UMich sexual assault survivor reacts to new Title IX rules

‘No one should feel afraid to report abuse’

*Some names have been changed to preserve anonymity.

Joy* is a sophomore studying premed at the University of Michigan, with big ambitions and a relatively unknown past. As she wrote what she experienced —it was easier for her to write down what had happened than say it out loud—she began to relive every element of the pain she tried so hard to suppress.

“I couldn’t report it because he was family,” Joy wrote. With tears in her eyes, welling up, she recounted how her uncle raped her on her 16th birthday. It wasn’t just the rape that affected her, it was the years of sexual abuse that preceded it, and the endless threats, accusations, and emotional manipulation that haunted her through her freshman year of college. The end result? Spending the rest of her life with her biggest enemy —anxiety.

What did she hope for the future?

“Freedom from fear, and liberty from cowardice. No one should feel afraid to report abuse; everyone should be empowered once they do,” Joy told The Tab.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for individuals like Joy to report directly to law enforcement for multiple reasons. Having the opportunity to speak out on a local level can ease this emotional burden.

Title IX, popularized under the Obama administration, ensured that Joy's dream could be a reality. Under this legislation —an option parallel to criminal law —rooted in civil rights, is offered to those who experience sexual violence on college campuses. Survivors can fight for their rights and privileges while simultaneously ensuring their identity and safety are protected.

Reeshma Kumar, a sophomore at the UMich believes that “[Title IX] also makes survivors of sexual assault feel protected, validated, and reinforces the fact that they themselves should not accept any form of sexual assault.” Having this option is essential for survivors; for many, campus reporting is their only option as they do not have to fear skepticism and abuse from the police.

The Trump Administration, unable to recognize the value of having such a legislation, overturned Title IX because there have been several reports of “false accusers.” Providing a platform for these antiquated views and statistically insignificant claims encourages campus officials to turn their backs on sexual crimes, stacks the system against survivors, and announces to perpetrators that the clampdown on campus assault is at an end.

“I understand that there can be false accusations against innocent people, but the benefits of Title IX far outweigh the costs,” Kumar told The Tab.

Title IX is indeed flawed. There is a reasonable debate over the standard of evidence used in making these decisions, and there are slight inconsistencies surrounding how campus officials are trained to respond to such cases. The answer to these flaws does not lie in completely overturning the legislation, but rather in allocating national resources in a way that can help strengthen the policy and reduce or eliminate these shortcomings.

This decision, however, should not be taken lightly. Here at the University of Michigan, nearly twenty percent of female undergraduates were victims of nonconsensual sexual behavior within the past year, and most of these cases are unreported to officials.

Title IX gave victims the voice and encouragement to fight against injustice, but dismantling it only means that justifications like “It wasn’t a big deal” or “I took care of it myself” will increase, and those who have done wrong will continue to walk free. University is a place for students to learn and grow as individuals, and it is their responsibility to ensure that nothing and no one interferes with these goals.

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