Why We Need Rumors

Design by Anasthasia Shilov

The first week of school this year was very different from the first week of school last year. Instead of running around to all the Camp Yale parties, afraid to sidle up the driveways of the sloping Lake Place townhomes, I knew exactly which house was throwing what party. Last year, I spent the whole week bemoaning my naivety, shaking my fist at my embarrassing status as a freshman, assuring myself sophomore year would be better. This year, I miss the innocence. 

When I arrived last fall, I had seen the documentaries. I knew the statistics. I knew as a girl on a co-ed campus, my chances of being assaulted were one in five. (Some studies say the odds are even worse.) I’d taken self-defense classes, steeled myself for the impending confrontation with the reality of campus rape culture. But let’s be honest: I didn’t know what it meant. 

When it happened in October, I was furious with myself. I knew I shouldn’t have followed this big man to his room, and I knew I shouldn’t have let him get on top of me, and I knew the chances of trusting someone weren’t in my favor. And deep down, I was mad that the next morning I had a panic attack in the back of my lecture class when a few massive, benign football players sat near me. I was afraid I could never look at a big man again without fear. 

This year, I’m entirely aware of my vulnerability. But that’s not what concerns me most. What’s really pissing me off is the widespread ignorance of how much it takes to report sexual misconduct on this campus—let alone to pursue and achieve a just outcome.  After my experience, I didn’t submit a Title IX complaint. I was afraid of the toll it might take. Three months later, my friend survived an assault, and chose to go to Title IX. I took notes for her on hours’ worth of Zoom meetings with the officers. She ended up dropping a class so that she could balance the investigation with her schoolwork. It was grim. 

But these days, we whisper about “Title IX allegations” as though they have no weight. If someone goes through with filing a Title IX report, they have to work through a lot of pain and fear—not to mention a lot of paperwork—to do that. A Title IX allegation isn’t just a rumor; it’s a step someone takes when they feel they need protection.

I’m just going to say it: if a member of our class has multiple Title IX allegations against him we should care. I don’t want to see him waltzing around campus flanked by an ever-loyal group of girls, or skipping up the steps into Sig Nu. I don’t care if he has coke or if he’s on a team.

I know I sound angry, and it’s because I am. Last year’s Title IX Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct revealed that just two Yale College students were asked to take time off from school, representing less than 5% of the complaints made. I told my friend this at breakfast and he said, “I could name five guys right now that should have taken time off.” 

The system isn’t working. I know we want it desperately to work. But we all know that a guilty verdict is almost impossible to obtain.  I’ve seen guys sigh with relief when complaints against their friends are declared unsubstantiated. “Circumstantial evidence”—women’s testimony—is insufficient to administrators. 

So what are our other options? Everyone wants to kick the responsibility to Title IX, but that process is failing us. Don’t let a guy you’ve heard has Title IX allegations against him into the party. Don’t protect him. Let people know what you know. Don’t go trying to investigate who the victims are, but don’t keep the identity of a known aggressor a secret. You’re not ruining his life. You’re not denying him a job. Yale won’t kick him out. And you’re not sending him to prison. You’re just denying him the privilege of High Street beer pong. You’re stripping him of access to places where he can harm others. 

Many of the worst offenders on this campus are insulated from the consequences of their actions by money, by clout, by their friends. So I’m asking you, Yale: are we going to care this year? Or are we only going to care about serving a predator his social due when it becomes fashionable, picking and choosing our fights because one of the rapists is pretty rich so we’ll let that one slide. 

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