Before I begin this article I would like to make it clear that I believe Title IX has the potential to help people. It is my experience, though, that the Furman Title IX office does not help anyone but themselves. This school is so caught up in appearances that they will do anything to make everyone think we are perfect, that nothing bad ever happens here. Scandals are not tolerated, and those who bring issues to light will be silenced. Will my story be swept under the rug too?
I spent a good part of my semester looking over my shoulder. He had been friendly at first. Until ‘friendly’ turned into stalking, and that was just the start of the waking nightmare. I tried to forget about it, him, and focus on my schoolwork. Then I started to hear the talk around campus. Every girl had a story about him, even if it was just a single moment that he had made them uncomfortable, everyone knew. The more I heard, the more guilty I felt. If I had said something earlier would all of these girls have been spared from these moments?
Spoiler: I didn’t reach out to Title IX. They emailed me, and the first line read: “I received a report that you may have had an unwanted sexual interaction.” The gist of this email was a long list of ‘options’ that all led to one solution: making a case. The Title IX coordinator also informed me of the times that she was available for a meeting, another one of these faux options. So much was happening so quickly. How did they know? Who else knows? What exactly did they know? I set a meeting to answer these questions of mine, and if I was able, to speak up about what happened to me.
He has rights too.
That’s what she told me. Did it matter that he violated my rights? Why were his rights more important than mine? I finally talked about what happened to me, and I regretted it moments after it happened. I was met with apathy. Through tears I told her that he was a danger to every woman on campus. The longer he stayed, the more survivors I would find myself talking to. It didn’t matter because she told me there was nothing she could do unless I filed a formal case against him. I knew of several other women who had already filed cases against the same man, and nothing had changed. The whole meeting she had been preaching about the anonymity Furman provided to those reporting sexual assaults. So when I told her that he knew which woman had reported him, before he was formally notified, and was already trying to spread rumors against her. She was stunned and could only say: “I didn’t know that.”
After that meeting there were a few things I knew to be true. The coordinator was simply reciting lines from the pamphlets they send out in emails. That the priority of the school is to protect the accused before even considering empathizing with the victims. That the only way you can be taken seriously in the eyes of the university, even with multiple people coming forward with the same stories about one person, is to file a case against them–which will go nowhere.
Say you do file a case. With how much the office emphasizes the importance of them, you would think they would have some real weight to them. After all they put you through: reliving the experience to answer hundreds of questions, your name being told to the person you accuse with no promise of protection, the entire school gossiping about it…and for what? For me, it looked like waiting for weeks to hear the outcome of the other woman’s case against him. That meeting with the Title IX coordinator filled me with distrust that their system ever had any intention of working, so I did not file a case.
While he was investigated, he went to classes and clubs like normal. No one in the Title IX office worried about an accused rapist roaming the campus, but we were terrified. So we women did what we always do: we looked out for ourselves. Never walked alone, told anyone who would listen to avoid him, and never answered our door unless we knew for sure who it was. Did anything change the day he was found guilty? No. He was quietly transferred to another school weeks later. You know what the best part is? It wasn’t the first time Furman did that. It’s the same story over and over again. I wonder if they draw up the transfer papers before or after telling the survivors they decided to believe them.