Content Warning: Rape, assault, victim-blaming.
Before I begin: By sharing my experiences with the Title IX process at Knox, I am not trying to say you shouldn’t use the resources available to you. I am just highlighting the way others have felt and the way that cases have been badly handled in the past and the various articles, cases, statements and instances which highlight this mishandling. I am not intimidating, threatening, coercing or in any way discriminating against an individual because of the individual’s complaint or participation in my investigation or the thousands of investigations before mine. I am simply calling out the broken system.
WHAT I AM ALLOWED TO TELL YOU
Being assaulted in college is sadly something that many experience. For me, that possibility was made a reality all too quickly. This series will examine my experience, what I did for closure and what path you can take if you or someone you care about is affected by this awful thing.
Where I cannot go into detail for legal reasons, I will say as much as I am allowed. That being said, I believe if I hadn’t gone through an actual legal court, hired attorneys and fought for justice in an actual court of law, Knox College would have done absolutely nothing.
I AM NOT THE FIRST, NOR WILL I BE THE LAST
For this first installment, I will discuss a broad overview of the problems in our Title IX system and a brief overview of my experiences. In a Washington Post article written on June 7, 2016, the paper ranks Knox College fourth nationally for reported rapes in 2014 per number of enrolled students. This statistic is based on the fact that every 10 out of 1,000 students reported an assault. Bet they didn’t tell you that on your campus tour! “By the way, we’re nationally ranked for annual sexual assault reports!”
There was an anonymous article published on Buzzfeed in March 2016 titled “The Deliberate Mishandling of Title IX Cases at Knox College.” This article includes detailed survivor reports and hardships following their reports to the school and the “collective suffering of an extraordinary number of students on our campus.” It’s a great read. I highly recommend checking it out.
Since January 2014, Knox College has been under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for the alleged sex-based discrimination. This case was finally resolved in July 2018. According to an article by TKS, entitled “Knox and OCR resolve six complaints against the college,” the complaints that were resolved were from early 2014.
“The OCR noted that while there was concern regarding the grievance procedures in effect at the time of the complaints, they affirmed that the ‘College recognized and took affirmative steps to address and resolve’ these concerns,” the article states.
Perhaps this resolution was reached because the college hired a sexual assault advocate and hired an external investigator to conduct investigations of these alleged reports instead of using a grievance panel of students, staff and faculty. This meant that these people were tasked with resolving matters of sexual misconduct instead of hiring a professional. There were many complaints against this and an actual investigation by Megan Gamble, a student at the time, was published in spring 2006. This got a lot of exposure and eventually helped lead to change. These changes were then implemented. However, it took almost a decade, as these concerns began being voiced in 2006, before being addressed in 2014.
There have been multiple reports of mishandling since then, a few being addressed in pathetic “We know how you feel and we’re changing…” generic apology letters published in the paper by the administration. However, the culture here is one of rape apology and shaming survivors.
RAPE CULTURE, VICTIM-BLAMING, AND SURVIVAL
I remember being at a party last spring and overhearing a guy gushing to his friends about a case he was involved in. I will never forget the genuine laugh and eye roll, followed by, “No, she filed one of those dumb Title IX cases against me…” and the thunderous laughter that followed. I thought I am a joke, my feelings are invalid. No one cares. I can’t come forward now.
I wonder if the college ever considers that we’re deathly afraid of coming forward because of this. These “confidential” procedures are seldom. So there are two resolution options, formal and informal, once a report has been made. The formal resolution includes the external investigator and also interviewing multiple “witnesses.” In some cases, these can be actual people who witnessed the assault. However, in most cases, it’s friends of both parties. The worst part? In the end, you get to read what everyone said about you in the investigation. Whether you knew them or not, if they defend your rapist, you automatically feel different walking on campus.
I had people approach me on campus. “I know you’re lying. He would never do that.” People blackballed me. Contacted my partner and begged him not to date me, saying, “She’s crazy, bro. Trust me.” Some said they couldn’t hang out with me anymore because they “heard some things.” I was lost. Reading the statements that people said about you is hard. Especially those who you thought of as friends.
THE PROCESS IS FLAWED
There is also a portion of the Title IX procedure that allows you to choose an advisor. This is someone close to you to stick with you through the process. After the college allowed (without being specific) a strong leadership figure in my college experience to advise the other party, I knew that a huge conflict was present. There was no legislation or language against this. Therefore, anyone who says yes can advise who you’re going up against. By this logic, even one of your own parents could advise the other party if they agreed. Conflict of interest? NO, not at all.
When I told our president, Teresa Amott, that this happened to me and how I felt the case was mishandled, she gave me resources to write to in order to express my concerns and get the legislation changed. It was a great and emotional conversation, until the “help” was followed with, “But, they are at least two years behind on letters. You probably won’t be written back for years.” Which was, to say the least, so discouraging.
Until I contacted a lawyer and was able to get past this kangaroo court that our college calls the Title IX Resolution Procedures. I was told that since my case had been resolved, there was nothing the college could do to keep my “alleged” rapist out of my classes. Basically a huge “fuck you.” So, I hired a team of lawyers to look at my case immediately. I simply wasn’t going to compromise my education because someone decided to rape me.
WE HAVE AGENCY IN OUR OPTIONS, TO A CERTAIN DEGREE
Luckily, I am fortunate enough to have been able to afford to hire a great lawyer and get the protection I deserved. If you don’t have the resources to spend, THERE ARE STILL OPTIONS. There are great public attorneys and lawyers who do pro-bono work. People at the local Safe Harbor can help you.
After feeling as if I couldn’t step out on campus ever again, I finally have things in place to protect me from this monster. Knowing the people to separate myself from and knowing the people who supported me the whole time has been a great experience. I am healing. I am a survivor. I am proud. I am strong.
I will explore my experiences further in later articles. Thank you for reading. If you want more information on the resources available to you or need a someone to tell your story, contact me. I am here for you. Whatever you may need.