Caroline Ahearn ‘20
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Holy Cross’ Feminist Forum and the Student Government Association hosted Sage Carson, manager of Know Your IX, to speak on April 17 in the Levis Browsing Room in Dinand Library.
A recent graduate of the University of Delaware, Carson now manages Know Your IX, a survivor-led youth advocacy project which empowers students to learn about dating violence, sexual violence, and their rights in regards to these matters. Ultimately, Know Your IX’s mission is to educate students on what their rights are under Title IX, and how to advocate for these rights.
Her talk centered around why it is necessary to adopt a civil rights approach to end sexual violence. Carson began by educating the room on gender violence: violence that maintains structural and cultural gender inequalities and unequal power relationships. It consists of all violence against women, men, transgender, and gender-nonconforming individuals, disproving the common misconception that gender violence is only committed by cisgender men towards cisgender women. Gender violence can include sexual assault, sexual misconduct, domestic violence, stalking, and online harassment, and it is extremely prevalent, particularly in youth aged 16-24. This age group has the highest rate of experiencing sexual and dating violence. 1 in 3 high school students experience dating violence, and 43 percent of college-aged women experience dating violence. This statistic is even higher for women of color, and gay and bisexual men are over 10 times more likely than heterosexual men to experience sexual and/or dating violence.
Carson highlighted the impact that sexual assault can have on an individual. Survivors can feel psychological and emotional impacts after the attack and may socially isolate themselves by not leaving their dorm room out of fear of running into their attacker. As well as psychologically, sexual assault can also negatively impact education. Isolation leads to missing class, which significantly interrupts education. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education. It establishes equity in all aspects of education: STEM, athletics, protections for pregnant and parenting students, and protections for survivors. Schools handle sexual assault cases under Title IX because sexual assault can stop a survivor’s ability to access their education, despite the fact that they have the right to equal access to education.
Carson went on to highlight the extent of rights protected under Title IX. Survivors have a right to an education, a right to file a complaint against their abuser and have a clear, well-publicized, and equitable process for responding to the survivor’s complaint, a right to protection from retaliation, and a right to reasonable accommodations and services.
Carson also spoke about the future of Title IX under the Trump administration and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. In particular, Carson discussed the importance of Notice and Comment, the bureaucratic process that occurs during the period in which the public has input on a proposed regulation. In this case, there are proposed regulations on Title IX, which, if passed, schools cannot ignore. There will be a notice of proposed rulemaking, where the Department of Education reveals the proposed regulation to the public and begins the comment period. Carson urged attendees of her talk to write thoughtful comments about the proposed regulation, complete with statistics and hard evidence, because the Department of Education is required to respond to each substantive comment.
Carson and her colleagues at Know Your IX have been cut out of meetings with Devos since June, but the Secretary has been taking meetings with groups that advocate for the rights of abusers and the dismantling of Title IX regulations. Now, more than ever, it is important for advocates for the rights of sexual assault survivors to speak out and participate in the bureaucratic process, in order to protect our civil rights under Title IX.
Caitlin Daniels ‘18, co-chair of Feminist Forum, helped bring Sage Carson to campus. “With 20-25 percent of women reporting being sexually assaulted over their four years of college, it is essential to raise awareness about the rights of survivors and programs that should be put in place to create safer college communities,” she said. “While Holy Cross feels like such an insular place, it is important to recognize that sexual violence happens here and that we all play a role in dismantling systems that allow violence and rape culture to exist. As Title IX is increasingly under attack, it was really exciting to have Sage on campus to explain the changing implementations of the law.”
Organizations across the Holy Cross campus have also participated in events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, such as Fresh Check Day and Denim Day. The Relationship Peer Educators also facilitated the One Love Foundation’s Escalation Workshop, and SGA hosted a lobby table to gain signatures for a letter to the Trump administration advocating for the protection of Title IX
Sexual Assault Awareness Month will conclude on campus with a Take Back the Night rally organized by the Feminist Forum on the Hoval on Thursday, April 26. The event will feature anonymous student testimonials regarding sexual, relationship, and domestic violence, information about on campus resources, information about how violence disproportionately affects women of color, and a performance of Kesha’s “Praying” by the women in acapella groups on campus.