College students and recent graduates delivered more than 100,000 signatures to the Department of Education yesterday demanding federal officials to follow through on complaints regarding how universities handle cases of sexual assault. As a survivor, there’s only one thing I can say to the organizers: thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.
(Okay, that was more than one thing, but you get my point.)
Know Your IX, a nationwide campaign dedicated to educating every student about their rights under Title IX by fall 2013, organized yesterday’s rally (called #EdActNow). It followed quite a bit of previous organizing – by July 15, the Know Your IX team had raised more than $11,000 and successfully filed several complaints against some of the nation’s most elite universities. Their work, and the petition to show support for their work, was already getting a crazy amount of well-deserved press, and they got more than 100,000 people speak out about an issue that is so frequently kept in the dark. Yesterday, the organizers ( including Alexandra Brodsky, Dana Bolger, Annie Clark, Andrea Pino, Sophie Karasek, Ali Safran, and Tucker Reed) delivered boxes — boxes! — full of signatures to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, urging him to follow through on the many, many complaints of Title IX violations survivors across the nation had made. The rally brought survivors from all over the country together to make clear that we will not be kept silent.
And they helped me heal just a little bit more.
My rape changed everything. It’s the only time in my life where I recognized that happening. It’s very black and white: my life was a certain way before my rape, and afterward my reality was totally different. I was no longer a happy-go-lucky college sophomore. I became one of the walking wounded, unable to sometimes even see straight when I tried to comprehend what had happened to me. I was broken. He broke me.
This is not to say there haven’t been moments since that have been uplifting and empowering, and that brought back pieces of myself that I thought were long gone: I planted a flower in University of Maryland’s Survivor Garden, mourning my old self and all that I had lost; I spoke at Take Back the Night, sharing all the nitty-gritty details of my rape for the first time with a crowd of stranger; I strutted around in my “Got Consent?” undies at SlutWalk, slightly self-conscious but nonetheless empowered. And then there was yesterday. At Ed Act Now, I stood with other survivors, completely unashamed and unapologetic about what had happened to me. I chanted until my voice was hoarse, mostly out of joy that the movement to end sexual violence has grown from a whisper to a roar.
Secretary Duncan: We look forward to hearing from you. And to the organizers of ED Act Now, in case you didn’t hear me before: thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.