On the Limits of Compassion

Today, Buzzfeed reported on the ongoing situation in my English Department.

From the article Want to Fire a Professor for Sexual Harassment? It’s Going to Take a While:

“Ohio University said it strives to finish investigations within 60 days, but it can be tough booking witnesses for interviews. That’s why the probe of Escobedo’s behavior took nearly nine months. The president then took almost three months to weigh in on how to punish Escobedo. Escobedo then had 30 days to request a hearing before the faculty senate to challenge the firing recommendation, and another 60 days to prepare his defense. Escobedo’s hearing is scheduled for Sept. 1 — nearly 18 months after Adams and Hempstead formally complained about him.

After the hearing, if the faculty senate agrees Escobedo should be fired, the university’s board of trustees will have to approve his termination, possibly at its October meeting, but it has no deadline for making such decisions.

Nearly two years after the night when two women say Escobedo put his hands all over them making unwanted sexual advances, a year and a half after they told the school about it, and nearly a year after a university investigation substantiated their claims, the case could still be far from over.”

I’ve been thinking about this article all day–about what it can’t begin to cover, about how Andrew Escobedo’s nickname was “Handy Andy,” about how I was warned about him in my first week in the program, about how certain faculty members said, “Oh, that’s just the way he is,” about how other faculty members said, “We didn’t know” (even though there is no way that lack of knowledge could have been possible), about the sense of betrayal that all of the graduate students (and not just the survivors) have felt because of this systemic neglect, about how certain women in the department voted for Handy Andy to keep his tenure, then went and marched in the Women’s March in DC, about the way that I looked at the photo of them in their pink hats and felt grief for the world that I live in where women sometimes have to claw their way to the top on the back of patriarchy, about the ways in which the larger Athens community tried to silence us by calling upon our senses of “compassion” for the family, about how messed up it is to ask someone–anyone–to prioritize compassion for an abuser’s family over their own safety, about how I feel that my own graduate experience has been tainted so I cannot even imagine how the survivors must feel, about how this situation has damaged so many interpersonal relationships, about how I am thinking of my own family–my own child–and of how I can raise him to be the kind of man who respects women and works to keep them safe.

About how the community that wants me to have compassion for Handy Andy’s family doesn’t seem to have compassion for my family.

About how the community that wants me to have compassion for Handy Andy’s family doesn’t seem to have compassion for my son who first witnessed his mother be battered by his father, then, years later, watched his mother be triggered into near-complete breakdowns by the situation in her workplace.

About how the community that wants me to have compassion for Handy Andy’s family doesn’t seem to have compassion for the families of my friends who were sexually assaulted by their professor.

About how I know that assault never really goes away.

About how I know that assault can be moved past, but it cannot be surpassed. It becomes a sort of ghost. A memory that is felt in the skin. A haunting.

About how I am so proud of my friends–these survivors–for doing what so many people before were not willing to do.

For speaking out.

For being the change that all of us were looking for.

C and S

Photo Credit: Alex Driehaus of The Post