A rape survivor’s frustration with new USG policies

Photo courtesy of Ben Keyserling

***TRIGGER WARNING: The following article contains information about sexual assault which may be triggering to survivors***

Almost two years ago, I was raped. I have never used the word rape before because I thought it sounded too harsh. Whenever I shared my story with someone, I would always say “I was sexually assaulted,” which was true, but also much easier to say than “I was raped.” I wanted to preserve the comfort of those in whom I would confided. However, with my current state of extreme frustration, I will say it. I was raped.

First, a little background. Like many of you may know, The University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents (BOR) adopted a new sexual misconduct policy for all USG schools. Before this new policy took effect, each university in the state had its own policy defining sexual misconduct, and its own standardized procedure on how to address violations of their policies. Now, every school must abide by this new policy set forth by the BOR.

While the majority of this new policy lines up with Tech’s old policy, one notable difference is in the hearing process for sexual misconduct violations. The new policy includes a looser definition of consent and the addition of a testimony to a three-person panel, which replaces the past model of reporting individually to a third-party investigator. Under Tech’s old policy, survivors of sexual assault never had to come face-to-face with their attacker; they only had to testify to the third-party investigator. Now, however, that’s not the case. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty details about the hearings process, read up on them in Article of the USG Board of Regents Policy Manual.

Now, back to why I am upset. This new policy was enacted on July 1, 2016. I was raped almost two years ago, and I submitted my complaint just before the new policy took hold. Before I was raped, I never understood why anyone would not report their assault. I assumed it was because of the discomfort and pain brought up by having to re-live every detail of the attack and present it to a complete stranger. After having done this, I can confirm that, indeed, that was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

But that is not the reason I am currently so frustrated. It did not drive me to write this article. I was prepared for that experience. What was I not prepared for? In a couple days, it will be three months since I reported my assault. I still have not received a decision on my case. Not even an update from the investigator. Yes, having to recount one of the most traumatic events of my life to an outside investigator was agonizing, but what is more infuriating is the bureaucratic hold-ups that have kept me waiting for almost 90 days for a decision on my case that should be black and white.

Tech, you talk a big game about being passionate about ending sexual assault, but I would like to challenge you to thoroughly examine how you treat people once they have been sexually assaulted on your campus. I realize the old sexual misconduct policy under which I filed my complaint is irrelevant now that the new USG policy has taken effect, but do not forget about me. I am still here, waiting to see if I will have to walk across the stage with my rapist at graduation this May.

I consider myself a patient person, but this is ridiculous. Had I submitted this request right after I had been raped, waiting three months for a decision would have been unbearable. I have grown more accustomed to the anxiety that comes with having one of your peers rape you — the nagging feeling that you will see them everyday on your walk to class, or that constant worry that they will tell their friends what happened. Yes, I am well adjusted to the struggles of being a rape survivor, but that does not mean that it is okay to keep me waiting this long. That is why I am so upset and disappointed.

Tech has hired some of the most passionate and supportive staff in Health Promotions, whose help is vital to the success of a survivor’s healing. However, Health Promotions does not make policies that govern how sexual misconduct is handled. It is not their fault that I have been waiting on my verdict for almost three months, and it is not Tech’s fault that the BOR has enacted a policy that none of us like. It is, however, Tech’s duty to hold their students to a code of conduct that ensures each student feels safe and respected. When someone violates that code, it should be Tech’s top priority to enact justice.

Two years ago, I was violated in one of the worst possible ways by a fellow Tech student. Tech, I implore you to not let every case in the future end up looking like mine. I know the new policy is less than ideal, but the way you implement the policy and support your survivors can make all the difference. Because while a few business days may seem like nothing for you to help expedite a sexual misconduct case, it feels like a lifetime in the life of a survivor.

To the Tech student body: if any of this resonates with you, I urge you to please submit a complaint to the BOR to remedy the damage that the new policy is undoubtedly causing survivors that recently reported their incidents.

Lastly, to survivors of sexual assault in the Tech community: you are strong, you are loved and you can make it through this. I know it seems like the journey to healing is never-ending, but you will make it through this stronger than ever. Do not let my frustrating experience with reporting sexual assault deter you from reporting if you feel led to do so. You deserve justice if you wish to seek it. The staff at Health Promotions will support you along the way, whether you choose to report or not. They will not pressure you into reporting if you do not feel like it is the right move for you. Talking to them was one of the best moves I made in my journey, so I urge you to consider talking with them.

***Because the author of this letter asked to remain anonymous, the Technique had to follow additional procedures before publishing this letter, which is why it was pulled from online for some time. Please know that the Technique encourages and supports all survivors who come forward  and hopes to provide a safe and open platform for all to share their stories.***