University punishes students guilty of sexual assault with expulsion…after graduation

james madison university

Stories of ridiculously lenient punishments for campus sexual assault have become a dime a dozen, but you gotta hand it to James Madison University for this one.

James Madison University punished three fraternity members for sexually assaulting a female student and sharing their video of the attack by banning them from campus — after they graduate.

The school found the men responsible for sexual assault and harassment in the spring break 2013 attack on Sarah Butters, and determined that they shared the video widely with others on the JMU campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The unusual “expulsion after graduation” sanction allowed two of the men to graduate on time in May. The third plans to remain on campus for his senior year in 2014-15.

Doling out an expulsion but then adding–I’m imagining it in tiny fine print–that it doesn’t start until after graduation is particularly egregious way of acting like you’re taking sexual assault super-duper seriously without actually doing it. 

Thankfully, JMU’s handling of the case has landed it on the list of schools being investigated by the Department of Education for violating Title IX. But not before Butters had to go through a lengthy appeals process (after which the original sentence was upheld), her grades slipped, causing her to lose her financial aid and eventually withdrawn from the school. A survivor who ends up leaving school while her attackers remain on campus? It’s becoming a familiar tale.

Still, a spokesperson for the university has the nerve to say, “James Madison University takes very seriously any allegation of sexual assault and is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for every member of the JMU community.”

Butters counters: “What is a girl going to think that I had video proof and I still have to see these boys on campus? How would she ever feel comfortable coming forward?”

(h/t Shakesville)

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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