College Rape Survivors: Title IX Is Not Just About Sports

[TRIGGER WARNING for sexual assault survivors]

After-rape is to be consumed by emptiness, isolation, fear, shame and anger.

After-rape at college is to be confronted by my rapist every day—on the quad, in the library, at breakfast. It is to be ceaselessly reminded of the moments in which power and control were stripped from me, in which I had no option but to let go and resign myself to the fact that this was really happening.

I was raped my sophomore year of college by a male student at my school. In the weeks after the assault, he followed me around campus, physically blocked me from going up the steps into my dorm and threatened my friends. One Friday at 3 a.m. he tried to break into my room while I sat terrified inside.

The rape and harassment changed everything for me. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I stopped studying. School was no longer on my radar screen. I was just trying to make it from one day to the next. I considered dropping out.

I found out about Title IX by chance, through a lawyer friend. She told me,

Title IX is not just about sports. It says your college can’t make you leave school because you were raped and feel unsafe. They’re supposed to make sure the campus is not a sexually hostile environment.

It seemed so sensible once she’d said it, but I’d never heard anything about my supposed right to a safe educational environment ever before.

Turns out, Title IX grants survivors of sexual assault a number of rights by requiring schools to:

But too many colleges aren’t fulfilling their Title IX obligations. I have survivor friends who have been pressured into staying silent in all sorts of ways, from being gently dissuaded from going through a “really draining process” to being flat out told to shut up and go home.

And even when victims do speak up and file formal complaints, the response is often bleak. The Center for Public Integrity found that most students deemed responsible for sexual assault on college campuses face little or no consequences. At my college, only one student has ever been permanently expelled for rape—and that was only after he’d been sentenced to time in prison. In recent years, most students found responsible for sexual assault were suspended for two or four semesters. (A student found responsible for stealing a laptop was suspended for five.)

It’s been 40 years since Title IX became law. It is high time schools begin to take their legal obligations seriously and work to ensure that every student has a safe educational environment free from violence and harassment.

No one should have to be afraid to sleep in her own college dorm room.

Reprinted with permission from the National Women’s Law Center

Photo from Flickr user Dan4th via Creative Commons 3.0

Comments

  1. Therese LePage says:

    “…most students deemed responsible for sexual assault on college campuses face little or no consequences” (?!) Why aren’t these guys hauled into court, and if found guilty, sentenced! How can victims rights (and the consequences to perpetrators) stop at the doors of a church or a university? Therese LePage

  2. That’s awful. And the injustice of it all, and the disproportion of punishment… While I must say, a 5-semester suspension for stealing a laptop seems harsh, a 2-4 semester for rape is surely too light. Surely.

  3. Freedom fighter says:

    It is a horrible flaw in our “legal” system, (don’t want to call it a justice system, because it’s not quite earned that title yet); that “victim blaming” has unfortunately become the typical response to cases of rape and domestic violence cases. The law is disproportionately favorable to men in every situation. Family court caters to the custody petitions of perpetrators contradictory to the family statutes which clearly state that a perpetrator of domestic violence who has not been rehabilitated, who has committed further acts of violence, who hasn’t complied with the terms of their probation etc., are eligible for nothing but supervised visitation. In fact, the law states that there is a rebuttal presumption against giving them custody unless they can prove to somehow be worthy, and a better parent, and it is proven by a preponderance of evidence.
    Contrary to this, and other facts, and supposed laws, rape and violence are minimized, legitimized, ignored, denied, believed to be “a lie,” and a series of other excuses, injustices, etc., and the most mind-boggling, illogical nonsense is the fact that the still severely gender-challenged courts and laws place the victim on trial rather than the perpetrator; thusly having managed to keep things “under control” and in favor of the members of the man-club. Wrong or right, guilty or innocent; it doesn’t much matter because the laws were written for men, by men, and seek to support their causes. So, men are rarely held accountable for rape or domestic violence, and the victim is further victimized, scrutinized, humiliated, traumatized, shamed, blamed and scarred. It is time for women to seriously address the flawed and gender biased legal system and laws, demand equal justice under the law, demand and end to this being treated as a second-rate citizen, and DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY AND RESTITUTION FOR PERPETRATORS Of DV AND RAPISTS! Accountability on behalf of the commissioners, judges, law enforcement, the DHS, CPS, would help as well, as well as they be required to update their training in the dynamics of DV, and learn a bit of victim protocol. I’m tired of this outright oppression and favoritism. It’s just ridiculous and inexcusable. If we don’t unite in numbers, and take a stand, we will continue to be individually bullied and continue to live compromised lives. This is a violation of our Constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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