I am a survivor of campus sexual assault, and I am terrified of what Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos could do. At her direction, the Department of Education is considering rescinding the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, a pivotal document that outlines schools’ longstanding obligations under Title IX to support survivors of sexual violence and protect their access to education. This would have devastating consequences for the thousands of survivors who rely on the document to guide schools on how to adequately address violence and discrimination.
The night I was sexually assaulted, I was wearing a button that said “I <3 Consent.” I had pinned it onto my dress after begrudgingly agreeing to be my friend’s date to a sorority dance. Halfway through the night, I found myself having more fun than I expected, and I got excited to see pictures from the dance.
But soon enough, my friends found me crying on the floor of the bar coat room. My button was still on. Another student had sexually assaulted me. I couldn’t have predicted the way the assault would shake me to my core, causing my campus to become a place where I was always afraid and looking over my shoulder.
The following weeks were the hardest of my college career. I could barely sleep and struggled to make it through class without panicking. I found myself avoiding campus as much as possible, often skipping classes and never venturing out at night. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming fear of running into my perpetrator on campus. My education didn’t seem worth the risk.
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