The mythology being spread across college campuses about how Title IX can cure all pain of sexual abuse and rape, whether real or imagined, may be part of the aspirational ploy used in the hope that if it’s said enough, spewed with force and certainty, it will make it real. It’s a lie, but if enough people believe a lie, then the hope is it will become real. A young woman at Harvard found out the hard way that it doesn’t work that way.
Her letter to the editor of the Harvard Crimson is published anonymously to protect her identity, or as the editors put it, “due to the private and intensely personal nature of its content.” That’s fine, although it ignores the fact that someone chose to write about something of an “intensely personal nature” publicly. Either it’s private or public, and since it relies upon believing the accuracy of factual claims, it’s impossible to assess if posted anonymously. Unless, of course, you’re inclined to “believe the victim” no matter what.
Hey, it’s me. One of your statistics.
Call me what you want: sexual assault victim, rape survivor, a report of “nonconsensual sexual penetration through the use of force.” It doesn’t really matter, because no matter what happens or has happened, I am simply, completely, and totally me. And I have something to tell you.
This passive-aggressive opening foreshadows what follows. Nowhere in the list of “call me what you want” does she* include “accuser,” though she clearly has an accusation to make. What is unknown, and never told, is what exactly happened to the writer.
It happened last fall. An upperclassman I’d known since Visitas had invited me to his dorm to study for our coming Science of Cooking midterm and watch movies with some of his frat brothers. Of course, I had gone.
But he hadn’t let me leave.
Harvard could not have saved me from that man, and I know that. How could they possibly know that one of their own was a predator masquerading as a student?
The implication is clear. The substance, unfortunately, is entirely missing. But since we’re in a post-factual society, implication is good enough. Except that the validity of her complaints depends on allegations of specific facts, and there are none.
The morning after my attack, I woke in the room of a close friend shaken and hollow. I refused to change or shower, because I knew a rape kit was not only imminent but necessary. After trudging back to my dorm, I immediately went to my proctor, and he called health services. The news was shocking.
Harvard University Health Services didn’t provide rape kits.
She knew a rape kit was necessary? How? Why? She didn’t need DNA to identify her rapist. Did she fear he would deny having sex? Perhaps, but that’s rarely what happens as there are witnesses to the fact that they went off together. It’s generally not left to undergrads to decide what investigative methods are required, no matter how many episodes of Law and Order she’s watched.
But then she compounds the error by her next sentence. Harvard Health Services doesn’t “provide rape kits” because it’s not an arm of law enforcement, it’s not an investigative agency. It’s there to give you band-aids and aspirin. If you need brain surgery, you go to a real doc, a real hospital. If you need a rape kit, you go where the police take you.
It didn’t fully hit me then—I was far too numb. But later, after having to get an Uber to a hospital in the city and waiting three hours for the specialized nurse to arrive, the anger came. College campuses are notorious for their high instances of rape and sexual assault. Yet my university, the greatest and wealthiest in the world, could not even provide me a rape kit. I could not go to the health center that I was comfortable with. I was referred to an enormous, foreign hospital across the city feeling even more scared and vulnerable than I had before. It still shocks me.
What’s missing? There is no mention of calling the police. There’s the mythology of college campuses being “notorious for their high instances of rape,” but no cops. There’s Harvard, “the greatest and wealthiest in the world,” but no police. And a “foreign hospital”? Did the nurse speak Urdu? Did the Uber take you to Bangkok? Had you called the police, they would have been happy to drive you. They’re good that way.
But it didn’t end there.
A few days later, I was shepherded into the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response where I was to meet a representative and the Title IX coordinator. The meeting was long, a barrage of information and emails and programs that I can’t even begin to reiterate. However, I do remember the moment I realized the University would not be able to help me.
They told me that unless I went through the trial process, Harvard was unable to intervene in any meaningful way.
Now we get to the part where it really goes sour. Even on Law and Order, the accused gets to go to trial before he’s locked away forever. Did you think it was different for you? Did you think that your say-so was the end of it? Did you not realize that the guy got to defend himself from your accusations? What could have possibly made you think otherwise?
Unless I subjugated myself to a long trial, Harvard would do nothing to keep him away from me. That’s right. Nothing. Even though my rape kit had come back positive, that was not enough.
That’s untrue. Had the writer made a complaint, whether to Harvard under Title IX or police under real law, the writer could have been separated from the accused, whether by accommodation or protective order. But to use the word “subjugated” reflects the core of the problem, the nature of the mythical entitlement to which even a passive-aggressive alleged victim believes herself entitled. If it’s “subjugation” to not have Harvard, not to mention the legal system, spring into action because you said so, then you’re going to be very unhappy, very “shaken and hollow.”
They lied to you. When they told you magic happens to make your every whim come true, to destroy whomever it is you want destroyed, with nothing more than your word, without the burden of being “subjugated” by a system that offers some fairness to the person you are accusing.
Your misery, and flagrantly misguided grasp of the system, has taken whatever happened to you (and let’s assume something happened for the sake of argument) and made it worse. That’s because they’ve been lying to you. That’s because they’ve created ridiculous and bizarre expectations that Title IX is magic. It’s not.
Then again, maybe this letter to the editor was a sham, designed to establish cred to argue against ridding Harvard of single sex clubs, and the Crimson just got trolled by an anon letter writer, who wasn’t so clueless as to realize that she walked away from rape because she was lied to about the reach of Title IX.
*it’s assumed the writer is a she. There was no opportunity to ask for her choice of personal pronouns.
H/T Edward Wiest