One of The 90 Percent

I am one of the 90 percent.

I am one of the supposedly 90 percent of sexual assault cases that “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.'”

I have to admit that reading those words—from Candice Jackson, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Department of Education—was jarring. It was even more shocking to read these statements from a woman, and from a survivor. But it wasn’t entirely surprising.

Wolfram Burner / Creative Commons

Almost a year ago, I was sitting in a courtroom next to a woman attorney. I couldn’t afford to pay for representation, and she had actually taken my case free of charge, recommended through a domestic violence agency. My rapist, meanwhile, could afford two attorneys.

I was sitting in the courtroom wearing clothes from the professional section of a department store that made me feel like I was playing dress-up in my mother’s closet. I had just reached the cusp of legal adulthood. At this point in my life, I still haven’t quite gotten around to filing taxes, but I have filed for a protection order.

Our attorneys had reached an agreement. I would get a three-year protection order in exchange for skipping the trial. I was told that, if I did go through with the trial, I would be called “sexually aggressive” and essentially referred to as a drunk slut by people I had considered friends. This was promised to be easier. I would skip the trial and could be safe until I finished my education.

The meeting I had with my attorney prior to the trial didn’t quite go as planned. She had been calling me throughout the summer, promising me that she would fight for me, that she wasn’t afraid of a bloodbath.

Jackson laid out categories of survivors. My attorney put me in more than one. She assumed that my rapist was my boyfriend when I had never dated anyone in my life. She referred to my rapist as my “ex” when the only relationship I had cut off was a friendship. She called me a child for not knowing whether he had raped me the first time. She told me it was a bad idea to keep talking to my rapist after it happened even though I was in denial that it had. She told me that having my door open was an open invitation for him to rape me. She told me that she could see where my rapist was coming from.

I am a part of the 90 percent. I am a part of the majority that the current administration would call illegitimate, but I am also a part of the 90 to 98 percent of accusations that have been deemed to be legitimate.

Back in that courtroom, my attorney passed me a stack of papers that will keep my rapist away from me until I graduate. She leaned over to my advocate and said that she couldn’t believe that he had been expelled based on these facts. Walking out of our initial meeting in the coffee shop I had been in shock. Walking out of the courtroom, I was absolutely numb.

My attorney didn’t actually know the facts. She had never looked over the campus safety reports about the numerous times he had violated the no-contact order put in place. She had never even glanced at the Title IX reports, and probably didn’t even understand what went into that investigation. She probably didn’t know that a number of people had deliberated to reach that verdict or that he withdrew from the school before he could be expelled or that it took over 60 days for them to decide to expel him, which was at least 60 days more than it took for her to decide that my experience was invalid.

It’s so much easier to say that the accusations are false, baseless, unwarranted. It’s easier to say that survivors were asking for it by being too drunk or wearing the wrong clothes—because if they were doing something wrong, then you can prevent it from happening to you.

I am one of the 90 percent. I am one of the supposedly 90 percent of sexual assault cases that “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.” But statistics show that only 2 to 10 percent of rape accusations are false.

Based on these facts, my story and the stories of the rest of the 90 percent are as valid as the rest of them.

Lily Nussbaum is a writer, student, activist and coffee addict. She is studying psychology, English, and gender studies and is passionate about creating social change. In addition to being a member of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. and the Representation Project’s Global Youth Advisory Council, she is the website creator and manager for the Red Tape Project.

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Comments

  1. Amy B Dellinger says:

    Lily,
    Thank you for speaking out and telling your story…one among too many. Breaks my heart that it keeps happening and happening and happening. And then, the next words out someone’s mouth is “why didn’t you report?” Screwed either way with a life sentence to feeling powerless until you CALL THEM AND THEIR ACT BY NAME.

    Hope to see more of your work,
    AB Dellinger

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