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Love, Honor, and Title IX

Content Warning: This column deals with themes of sexual and interpersonal violence.

Universities have a problem, and Miami University is no exception. We all receive the nearly weekly bulletins, detailing a sexual crime on campus or within the Oxford community. 

I read these with apprehension and discontent. I quickly delete the emails, wondering to myself, “Will they ever end?”

But, how widespread of an issue is this, you might ask? According to the RAINN sexual violence webpage, approximately 13% of all undergraduate students experience some type of sexual violence, across all gender identifications. And this number only accounts for the incidents that are reported. 

Many are not. 

And I, as well as a disproportionately large number of students at Miami University, are a part of this 13%. 

But what happens after the fact? What happens after the incident is reported here at Miami?

In my case, the answer to this question is not much. It’s time to share the truth. 

I began my correspondence with Miami University’s Title IX office in Jan. 2021. I sent in my report form, and promptly received an email from the Title IX coordinator regarding my next steps. 

In many of these cases, a No Contact Directive is issued at the request of the victim. For those of you unfamiliar with this term, a No Contact Directive (NCD) is an official University document meant to protect both individuals in question. 

The perpetrator was not permitted to contact me in any way, and I couldn’t contact them. The issuance of an NCD does not remain on anyone’s disciplinary record, though breaching a No Contact Directive is a violation of Community Standards, and can constitute grounds for suspension.

So I requested the issuance of such a document. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing their name on a screen, let alone anything else. It wasn’t a difficult choice in the slightest. It seemed as though we’d both be better off protected. 

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I was then asked if I wanted to pursue formal action against my assailant. 

I chose not to. 

These cases and their aftermath are triggering, harmful, and scary. 

To me, a possible ruling felt like a validation or an invalidation of my feelings. I’d seen friends of mine go through this process at Miami, and I’d held and supported them when it didn’t go in their favor. 

It seemed as though it never did. 

And though part of me was happy to feel safe, a little bit of me wanted to fight for the people I’d seen broken by this process and by sexual violence as a whole. I wanted my assailant to know what they did, and I wanted them to answer for it. 

But, as much as I wish it was, this wasn’t the end for me and my Title IX case.

My assailant violated the NCD, which launched me into a whirlwind of evidence collection, Community Standards hearings and pain. 

I knew the hearing with the Community Standards office would not note or discuss the event that precipitated the issuance of the NCD, but I felt it was time. I wanted to be brave for the people who don’t get this chance. It was my perpetrator’s time to answer for their wrongdoings. 

I spent hours crafting my opening statement and gathering evidence. I recited it to my parents, friends, and peers through watery eyes, to ensure I was speaking my truth. 

I spoke to therapists and professionals, and did breathing exercises to help myself sleep at night. I was restless, the bags under my eyes grew purple and I shook while leafing through evidence submissions. 

My perpetrator came to the hearing thirty five minutes late with no statement prepared. They’d done no research, made a vague explanation and promptly left. The ordeal brought my mother to tears – how could someone act so blatantly flippant?

I won’t disclose the ins and outs of this case, but I’ll say that my perpetrator received a colloquial “slap on the wrist.” A “tap,” really. I read the ruling in silence, pursing my lips. 

I asked the office to extend the NCD, since the perpetrator had already violated it once. But the office declined my request. 

I was confused and disheartened. I felt betrayed. I believed in “Love and Honor” with my heart and soul, and this is what I had to show for it? 

I didn’t feel very honored, nor did I feel very loved. 

The Title IX and Community Services offices failed me, and they have failed many other bleeding young students. 

We need to do more than show first year students the “Tea Video” and send them on their way. It’s time we revise this system and subsequently, Miami’s culture, with a mind toward enthusiastic consent, sensitivity and validation. 

We must show love to the survivors of sexual violence, and it’s time we honor and respect their truth. At a University that showcases pride in their students, we should extend that pride to our students in need. 

For more information on Miami’s Title IX Hearing process, follow this link

If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, sexual violence, rape, or struggling with PTSD, please contact the RAINN hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673).