The Christendom Advocacy and Support Coalition (CASC) is an initiative project operated by Dinah’s Voice, dedicated to the support of all those who have suffered abuse or negligence while attending Christendom College. We seek the eradication of any systemic contributing factors to such abuse which may currently exist at the school, through proper consent education and the implementation of Title IX requirements, including greater accountability and transparency on the part of the administration. We also moderate a private support group for survivors of physical, mental and spiritual abuse who experienced this abuse while attending the college.
Our primary goal at this time is to ensure that concrete changes are implemented in order to address the serious mishandling of reported abuse cases by Christendom’s administration over the past 25 years. For confidentiality reasons we cannot disclose details, but we are aware of at least 20 victims whose cases were mishandled or who were discouraged completely from coming forward at the time of the incidents due to a pervasive attitude of neglect and, in some cases, the lack of any stated policy or procedures to address such matters. The vast majority of these incidents happened between 1993 and 2016 (while the college administration was under the leadership of Dr. Timothy T. O’Donnell), although we have been informed of a few incidents in the 1980s which were also improperly handled.
We believe that the following areas must be addressed in order to support a safe and healthy academic environment for students going forward:
- Leadership: Dr. Timothy O’Donnell should voluntarily resign as President of the College, in light of his track record over the past 25 years of failing to uphold the dignity of the human person.
- This is necessary, not only in recognition of the gravity of the College’s failures in this regard, but also in order to promote renewal and healing for the College community in moving forward under new leadership, and to demonstrate the College’s commitment to addressing these issues seriously.
- Any other members of the administration who have regularly perpetuated misogyny at Christendom College should also step down from their positions.
- Policy and Procedures: Christendom College should implement all Title IX regulations regarding the proper handling of rape and sexual assault, in order to ensure a safe and transparent environment for all current and prospective students. Rape and other forms of sexual violence manifest and perpetuate inequality, and federal anti-discrimination law recognizes that.
- Colleges with a similar mission and campus culture, such as Thomas Aquinas College and Ave Maria University, follow Title IX. Regardless of their choice on whether or not to accept federal funds, Christendom College should and must do the same and should be required to promote awareness and safety for all students, and to respond appropriately to reports of sexual violence.
- This is not a replacement for reporting to the police; it is a parallel option for survivors (and for accused students) based in civil rights law and moral obligation rather than criminal law. Survivors should also be informed of their rights with regard to police reporting, and supported in that process should they choose to pursue criminal charges.
- Neither the Dean of Student Life nor the President of the College should adjudicate cases of sexual violence as it is considered a conflict of interest. Both the victim and the accused student should have an assigned case manager in order to ensure fairness for all parties.
- Training and Awareness: In order to both prevent these incidents as much as possible, and also to ensure appropriate care is given to victims when they do occur, there needs to be comprehensive training for faculty, staff and students in the areas of awareness, support and the college’s procedures and reporting obligations.
- Faculty and staff must be trained in recognizing the signs of abuse and a full-time Registered Nurse trained as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner must be available on staff.
- Resident Assistants, faculty, and staff should receive VIRTUS training for minors and a comparable program for young adults about recognizing and handling signs of abuse) , in addition to training focused on increasing awareness, education, and empowerment to act in order to create a safe, healthy community.
- Mandatory training should be provided to students at least once a year on relevant topics including identifying healthy and unhealthy relationships, how to engage in positive communication, understand the meaning of consent, and options for what to do if your consent is violated. There should also be posters around campus informing victims of their rights and the process for reporting assault.
- Accountability and Transparency: in order to ensure that these things are properly implemented, external accountability and transparency are key.
- The College must, in accordance with Title IX, release rape and sexual assault reporting statistics every year.
- We also believe that an external form of accountability is necessary, whether that is instituted via placing the college officially under Title IX in a legal sense, or whether it entails some sort of annual review and certification process by an external organization.
While we believe that these actions will go a long way towards addressing the issues stated above, we also hold that ongoing support and education is invaluable in order to ensure that the college continues to provide a safe, supportive learning environment. Therefore we at CASC intend to offer additional resources to survivors and all members of the college community, as well as to continue to hold the college administration accountable for its duty of care going forward. We see these measures as instrumental in service of the College’s motto, “to restore all things in Christ”.