
1. Dispatch hangs up on me — at least twelve times in one year — no matter how often I complain to the chief or a sergeant about it. Both Chief Robert Hart and Sgt. Brian Hayes told me this would stop, but it didn’t stop. Clearly, someone or some people need to be fired.
2. I have experienced seven criminal incidents at the same location during the same time period, but the Holy Cross Department of Public Safety has not changed its tactics or response. It has made NO effort to catch the criminals.
So, I will hold the college fully responsible. Just watch. This Vigil for Justice will NEVER end until these failures are fully addressed and people are held accountable. Never.
On Friday, I spent more than an hour at the gate 7 entrance to the College of the Holy Cross. The Vigil for Justice began at gate 2, the main entrance. I first had signs at gate 2 in March 2012. I did not have any sort of constant presence at gate 7 — up the hill — until recently. Gate 7 is where all the egregious civil rights violations have happened. My signs have been torn down, shoved into a trash can on campus, spray painted, ripped, etc.
On Friday I wanted to spend at least an hour in the middle of the day at gate 7 and see what I encountered. That’s the time of day when my signs are targeted by criminals.
Here’s what I found. 85% of people driving into gate 7 were OVERTLY positive and supportive – waving, power fists, thumbs up, etc. This is a much higher percentage than gate 2, where I encounter the administrative staff of the college. 100% of students walking by spoke to me — a much higher percentage than gate 2 — and all were polite.
The bad news is there are (at least) two unhinged staff people who enter at gate 7. One spit at the ground in front of me when he walked by. I took pictures that will help identify these two staff people later if they are involved in the civil rights violations — targeting my signs. Just because they are obviously crazy does not mean they are the ones violating my civil rights.
We’ll see what happens this coming week. My signs have been targeted six times in the seven days they were at gate 7 after noon.