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Councilor hopes rape disclosure will aid others

SERIOUS ISSUE ON CAMPUS “Like 90 percent of rape survivors, I knew my attacker,” Councilor Ayanna Pressley said of her sexual assault as a college student. SERIOUS ISSUE ON CAMPUS
“Like 90 percent of rape survivors, I knew my attacker,” Councilor Ayanna Pressley said of her sexual assault as a college student.
By Andrew Ryan
Globe Staff / March 31, 2011

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Councilor at Large Ayanna Pressley said during a public hearing yesterday that she was raped as a college student at Boston University.

Speaking at the Boston City Council’s weekly meeting at City Hall, Pressley made the disclosure as she discussed an upcoming hearing on sexual assaults on local college campuses. Pressley had previously described herself as a survivor of sexual assault, both as a child and an adult, but had not mentioned a specific incident.

“I am a survivor of sexual assault while a college student,’’ Pressley said yesterday without mentioning that she attended Boston University. “Mine is a truth shared by 17.7 million American women. And, like 90 percent of rape survivors, I knew my attacker.’’

After yesterday’s meeting, Pressley declined to discuss details about the time and place of her attack. She said she spoke about her experience because, “it’s important to always put a face to issues.’’

“This is a crime of silence,’’ Pressley said. “In general, it is a crime that is underreported because of the shame, because of the stigma, but also because there isn’t a belief that there will be consequences, especially on a college campus where there is often contact with the attacker.’’

Pressley, 37, is running for reelection this fall for her second term.

The hearing on campus assaults will be held at the end of April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States. The hearing was sponsored by Councilor at Large Felix G. Arroyo and Pressley. Both said yesterday that they are not looking to cast blame on institutions of higher learning.

“I’m not demonizing or vilifying colleges and universities,’’ Pressley said yesterday. “If anything, this is an opportunity for colleges and universities to set the national standard and improve their brand.’’

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com.