Content Warning: This article contains references of sexual assault.
One thing you should know about me is that I’m known for the clothes I wear: the neon pants, chunky Doc Martens boots and colorful, dramatic printed sweaters. My Instagram bio even proclaims that I’m “chronically overdressed.” My friends sometimes question why I always have to be the most overdressed person in the room — I have no answer other than the fact that my style makes me feel like me, and I’m unrecognizable without it.
Many survivors of sexual assault immediately dispose of the clothing they were dressed in when they were assaulted. There’s something symbolic to throwing away a piece of the evidence, ridding yourself of the remnants of a traumatic event. You can’t stand to touch something that your assaulter weaponized. But for me, the clothes I was wearing were a part of who I am. The green jeans I wore are beloved and I could never fathom getting rid of them. I’m wearing them as I write this. And yet, the Emory University student who assaulted me said in his report that he didn’t remember what I was wearing that night. He remembered that I wasn’t that drunk, that I was the one who kissed him and that I didn’t run away or physically assault him. But not what I was wearing.
I was sexually assaulted in my sleep on March 18, 2022. It was by someone I knew, in my own bed. It took me a month to realize what had happened to me. One April day, as I put on my green jeans, I finally let the memories flood in and let myself begin to unravel the events of that night. Minutes after coming to terms with what had happened, I submitted a Title IX report. My gut told me I had to do something; I had to see him face repercussions for his actions. Most importantly, I had to teach him about how to treat others — especially vulnerable, intoxicated girls.
Within days, my investigation began. Little did I know that I was signing up for a seven-month long process that would retraumatize me over and over again and leave me feeling more broken than I already did. I was forced to relive my assault time and time again in front of apathetic, distant advisors, read through reports by my assaulter claiming that I was an attention-seeking liar and witness photos and videos of my assault. I endured seven months of this with no lawyer, no counselor, no advisor and no support from Emory. I did it all by myself.
At the beginning of the investigation, I had meetings with my case coordinator and was sent document upon document outlining the process of Formal Resolution, the Title IX resolution option that often ends in disciplinary consequences when the respondent is found responsible. I was thrown into the deep end, forced to weed through pages of legal terminology and bureaucracy. I was continuously told by the office that this case would likely be over by the time next semester started. That was my finish line: the day I would be healed and justice would be mine, and that’s what the Title IX office led me to believe. I was naive to believe that my trauma would have a deadline, but I needed a light at the end of the tunnel.
What followed in the investigation was the hardest part. I had to tell my story to a case coordinator and write it out in excruciating detail. I have never told my full story to anyone else, even my closest friends and family, and now I had no choice but to tell it over and over to strangers who frankly didn’t seem to care. Throughout the investigation, I sporadically received reports and evidence provided by the boy who assaulted me over email. I became conditioned to panic whenever I heard the recognizable email notification sound.
But each time I got a report, weeks of radio silence would ensue. I didn’t receive a single email over summer break. I was only given more information or a next step from the office if I advocated for myself and emailed whichever new case coordinator Emory had hired at the time. Throughout the process, I had three different coordinators overseeing my case. The quick turnover time means I’ve never seen two out of those three coordinators face to face, and they’ve never heard my story beyond a clinical retelling on paper. Maybe it’s not that they don’t care. But it’s hard to trust a stranger with the most personal information I’ve ever shared when I’ve never received so much as a “we’re here for you.”
I could go on and on about how Emory is failing its students through a process that serves no one except abusers. I could walk you through every name that I’ve been called by my assaulter, every panic attack I’ve had when seeing him on campus and every club meeting or event I’ve had to skip so I wouldn’t run into him. But the important thing is that Emory has done nothing to protect me from this. Emory has not ensured that I am physically or emotionally safe. Emory has done nothing to comfort or support a 19-year-old survivor who has endured the trauma of a lifetime. Emory is failing every survivor that is brave enough to come forward with their story, and this failure costs us weeks, months and years of our lives. I’ve had so many parts of my college experience stolen from me by my assaulter and the school that has failed to keep me safe from him. We must demand better for ourselves, our friends and the survivors too scared to speak up because of the legacy of Title IX on campus. It’s time we get the protection we deserve. But until then, I’ll keep telling my story and wearing my neon green jeans.
With the help of multiple student organizations, I’ve been working on Title IX reform on campus. We’ll be holding a Stand with Survivors Rally for Title IX reform on Dec. 2 from 12:30-2 p.m. in Asbury Circle. I hope you’ll join us and rally for meaningful change.
Amanda Wendler (25C) is from Westfield, New Jersey.
Emory’s Title IX resources can be found here. The RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline can be found here. The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA) can be found here. Grady Rape Crisis Center resources can be found here. Day League resources can be found here.