brandman 4-20
April 20, 2017

GUEST ROOM | Siobhan Brandman

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I recently received a check up at Gannett. The counselor went through every box on the routine survey, and right before I was about to exit the room and head to my 10:10 a.m. class, she goes, “Oh by the way, I see you checked the box for ‘non-consensual sex.’ Do you want to talk about it?” She had said it so casually — almost forgotten the question even, that I was in no way enticed to rehash stale memories with this women, who didn’t seem to care, as this was objective and procedural for her. A week later and I’m still thinking about that same question and I still don’t want to answer it.

I’m not interested in using this piece as a place to talk about any of my personal experiences with sexual assault, but rather, as a platform to critique Cornell’s lax policy towards reported sexual assault cases on campus, as well as the internalized misogyny that surfaces when our legal system handles rape cases, particularly when women are the victims. Sexual assault cases fall under Title IX and Cornell now has more open active Title IX investigations than any other university. In fact, it is alleged that Cornell is not even bothering to investigate these cases and students are filing complaints. So, when a case from Cornell actually makes it to court, you better believe that there was more than enough evidence for it to get there. I am not claiming to know the details of Wolfgang Ballinger’s case, but at a school where sexual assault cases are reported every weekend and rarely investigated, I suspect there was some foul play. Ballinger  accepted a plea agreement before the trial began (he would be tried for a felony offense), and I assume his pleading guilty to a misdemeanor sex offense, which garnered him six years of probation, was probably a strategic move.

I posted a Facebook status in the same vein as this column on Friday and the response was shocking. The post received 250 comments and twice as many reactions and shares. Survivors began messaging me privately, sharing their stories or telling me they were inspired to confront their realities. This was all well and great until I received a comment on status that changed the direction of my thoughts. On Saturday, I received a comment from a Cornell student reading, “My biggest piece of advice for any girl who is raped or sexually assaulted at Cornell is to not report it and remember that there is a 10 year statute of limitations. Cornell’s process is just emotionally painful and does not benefit either party (the rapist or victim),” and continuing, “Also, I don’t think it is fair to call out Wolfgang specifically on this status; you don’t know the details of his case or exactly how Cornell went about handling it. I don’t think it’s fair to use him as the example — especially when Cornell did not give him a proper judicial process. My process took eight months…he did not get that. The court ruled how they ruled. & by the way cornell’s punishment for rape is 1 year suspension & assault is 1 semester. So, in my opinion, Wolfgang got a very harsh treatment that lacked fairness…and that’s coming from someone who has been through Cornell’s sexual assault reporting process.” While I believe every person is entitled to their opinion, I can not condone advising women to not report being sexually assaulted in any capacity. If anything, the more women who stand up for themselves and ignore the shame that society attaches to being a victim of sexual assault, the more we can prevent sexual assault from happening and destigmatize the internalized misogyny attached to it.

This girl’s comment reflects the problems with our patriarchal society. Instead of being defeatist and accepting of the poor treatment of women in sexual assault investigations, we need to team up and demand to be treated as equals. If someone calls the C.U. Police and says, “Hey, I think my neighbors are being too loud” or “Hey, my neighbors are smoking pot,” you sure as hell know the C.U. police will investigate the reported, even if they get there and there is no pot or noise. Why should we not expect the same for a human body? I am in full agreement with this girl (who, it should be mentioned, had her case thrown out for admitting she had lied about her sexual assault to keep her from getting in trouble, though I do not mean to assume in anyway she may or may not have been assaulted). It sucks to report sexual assault at Cornell because such reports often go uninvestigated, and when they are, the woman potentially faces social, as well as emotional, backlash. Additionally, I am fully aware of how hard it is to bring oneself to report being sexually assaulted. Whether it is because you come from a very conservative family or you don’t want to be labeled as “the dirty girl” or “the annoying girl” or “the dramatic girl” etc, it cannot negate the importance of claiming your body as your own and reporting assault.

To men, and I don’t mean all men, you know who you are: we women are not property to be owned. And we definitely are not bodies to used and then discarded like trash. We women are your mothers, your sisters and most importantly, your equals, and while I know it is more fun to exploit positions of power and treat us as less, we are just like you (and arguably, more complex).


Siobhan Brandman is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Guest Room appears periodically this semester. 

  • Ithaca lawyer

    Where do you get your facts? Cornell is not at all lax on sexual assault. I know; I’ve been involved in a number of cases at the legal level.

    You assume the Title IX investigations are due to Cornell being lax, but they’re the opposite. Did you consider that? Several of the Title IX investigations are saying that Cornell was unfair to the guys who were accused, not to the alleged victims of sexual assault. The Title IX claims are saying that Cornell presumed the guys to be guilty.

    Also, based on actual knowledge, your statements of Cornell’s punishments for sexual assault are off base. Cornell’s punishment for rape is expulsion, not 1-year suspension.

    • Siobhan

      Did you actually read the article or just skim it? One, I said that I never claimed to have all the details, and two, I was not the person who made those statements about Cornell’s punishments for sexual assault, as I clearly state that I am quoting someone else. What a great lawyer you must be!

      • Call me Comrade!

        Coming from someone who couldn’t answer a single question on the Bar…… I would assume you’re full of shit Siobhan…

        I hope you know that all you so is perpetuate the disgusting advancement of oppression against men and how they are automatically presumed guilty… what would you say to the fact that most sexual assaults occur against members of the same sex??? HmMM?!?!

        You’re just a snowflake! I hope you never post another I’ll informed disgusting piece of trash on any piece of media ever!!!! I laugh that you think this could possibly help cha he anything when your only audience are the handful of deflowered suckers that couldn’t handle their alcohol!

      • Agree with Ithaca lawyer

        Thank you for confirming that you didn’t really know what you were writing about.

  • Call me Comrade!

    What a cutesie little article Siobhan…. not once did YOU ever sit here and think about ALL of the rest of the people in the world [that means the other 60-70% of “cases”] that are RAPED or sexually assaulted by the same sex or someone belonging to one of the queer dirt nasty cis-gender monstrosoties….

    Anyways, the minute you claimed patriarchal society whilst residing at Cornell’s campus… I stopped giving you any credit for your outwardly oppressive feminist views. Every person on this campus should feel free to glare intensely at you for your obvious innate sexism and unchecked white privilege!! May you burn in the stern fires of Christian hell after being bathed in pig’s blood.

    We all know your small world views will lead to nothing more than homogeinity and a usurping of the status quo that keeps you fed and the water off your head! SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME SHAME!!!!

  • I, for one, am DISGUSTED by MEAT-EATERS like YOU who take the earth’s bountiful harvest for granted!!! It’s people like you who are RESPONSIBLE for the MASSACRE of innocent pigs SO YOU CAN BATHE IN THEIR BLOOD!!!! HOW DARE YOU??? SHAME!! Anyone who has ever loved an animal should stone you where you stand, and you should cower in shame and run through the woods screaming in terror and weeping. I own a RABBIT and if anyone ever tried to bathe in his blood I would be BESIDE MYSELF!!! Please email me if you would like to see a picture.

    Thank you for your time, I hope we can be friends later when you amend your ways.