Written by Devon Mitchell
On July 23rd an anonymous account on Instagram posted a statement about a negative experience she had with Roanoke Dean of Students, Brian Chisom. While the owner of the account remains anonymous, her story has been shared amongst the Roanoke College community and has driven students to take action to ensure these courses of action are not repeated.
The post includes a letter written by the owner of the account in 2016. She retells her experience of receiving a lack of help from Dean Chisom, the then Title IX coordinator, after reporting being sexually harassed by another student. The author of the letter describes how her lawyer found the unnamed student to have violated the Criminal Code of Virginia’s Revenge Porn Statute and asked Dean Chisom to ban him from campus. Instead, Dean Chisom suggested a No Contact Order which the author recounts did little to help protect her. She explains that even after incidents kept occurring, she felt Dean Chisom did little to help her out and belittled her experience.
Since this letter has been posted on Instagram, the College has made two responses. The first response which was sent in an email on July 30th did little to assure students that sexual misconduct cases wouldn’t be mishandled in the future. In fact, many students were surprised when the email praised Dean Chisom for his contributions to the college. A day later another email from President Maxey was sent to students apologizing for the statement made and briefly explaining the College’s plan to investigate mishandled sexual misconduct cases. The last students heard from the college was in late August when President Maxey made an update explaining that the investigation was on schedule. Still, students are demanding the school take accountability.
Since the initial Anonymous post was made a multitude of students have come forward with their own experiences where they endured sexual harassment or assault and their cases were mishandled. Over the past two months, students of all genders, ethnicities, and years have rallied behind the anonymous Instagram account. Some have even taken matters into their own hands. After the initial response came out, one student was compelled to speak up and protect survivors. Wishing to remain anonymous to not take attention away from the movement, the owner of the removechisom Instagram account has been working with survivors, students, and alum to, “remind the school that we need answers and action is necessary.”
The RC community has been changed by this movement and it has been for the better. It has fostered a safe space and a support group for survivors affected by sexual misconduct who might have felt uncomfortable otherwise. The removechisom account said, “It may not seem like a huge change across the whole campus, but it’s a big deal for those who broke their silence. Their bravery is incredibly commendable.”
It is important to note in the telling of this narrative that this is not just an issue taking place here at Roanoke. College and university administrations across the nation deal with sexual misconduct cases and many are ignored or mishandled.
“The stigma surrounding rape and sexual abuse is what’s to blame, and it’s much larger than just one man,” removechisom said on the topic of College administrations.
Ultimately, it is important to acknowledge that the College has done something wrong and while damage has been done it isn’t too late to get involved. Tell your story and keep the conversation going. Don’t be afraid to speak up and defend those who tell their story. Removechisom says, “Don’t let Roanoke forget that we are still watching and waiting for a response.”
If you’re comfortable sharing your experience, contact the investigator at RCWPinvestigation@gmail.com. Anything submitted will be confidential.