A timely and brave article was published via Buzzfeed last week by a Knox student entitled “The Deliberate Mishandling of Title IX Cases at Knox College.” Not long after, the article began to gain momentum as current students and alumni alike shared it with their friends and family on social media. Then an organization called EROC (End Rape on Campus) posted a statement of solidarity in response to the Buzzfeed article.
Roughly simultaneously, Knox students received two emails from various administrators asking for our compliance in filling out surveys about Title IX, how we felt our own or our friends’ cases were handled, what we wanted to change. Since receiving those emails I have debated whether I have the energy to fill out a survey which asks me why I was uncomfortable, why I felt worse instead of better, why asking for help from my institution almost drove me to leave it. I want to provide information to help make sure that the mishandling of Title IX cases is an ugly blip and not a defining factor in Knox’s history. But I don’t know whether I can.
Here’s the thing: It’s not that I don’t want to trust those administrators. This is not an accusation of those administrators, or any of the others on the Title IX team, for mishandling my own and I have no doubt countless other cases.
But when I pass a member of that Title IX team on campus, I don’t know whether they’ve ever really listened. I can’t tell if they’re seeing me as a student or as a victim.
This may sound strange. I, like any individual, consider myself to occupy several identities: I am a writer; I am white; I am a daughter; I am agnostic; I am a student; I am American; I am a survivor of relationship and sexual violence, etc., and the list could go on. I do acknowledge that having experienced sexual violence has made an impact on the way I see the world, on the way I make decisions for myself and my body. It is an important part of my past.
And at this point in my journey, it is part of my past. I have been lucky to come out the other side of these particular horrors, after considerable work, able to talk about them without flinching because when it comes to this subject, I’m done. I can say or hear my perpetrator’s name. I can discuss the incident. I am past the painful part, in theory.
That theory is tested every time I pass a member of the Title IX team and remember one of their words to me at Pumphandle as she gave me an awkward and unwanted hug: “We’re gonna have a better year this year, right?”
As though meeting after meeting in various deans’ offices had been my idea. As though dragging my friends into a haze of repeated interviews and switching investigators had been my idea. As though it had all been an inconvenience.
My bosses, they helped. My professors helped tirelessly and more than I could ever have expected. My peers helped. Everybody who has no obligation to keep my secrets, dry my tears, bend over backwards, did so anyway because Knox is the kind of campus that cares about its students. Just not, it seems, on an institutional level.
I am a Spring Term senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in dance, in the midst of two capstone projects while I hold three campus jobs and search for a permanent one after graduation. I am a big sister to the most beautiful, brilliant little boy in the world and a daughter to two biological parents and one stepparent whose nerves were nearly shot last year because I kept stumbling over the chaos my campus rained down on myself and other survivors. I am capable and resilient and ridiculously well supported and the process of reporting my assault still nearly drowned me.
Why? Because I was just another girl blowing a bad night out of proportion. I was just a hysterical victim asking too much of the system. I was easily dismissible and frequently treated that way.
So when I received these emails from my administrators asking me to give them my opinion of them within the same week that I saw an article by a peer reach the attention of an off-campus organization, I sure as hell didn’t feel comforted by the system. I felt comforted by the fact that a fellow student, many, in fact, are just as pissed as I am and doing something about it.
I am a survivor as well as a student. But I am not now and have never been a victim. I am not now and have never been dismissible.
Are you listening, now?