One in four Americans will die of cancer. A surprising number, but it seems everyone knows of someone. Now, consider this – one in four women will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. How many women do you know who have gone through this traumatic experience? Perhaps you’re unsure, but the percentage remains. Someone you know, or even multiple women you know, have experienced this. I have.
I reported my assault to my college, but not many women do. Why is that? Well, to begin, there is constantly more empathy for rapists than victims. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter that Jimmy was a star athlete with a promising future – he violated a woman in the most disturbing way imaginable. But, Jimmy probably won’t even be reprimanded. 97% of rapists do not see a day behind bars, and only 40% of assaults are even reported in the first place. I’m proud that I reported my assault, but I’m disappointed that nothing came out of my Title IX investigation.
Colleges have a responsibility, designated by the White House as Title IX, determining how to handle assaults when they are reported. There is a statement made by the victim, and in my case, also by my assaulter – as she was a fellow student. From there, the Title IX coordinators determine if a trial with a jury will take place. I was told that there was not enough evidence in my case to enact a trial, when it was made evident to me during my initial report that all would go smoothly, quickly, and that justice would indefinitely be served. This process was explained to me poorly, and the coordinators were vague and untimely on their responses. The investigation process should have been the least of my worries, and my stomach was in knots for weeks. I felt very much failed by my college. It is possible to file a lawsuit against a university for the poor handling of a Title IX case, but I’m sure there are even fewer women who take their case that next step farther.
I am not the only woman who has experienced this. Denial, fear, shame and anxiety are common emotions that a victim must cope with. No one should feel uncomfortable on their college campus because they’re terrified of running into their rapist. No one should be ashamed or unhopeful about reporting an assault. No one should feel like they cannot tell their story. The stories of victims are always secondary to that of their rapists, and it’s disgusting. I want this brief insight into my story to make you consider the stories of women you know, but have not heard. Perhaps you have a story as well. We own every experience that we have as human beings, and being silent is being disrespectful to ourselves. Speak up with me; whether it’s your story or words of encouragement for someone to tell theirs, being truthful is the only way to open eyes and change this.
If you’re in the Chicagoland area and have experienced any form of sexual assault, please contact some of these Chicago-Based Support Resources: