On Monday morning, I saw the dress I am now wearing lying on my floor and became nauseated. I thought back on how, two semesters ago, before my title 9 hearing, I had spent so much time and energy deciding what to wear, and finally settled on this dress because I thought it made me look wholesome and although I was not the one on trial, I knew I was entering a situation where my innocence would not be assumed. At the time, this seemed like nothing more than a practical step, but yesterday, when I thought of myself dressing up to try and prove something to Scott Backer, I felt so violated and disgusted, not only because Wesleyan forced me to trust a sexual predator when I was at my most vulnerable, but also because the reporting and judicial process at this school made me feel like I needed to prove my innocence. I can only imagine how much heavier that burden would have been were I not a white cis woman. This is not an acceptable way to make survivors of sexual assault feel period, no matter who is facilitating the judicial process.
Scott Backer organized my hearing and was on the panel of people who decided its outcome, so when I first learned what he had done, I was so angry. I was angry that this man let my perpetrator sit at the same table as me and read to a panel of supposedly objective people that I had not been wearing underwear when he assaulted me. I was angry that he had been allowed to say that I had been dancing with him and flirting with him and that counted as me consenting. I was angry that he had been allowed to have a witness who had hooked up with him and told the panel that at that time, he had been a complete gentleman, so how could he have assaulted me? I was angry that my perpetrator had been allowed to testify that I had “enjoyed” my assault. But most of all I was angry that this trauma, which I have been trying to move past, was once again all I could think about.
Yet now, I am recognizing the futility of trying to forget these injustices, because unless something changes they will be suffered by survivors again and again. Even if my reporting process had not been facilitated and to some extent decided by a sexual predator, my experience was not right. It is not right that my perpetrator was found guilty of sexual assault and given a one year suspension. That is a slap on the wrist. That is letting a known assailant rejoin the student body. I should never have stopped being angry. Out of a desire to forget, I did not act to change a process that I knew was not running the way it should.
This anger is horrible, but I believe that it can be transformed into productive action. As a community, we are enraged and we are powerful. Let these events be a reminder of the fact that this institution consistently puts its public image before the health and safety of its students, particularly trans students and students of color. Wesleyan has shown us time and again that it cannot help survivors of sexual assault, even though that is its responsibility to us as students. I believe that the only way we can move through trauma is to work for the students of the future. There must be a system in place to help students who are assaulted and it cannot function as it has in the past.