On September 19, 2010 – almost 7 years ago to the day of Betsy DeVos’ decision to change key Title IX directives – I was raped by an acquaintance in my dorm room at Lindenwood University. Torn by guilt and shame, and knowing what could potentially lie ahead of me, I waited a week to report it to the Resident Director of my dorm. She told me she had to tell the school. I knew she was a mandated reporter – someone who is required to divulge such things – but I never expected (the lack of) what followed.
To kick things off, I had my own horrendous experience with local law enforcement. Then came the school. Here’s where they went wrong:
First, my university called the cops without my permission. I was never given the option, they just showed up (and then I was interviewed in the room I was raped in by a female who asked victim blaming questions and a male who refused to leave the room when asked). Under Title IX, Lindenwood was supposed to inform me I had the option to notify police, not call them outright and have them simply show up at my dorm room door.
Second, I remember speaking with the Dean of Students once, perhaps twice. During neither of those meetings was I ever informed that I had the right to switch rooms, dorms, or my classes (protections provided by the Clery Act). I was never informed I had the right to seek a no contact order or changes to my dining or work arrangements, either.
Third, there was never a disciplinary hearing. The Dean of Students told me my rapist was being kicked off campus anyway because some portion of his financial aid had fallen through. It wasn’t directly stated that that was the reason there wasn’t/wouldn’t be one, but it was certainly implied. So, not only did the school scapegoat their responsibilities, they let my rapist escape any sort of punishment that would stick with him because he was ‘already leaving’.
I’m not sure when Carter (not his real name; I was never told what his name was) was kicked off campus, but I saw him twice after he raped me. The first time he was standing with a group of his friends. As I walked by, they got quiet. When I was barely within earshot, Carter said something in his native language and all his friends laughed. The second time he was in his car sitting outside the same building. Both times shoved me into the throes of my rape all over again. The terror, guilt, shame, and pure violation all came rushing back. I tried “moving on”, but eventually had to take six months off school.
My situation could have been avoided if I had had the knowledge of my rights to change my life (unfortunately that’s on the survivor, of course) so that I didn’t have to live through the hell I did. It may have also been avoided if I had had any contact with the Title IX Coordinator (who, at the time, was also LU’s in-house lawyer; big conflict of interest).
I’ve lived with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, aversions to people who share similar aspects to Carter, depression, anxiety, intimacy issues, and can barely stand to be near parts of Lindenwood (despite loving the campus and the school) on some days. Though most, if not all, of those things may have happened anyway, they certainly could have been exacerbated less if I had known.
Title IX and Clery Act protections were not established just because. Sexual assault survivors are burdened enough already, and deserve to have something stand in their favor. Rescinding key Title IX directives will only serve to further protect perpetrators and prevent sexual assault survivors from coming forward. It will, without doubt, drive backward what so many have worked to achieve to this point.
*This post was originally posted on Aeriel’s blog and was re-posted here with her permission*