During her confirmation hearing, Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of education, Betsy Devos, waffled when she was asked about whether she plans to uphold the Title IX guidance set forth by President Obama. That law is perhaps best known for giving girls equal opportunity in school sports, but Title IX is also important because it guarantees that we all have a right to a safe and secure education free from fear, harassment, and harm. It’s what guarantees that sexual assault survivors won’t be driven out of school by their attackers, or their peers. Obama’s Title IX directive to schools ensured they were enforcing Title IX rights, and held them accountable. In this op-ed, Mahroh Jahangiri, executive director of Know Your IX, has some words for Betsy as part of her organization and End Rape On Campus’s #DearBetsy campaign, which is an effort to tell Betsy just how important Title IX is for students across the country.
My sophomore year of high school, I was sexually assaulted by another student. The only institution I knew I could report to was the police. That same year, I had listened to multiple conversations at our mosque where people raised concerns about racial profiling and surveillance. As a result, I was too scared to go to the cops with my assault. This was the same institution that was hurting people in my family and people who looked like me. Instead, I reported to no one at all. I ended up dropping out of high school and taking courses online. At the time, I didn’t know I had any recourse through Title IX or my school to help me stay in school.
I imagine a lot would have been different if I had known about Title IX then. I may have actually stayed in school, and experienced my junior and senior years the way my peers did. I thought the only way to get any space away from the perpetrator would have been to go through a brutal criminal trial. If I had known I could switch out of classes or get an extension on assignments that month after the assault, I could have stayed in school. Unfortunately, I, along with countless other women and people of all other genders, didn’t have that opportunity. Too many of us had to drop out in order to have some semblance of safety in our lives.
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