Elizabeth Reimer, one of three first-year Dartmouth College students who died this year, posted a video to TikTok before her death stating she had been sexually assaulted at Dartmouth.
Reimer was 18 when she died by suicide at her Long Island, N.Y., home last month. Reimer had been sent home by the college following a mental health crisis in April that included a stay at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for a suicide attempt.
In December, Reimer posted a video to her TikTok account showing the screen on an online form from Dartmouth administration asking her to detail the challenges she faced during a “less than ideal” experience at the school. Reimer wrote “getting sexually assaulted.”
Diana Lawrence, the associate vice president for communications, declined to comment on the video.
Diana Whitney, with Dartmouth Community Against Gender Harassment and Sexual Violence, a group of alumni and family, said it is not surprising that a student dealing with trauma like sexual assault would be contemplating suicide.
“It’s not surprising, and it’s incredibly sad,” Whitney said.
According to a 2017 survey the college conducted on sexual misconduct, 34% of female and female-identifying undergraduate students experience some form of sexual assault, including about 15% who say they were raped.
The 2017 survey was the last one completed, though another survey was conducted this year. That data has not yet been released.
According to the report, of the female undergraduate students who were raped, more than 75% did not report their assaults to the college.
The survey found that at least a third of female and female-identifying students did not believe the college would take actions against perpetrators.
Whitney said women dealing with trauma from sexual assault often deal with anxiety, depression and suicidal ideations.
She said the school lacked the resources when she was a student, but thought the obvious stress and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic would have moved school officials to act.
“I had thought and hoped it was improving,” Whitney said. “It seems like Dartmouth was woefully unprepared to support them.”
Reimer was the fourth undergraduate to die this year. First-year student Beau DuBray died by suicide in November.
First-year student Connor Tiffany died in March. Tiffany’s cause of death has not been publicly confirmed.
Lamees Kareem, a junior, died in April from a reported medical condition.
It was Reimer’s death, however, that prompted the school’s administration to address the mental health issue among the student body. President Phil Hanlon, in an email to the Dartmouth community, announced that the school would change the way the college deals with mental health, and would devote more resources for students.
“The pandemic has exacerbated many problems, but foremost among them has been mental health,” wrote Hanlon.
“On this critical issue, we must do more to support our community.”
Whitney said it is past time for the college to address its culture, but hopes Hanlon’s efforts bear fruit.
“I hope it’s not too little too late,” Whitney said. “I hope this is a culture shift.”
Reimer’s death also sparked students to take action, organizing a protest on campus and vandalizing administrative buildings with red paint.
Amanda Grady Sexton, director of public affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, said trauma is often a trigger for suicide attempts, but there are steps institutions like Dartmouth can take to help.
“It’s important for survivors to feel supported, and to understand that they can heal from the abuse they experienced,” Grady Sexton said.
“Confidential help available from local crisis centers any time of the night or day. Crisis center advocates are trained to respond to people who are experiencing the effects of trauma after abuse, and can also help friends and family to identify the best ways to support someone who has been assaulted and to understand the warning signs of depression and suicide,” she said.