Ten Things Survivors Should Know About the Title IX Rollback
October 24, 2017 Kristance Harlow
There are some important things that survivors should know about the Title IX rollback.
Sexual violence advocates, survivors, and allies are reacting strongly to the rollback of Title IX guidelines by the Trump administration. There are a few things we think survivors should know.
What Just Happened
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos warned that she would not protect the Obama-era guidelines that helped schools establish systems and policies for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct. As early as January, during her confirmation hearings, DeVos said she would not commit to protecting those guidelines.
She made good on her remarks and replaced two letters of guidance from 2011 and 2014 with an interim Q&A on September 22.
There Were Problems With Title IX Before the Rollback
The idea that universities should prosecute sexual misconduct on campus as Title IX violations was originally supposed to be a supplement to the criminal justice system. Students can report to both their school and the police, but it is also an option to report just the crime (to the police) or the civil rights violation (to the school). For some survivors, turning to the criminal justice system is not a feasible option. Schools are required to take all the necessary steps to protect and support survivors, but the criminal courts often don’t do the same.</p
DeVos has implied that a central problem with the Obama administration’s guidelines is that the accused are unjustly punished, but more commonly it is the victim who is silenced and unfairly treated.
Since the Obama-era guidelines, universities and colleges had to have regulations in place on how to handle these situations, but they could determine the policies themselves. The guidelines for determining fault were subject to the whims of the university which, in some cases, has turned this process into a quasi-court. It’s easy to understand how self-governed policies could fail survivors when set in the context of a culture that is rife with victim-blaming, rape apologists, and a stunted understanding of mental health and trauma.
Roslyn Talusan, sexual violence activist and feminist writer, spoke to Rewire in a Twitter interview. Talusan stressed that before you can do anything, you must be gentle with yourself and practice self-care. She explained that taking care of yourself can look like “going for a manicure, putting extra cheese in your pasta, making sure you take meds, or have a sip of water.”
Your Experience Is Valid
When I was raped in college, I didn’t know it was rape. I was drunk and my rapist was not under the influence. I could not consent while in that state of belligerent drunkenness. I never reported it and pretended like it had never happened. It took me years to understand and accept that I had survived rape.
During and after assaults, survivors and victims will have diverse reactions. There is no wrong way for your body to react during a traumatic event, because it is doing what it knows to do. It is survival in its most basic form. Some people will freeze during the assault, others will fight, and others will have consented up to a certain point and then withdrawn consent without the perpetrator respecting it. Whatever happened to you, whatever you did, whatever you didn’t do, you did all you could in that moment and that is enough. You are enough.
Talusan offered a poignant reminder to remain true to your own lived experience during this time: “I think the most important part is not letting this administration distort your truth. This administration is everything [sexual violence] activists have been working against. The changes they’re trying to make doesn’t mean what happened to us never happened or that our pain is invalid. It doesn’t make any of it OK. They’re trying to make it OK and acceptable but it’s not and never will be.”
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