Editor’s Column: What I Would Have Said to Mr. Dershowitz

Last week, I decided to stand against rape culture in a peaceful protest in response to Alan Dershowitz coming to speak at Colgate. Fellow students and I made posters stating “I Stand with Survivors” and “Change Rape Culture” in the Women’s Studies Center, awake with nervous energy. I anxiously eyed a friend as we were briefed on what to do if asked to leave or even forcibly removed, and someone volunteered to film in the event of an altercation. I took deep breaths as I was told that I was consenting to potential disciplinary action.

My choice to participate in this protest was not an easy one. I called my parents beforehand, and they told me to weigh the risks with the rewards, clearly hesitant for me to engage in anything that would put my time here at Colgate in jeopardy. In the end, I realized everyone participating in this protest would face these fears and consequences, and if not me, then who? The reward is a potential change in the people the administration pays to speak here, the way my peers hear and respond to survivors of sexual assault and the culture we as a community collectively perpetuate. The risks could not possibly outweigh these rewards.

After Dershowitz was introduced, we lined the aisle of the chapel, dressed in black and wearing signs. Dershowitz acknowledged and encouraged our protest, but the ten minutes he spent defending himself only further solidified my opinion of him as someone who perpetuates rape culture. We only stood for 13 minutes, symbolic of the 13 months Jeffrey Epstein spent in prison on charges of molestation and sex trafficking despite Dershowitz’s defense of him. However, I have been informed Dershowitz later wished us protesters stayed to question him. Well, Mr. Dershowitz, this is what I would have said to you.

I read that you are keen on attacking the character of your opponents and never shy away from a fight. This proved true in the manner with which you spoke about us, claiming to support the Me Too movement while drawing comparisons between our support of your accuser and white supremacist women who falsely accused black men of rape as part of KKK initiatives. You later implied the works of “radical feminists” hurt the movement, again underhandedly classifying us among the individuals you sought to belittle with these statements. In focusing your energy on attempting to make us protesters out as foolish, you not only failed to prove your innocence, but also missed the point of the protest.

You argued against the posters that questioned your coming to Colgate on the basis that only 2.1 percent of of rape allegations are false, stating that statistics alone should not condemn you. While absolutely correct in that assertion, the life you have chosen to lead does in every way condemn you of perpetuating rape culture.

Your close friend and billionaire hedge fund manager, Jeffrey Epstein, was accused of serial molestation and sex trafficking of underage girls on his private plane, in a horrific, organized operation that involved world leaders, politicians and businessmen. In defend- ing Epstein, a man whose mansion you vacation in, you chose to support a perpetrator for personal benefit. Despite evidence that could have locked Epstein away for decades, you successfully obtained a plea deal that saw him serve only 13 months in prison (which he could leave for up to 16 hours a day to work) while simultaneously receiving blanket immunity against other federal charges for Epstein and his co-conspirators — namely, yourself.

Furthermore, in defense of your friend, you bullied and attacked his victims. Victims’ families and witnesses reported being threatened, harassed and offered bribes to refuse to cooperate with the investigation, and you launched a smear campaign against the victims, attempting to invalidate their claims by linking any alcohol or drug use on their social media to a lack of credibility. At least at Colgate, I think you will find that the argument that young adults who partake in drinking cannot credibly report sexual assaults is a fairly unpopular one.

Mr. Dershowitz, you spoke passionately about being innocent. I cannot claim otherwise. I can, however, point out that your actions in defense of Mr. Epstein make it nearly impossible to claim you support the Me Too movement. As a speaker on campus, you had the support, financial and otherwise, of my administration. This position of power, not new to you as a wealthy white man, is also what allows you to continue to support rape culture.

I hope Colgate considers more carefully who they ask to come to campus in the future, because while you may be gone, the issues and ideas you perpetuate are far from gone, and I’ll be lining the aisles until they are.

Contact Lauren Hutton at [email protected].