Sometimes, the power of a woman leaves me speechless. This is one of those times. So, I will step aside and let my dear friend speak, and I will listen.
Dear Mrs. DeVos,
There are moments in life where things happen and you never forget where you were, or what you were doing when they transpired. Yesterday, for me, was one of those times. I was searching for information to aide my “Dreamer” clients when my phone vibrated. On my screen, the words “Breaking News” flashed. I had no idea upon opening the notice, that I would be dealt a blow that would take me back to one of the worst moments of my life. The words “Betsy DeVos to rescind Obama-era Title IX sexual assault guidelines,” will be forever in my mind.
While attempting to read the attached article, I had to stop several times to refocus my eyes. I kept seeing myself powerless, my body wanting to writhe in pain, but motionless. I saw my tear stained eyes gazing at the ceiling, wishing I could turn tile into shape shifting works of art. As my best friend helplessly watched as three high school football players took their turns, they all had the same Cheshire cat smile. They grinned, high-fived, and cheered one another. It was almost as if they knew they had taken something that I could never get back.
I begged and pleaded with my friend to not say a word. I went to the restroom and tried to make myself as presentable as I could for History class. Unbeknownst to me, my friend was in the principal’s office, telling what she was sadly made to witness. I was called down to the office, and upon arrival, was met by police officers and administrators. Knowing we had a very important football game against our arch rivals, and to avoid being blamed for my own misfortune because I skipped Biology class, I decided to say “I am sorry, she is mistaken, nothing happened. I am sorry to have wasted time and resources that could have been better used elsewhere.” The officers, looking perplexed as I had not managed to remove all of the evidence, asked me three times if I was sure that I wanted to take no action. I doubled down. I did not want to make a rash accusation, since according to you “the definition of what constitutes sexual assault is too broad.” Since I skipped class, I think you would most likely say that I was partially responsible.
The principal wrote me an excuse, and I was allowed to go home. I handled the rape the way you are suggesting. I took responsibility for my actions. I didn’t blame anyone else, I didn’t point the finger, or ruin three young men’s lives. Since there are no national statutes regarding sexual assault, and state laws tend to be even more murky, I bypassed the system and punished myself. Sexual Assault convictions are almost impossible, due to several factors. First, it is difficult to get someone to report. Second, the cycle of victim blaming and shaming is almost akin to being brutalized all over again. Sadly, I am still serving the sentence for being a woman, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, wearing a cheer uniform. I think you would be proud of me. While the men who assaulted me are living full lives, I am just now, after years of eating disorders, and cripplingly low self-worth, eligible for parole. I do believe that after years of hard work, rebuilding my life and myself from the ground up, that I should be the first benefactor of your recension policy. You may have been right after all, Mrs. DeVos. A young person who had a bright future ahead of them, was wrongfully punished, and the world will most assuredly miss out on what could have been.