The past week or so, I’ve seen a high number of posts and talk about Title IX and its 40th anniversary. Considering its significant role in my path to feminism and activism, I wanted to at least share a few thoughts about the law and how its intended protection of rape survivors has helped me on a path to recovery after rape.
What does Title IX have to do about rape? Well, in short, as I wrote two years ago on the SAFER blog:
When a student doesn’t perform well in school and is kicked out or drops out or fails a class or three after being sexually assaulted, their access to education has been hindered. If a school knows about this student’s rape and refuses to help them, then they are denying that student their equal access to education guaranteed to them by Title IX.
Years ago, I found myself in this very situation. I want to share with you my Title IX story.
Seven-six years ago, I was raped by another student when I was at Tufts University in Massachusetts. I did not really understand how those incidents affected me in addition to the very toxic, emotionally abusive relationship of sorts that I had with the other student. He was very good at manipulating his power and my learned helplessness to not only make me feel like I had no value, but to make my school administrators to think so as well.
A few years later—after his graduation and departure from the area—I strained to regain a voice and I tried to speak up about what happened. I started to be more public about how the school ignored my police report(s) about sexual assault and physical assault, violated their own rules about holding students accountable to a high standards of conduct, and failed to provide any support or remedies to the emotional damage I had endured as a result of all these things.
However, the biggest blow was being expelled from school. The heartless letter from my abuser’s former academic adviser saying they were sorry about the “incident,” but I was no longer welcome there as a student. He wrote that Tufts was not only not responsible for what happened to me in terms of the rape (yes, that was the abuser’s fault), but they were also not responsible to help me try to help remedy the hostile environment create as a result of their inaction.
It is needless to say it is already very disempowering to live through an abusive relationship, to be raped, to be isolated and ignored. It is another thing to take away my education and reverse the years of hard work I had done, being a scholarship kid of colour at prep school and going to a top university. I felt helpless and disillusioned; I felt that I lived in a world that regardless of what I do, my fate was in the hands of rich white people who were so far removed from my situation.
While Title IX and its grievance processes are far from perfect, it gave me some hope of some sort of justice. I did not get my “day in court” to face the person who had some irreparable damage to my life course, but perhaps I can get a shot at showing a powerful administration that ignoring domestic violence on campus/at the hands of a student is not only ethically wrong, but it is also legally wrong.
It’s been a difficult, slow, and confusing process to try and get some justice from Tufts from their indifference towards me and their lack of value of the bodies of survivors of colour. However, I am thankful that someone like me with little to no resources (read: money for an attorney) has a shot to hold an institutional accountable and to tell them that *all* students matter and survivors deserve justice and education, too.
To read more about how Title IX is not just about gender equity in sports, but also in regards to sexual violence, feel free to check out these links.
- An old post I wrote on Title IX Day about the law’s coverage of sexual assault
- Students Active For Ending Rape’s and ACLU’s Title IX and Sexual Assault Fact Sheet
- Security on Campus’ Title IX summary
- Center for Public Integrity’s info section about how Title IX affects sexual assault claims at schools
Also, feel free to ask me any questions about my experience with the school and the process of filing a Title IX violation complaint in the Office of Civil Rights.