Rape victim told: "If you were telling the truth, God would have kept you conscious."




Warning: This article could be triggering to anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault. 

Deep in Purcellville, Virginia USA, there’s an Evangelical Christian college known as “God’s Harvard”. Its actual name is Patrick Henry College, and it’s, architecturally, a real stunner.

It’s full of home-taught Christian kids who go to chapel every day, observe a strict smart-business dress code all week, and casually rape women without any consequences.

Because sexual assault is all part of “God’s will”.

A number of young women recently spoke to journalist Kiera Feldman at New Republic about their experiences at the college. Their stories of sexual assault, guilt, shame, and negligence on the part of all authority figures concerned, are truly shocking.

Let’s start with Sarah. Sarah passed out one evening and woke underneath the crushing weight of a student called Ryan, who was groping her unconscious body. She reports that her limbs felt heavy, almost paralysed.

Scared and feeling violated, Sarah went to see the college dean, Sandra Corbitt, to report the case. Corbitt interrogated her on certain things: What was she wearing? Had she flirted with him or given him mixed signals?


“The entire line of questioning was basically like, ‘Did you make it up? Or did you deserve it in some way? Or was it consensual and now you’re just lying about it to make him look bad?’ ” says Rachel Leon, Sarah’s roommate who had accompanied her to Corbitt’s office for moral support.

“If you were telling the truth about this,” Sarah remembers Corbitt saying, “God would have kept you conscious to bear witness to the abuse against you.”


Seriously. What does that even mean? It sounds to me like an appalling one-liner used to discredit the victims of sexual assault to keep an evangelical college’s reputation pristine.

That’s exactly what happened to Claire Spear, when a male friend who claimed to be pious and engaged to another woman climbed on top of her in his car – twice. Like Sarah, Claire visited Dean Corbitt, no doubt expecting some sort of support from the institution where she lived.

This is how she describes her chat with Corbitt: “I felt like I was just talking to a brick wall. The administration basically told me that they couldn’t do anything because none of the details of my story could be proven.” Corbitt forced Claire to call her mother and admit that she’d been drinking alcohol, which was against the rules at college. Claire says college administrators never mentioned the possibility of involving the police, adding that “they didn’t take me seriously.”


These girls’ stories are repeated over and over in the same college grounds. It’s an insidious, vicious cycle of abuse and neglect: A male student sexually assaults a female student, the young woman tries to report it, but she’s strongly discouraged to pursue the case, and leaves the dean’s office with a pervasive sense of guilt and shame about the whole thing.

Several other women spoke anonymously with New Republic:

“Basically, my issue was swept under the rug, and the assaulter received little else but a reprimand,” says a young woman who attended Patrick Henry between 2004 and 2008. The student fell asleep at an off-campus party where there had been drinking and was awoken by a male PHC student assaulting her.

She says she reported the incident to Patrick Henry. “The administration encouraged me to not go to the police and said that, because alcohol was involved and I was violating the rules there, they hinted that I could be expelled if I brought light to the incident,” the student says. “The focus was the alcohol. I drank. I sinned. I deserved to be assaulted in the middle of the night.”

Another student, who asked to remain anonymous, says she was raped the summer before her freshman year. When she arrived at PHC in the fall of 2007, she was deeply depressed and cutting herself. She was summoned to Corbitt’s office. “I remember her smiling a lot in a forced, insincere way while she was telling me that ‘someone’ had relayed to her my ‘issues,’ and the ‘administration was concerned about my ability to successfully complete the semester,’ ” she wrote in an e-mail.

The dean insisted that she take a psychological evaluation, then called her back to the Office of Student Life, got her parents on speakerphone, and made her tell them about the assault. When she choked up, the student says, Corbitt cut in to finish the job. Then the dean informed her parents that she was unfit for PHC and needed to be retrieved immediately. Her father flew out the following day and whisked her away, says the student.

This is at a college renowned for its ‘courtship culture’ where boys are supposed to ask a girl’s father’s permission before they even ask her out. The student handbook states that students ought to “reserve sexual activity for marriage, shun sexually explicit material, and seek parental counsel when pursuing a romantic relationship.”

But on the subject of obtaining consent from your female peers before dry-humping violently them in your car after offering them a friendly lift home? Nada.