I was retraumatized by my school after reporting sexual assault. DeVos wants every student survivor to go through the same.

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“I thought that after being the victim of a crime, there would be proper channels for justice and retribution for me, but I’ve learned that is often not the case when it comes to sexual assault.”

Going through a Title IX case at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) was not as restorative as I thought it would be. I had some trust in my art institute that it would support me and clearly see the wrongs that were committed against me, but I was also wary because I’d heard of how many Title IX cases are mishandled in general — my institution included. Keeping that in mind, I decided to take my chances, but right away those chances did not look good. The language the investigator used during my interviews about the sexual assault was heavily victim-blaming and not trauma-based. During a phone call interview, the investigator asked, “how come you didn’t act like a victim of sexual assault?” which made me question myself. In hindsight, I think that was the intent. Broad questions intended to make the survivor second-guess themselves are unfortunately commonplace in sexual assault investigations.

“They backed my assailant’s complaint of retaliation while at the same time treating my initial sexual assault complaint with little regard.”

The same excuse of ignorance has been heavily employed in how the second investigation was conducted. Yes, there was another one. The second investigation started because of a complaint about an art show my friend and I created to document the healing process from our similar traumatic experiences. The person who sexually assaulted me made a complaint about the show, claiming it was retaliatory.

“In addition to the fear that already makes survivors reluctant to come forward, students from kindergarten through graduate school will now face a process where the odds are immediately stacked against them.”

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Art by Isha Khanzode

“I found Equal Rights Advocates, who became my backbone throughout the rest of the first investigation and through all of the second investigation.”

On top of potentially re-traumatizing interrogation by often ill-trained investigators, survivors will also be cross-examined live by an “advisor” of the harasser’s or assailant’s choice, which could be the assailant’s friend, lawyer, or parent. They’ll also be subject to potentially neverending investigations, similar to or worse than what I endured, because deadlines and timeframes will be removed, leaving a loophole for schools that want to indefinitely drag out proceedings in order to avoid findings of sexual assault. (As the survivor organizations like Equal Rights Advocates have shown, schools are strongly motivated to avoid findings of sexual violence so they can avoid being sued later by the assailants.) DeVos’s new rules will ensure that student survivors across the country go through similar or even worse re-traumatization than I did.

We are civil rights champions, fighting since 1974 to expand and protect the opportunities of all women and girls.

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