*On September 21st Annie Robertson and Garvey-Malik Ashhurst-Watson had sex in Robertson’s apartment.
That is the only undisputed fact concerning a sexual assault case involving the two students of Sarah Lawrence College.
The parts that aren’t agreed upon are the conversation that led to Ashhurst-Watson, a black man from New York, being in Robertson’s, a white woman from North Carolina, apartment – whether or not she simply offered someone a place to stay because he might not have been able to get home that night (her story), or whether she was going to make an exception to her professed lesbianism and have sex with him (his story).
Both sides of the story seem plausible to me. The man in me, especially as a black man, can envision a scenario in which Robertson decided to have sex with Ashhurst-Watson and then changed her mind leading to accusations of sexual assault. The fact that Robertson is from the South seems to lend credence to this theory, riling up a history of black men having trouble because of a sexual situation with a white woman, but it shouldn’t. No, what should lend credence to Ashhurst-Watson’s account is the fact that his mother is a white collar employee of the college, a former music executive, and he lives in the town adjacent to where the college is. A cab ride should have been no more than a 15 minute proposition and cost $20 at the most – something that I presume Ashhurst-Watson could have afforded. Yet Robertson claims she let him into her apartment because he couldn’t get home. Huh?
For her part Robertson is apparently an “out” lesbian attending a school known for it liberalism. If ever there was a person, place, and time for someone to invite another person to spend the night and not intend any sexual connotation, this is it. And someone doesn’t usually leave their apartment without their keys and go barefoot across campus to a friend’s apartment after consensual sex as Robertson did. As the father of two young daughters I’d like to be confident that school and law enforcement authorities take seriously any charge of wrongdoing – particularly in the arena of sexual misconduct.
I will confess that I scraped by with a C in biology in college so I am not at all an authority of anything medical. But for me this situation comes down to what the people who have investigated the incident say. Although Robertson wanted Ashhurst-Watson banned from campus, Sarah Lawrence is allowing him there until 8pm; presumably he doesn’t have any evening classes so they basically are letting him operate normally throughout the day. This tells me they have a hard time confirming Robertson’s story. The wrinkle here is that Ashhurst-Watson’s mother and former stepfather both work at the college so perhaps there is a degree of nepotism.
But the Yonkers Police Department has no connection to Ashhurst-Watson and they also declined to move forward on sexual assault charges after taking Robertson’s statement and examining the results of a rape kit. Somehow there wasn’t enough evidence of forcible sex to corroborate Robertson’s claim. I may be wrong in this assumption but I think if there were a charge the district attorney thought would stick, Ashhurst-Watson would be awaiting trial instead of finals right now.
Of course this is a situation with no winners. But I’d like to think that there aren’t any clear cut losers either. In a situation where alcohol was an element to some degree, and in the hormone filled bodies of young adults after a party, something happened. How much Robertson and Ashhurst-Watson wanted to happen, and knew/thought was going to happen is debatable. What is certain is that due process procedures were followed, everyone has had a chance to voice their perspective and there is still an open investigation with the possibility of criminal charges being filed.
In a case that had racial and gender elements, it turned out that neither mattered. And that’s all that matters.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow his 5 yearly tweets on Twitter @historictrev.