"Winning" a Title IX case

The post below was written by a friend who has been through a lot in the past few years. I'm hosting it (was previously on pastebin) here to keep a permanent archive and also to make sure it gets seen. I am always shocked at what some universities will do to keep their "reputation" from being tarnished, while destroying those who build that reputation every day. And yet...
It's time we stop being shocked and start making sure this shit doesn't happen at our own universities.

Did I win yet? The papers I have in my hand tell me I've won. Liars have been revealed. Gossip spread about me was shown to be untrue. Misdeeds, harassment and retaliation that were all showered down on me when I participated in a Title IX investigation at my university were revealed. The committee that wrote the report got the major facts right. They named the folks who did horrible things. Some of these people opportunistically piled on me for betraying the 'reputation' of my university. And others were paranoid and crazy to begin with and thought they could gain something by just adding some colorful lies. But this little gem of a report I’m holding, it really managed to dig out the truth. Of course, there is nothing in this report saying any of the liars, gossips, slanderers or attackers should face consequences. The report just says I should not be punished. I should not face consequences for having been truthful in a sexual harassment and retaliation case.

A giant report that spans years of my life is now sitting in my office. It contains my emails. My social media. Testimony about who hates me, and every problem anyone on campus has ever had with me, because disagreeing with me makes me a less credible witness, I guess. The person who ran the Title IX investigation that allowed me to be pulled apart for two years is still working for my university. He allowed my integrity to be openly questioned amongst my peers. What the Title IX investigator actually needed was a statement about what I witnessed. But he took so much more. He took the word of the accused and made me the focus of an investigation. The Title IX investigator took these false allegations to my peers - people who were use to this faculty's harassment, who had justified it to themselves and collaborated with it - just to see if any of them had anything bad to say about me. My report now says the accused was wrong to try to divert attention to me in this way and the Title IX investigator was wrong to pursue me.

But the committee studying this whole thing says I won. Winning is an odd word to put with having paid a lawyer $10,000 to sit in a room with me while lawyers hired by my university asked about my friendships, my sex life, my funding, my marriage. They were also very keenly interested in knowing why was I such a bitch? I stared straight ahead thinking of the $450 and hour my lawyer was charging and wondered what part of my frontal cortex I could dissect and to not be a bitch under these circumstances. I stared straight ahead answering all their questions. For hours and hours. I wasn’t trying to be friendly. I was trying to be honest to the best of my ability and I was focusing intently on the truth.

It turns out this kind of intent focus made me both unlikable and, oddly, less credible. Which is interesting from a scientist’s perspective. I mean…..I don’t have to like you to look at a fact and see if it’s supported. I see many people who don’t like each other agree on science and facts. But lawyers, they get to write reports and discuss how much they like you.....how 'credible' you are. I wish I got a chance to tell them I didn’t like them much either.

Another fun fact about having the tables turned on you and being investigated by someone covering up bad behavior at your university is that you never get to call a single witness on your own behalf. Not a single person who could talk about the minority and mentoring programs I run. No one who can talk about the culture of horrific harassment, gossip and meanness that swirls around here and particularly around ‘women with opinions’. I would have liked to call a witness who could say that maybe this all started when I was at dinner and a senior faculty who collaborated with the accused and he asked me if I was the on top during sex with my husband. And that when I marched into my chairman’s office the next day and told him this was degrading, that I was, in fact, taking on decades of this kind of behavior at my university. That is was not an ignorant comment. It was a hostile culture. I left my chairman to handle it as he saw fit but in doing so, I opened the door to becoming ‘the bitch’. So much for a measured response.

The 'bad guys (and gals!)', the ones that piled on, have all gotten promoted during this process. The university has their back professionally. Having tenure will do that. But I won. I have a report that says so. What I don’t have is a raise, an apology or even an acknowledgement of what the administrators at this school did in an effort to get me to Stop. Telling. The. Truth.
The funny thing is, I would have gladly saved their reputation. At the outset, I wanted to be the poster child for how this process could go right. I was going to make damn sure it went right. It would be hard, but maybe I could help people see the bigger picture of what we needed to do for our students. Apparently no one thought of that. No one bothered to think I might want to help. Now I'm just some sort of weird academic PTSD poster child.

In spite of being a winner, I have to say, I haven’t been very good at my job during these past few years. I have been subject to multiple rounds of investigation. I check the boxes that need to be checked, move up the papers I can, but I use to write 6-8 grants a year. Last year I wrote none. It’s hard to have the energy just to go into work, and with writing a grant I might as well be willing myself to fly. I have no wings.

The university, well, they found in my favor.....mostly. They did want to mention that when they ask me about small details from 10 years ago that weren't even part of any investigation previously but the accused harasser 'just found', one of them found my answers confusing and insincere. Which seems reasonable since I was sincerely confused. And my confusion on this 'thing', it was a topic that had nothing to do with harassment, yet one panelist was so vexed by this 5 minutes of confusion that they repeat over and over under every 'charge' I faced, that my answers to events 10 years ago made me no longer credible. That, as you know, means that person doesn't like me much either. But here I am. It’s 2 am and I've won, dammit. Which is nice when you’re telling the truth and deans and lawyers have told you are lying for so long that the gaslighting has made you think you are a terrible person for pursuing this in the first place.

Early on, I was told by emphatically that not to talk to anyone about this case. I was not to talk to anyone to defend myself against these liars. Friends came to me desperate to help. And I told them to leave it. I also had no advocate to help me. No one to help prepare documents that took weeks to write and rewrite. No one to help me read testimony and put together timelines that would show people were lying.

But, here’s the thing, even in my testimony, I was only telling part of the truth. There’s a whole lot more no one even bothered to ask about. Just between you and me, everyday I walk around feeling like someone is cryosectioning my heart while it beats in my chest. Even worse, I have had people I love walk away from me. Because it’s too much to bear. My tears, my anger and my despair, they are simply too much to bear. They write emails and tell me they support 'my cause' but can't talk to me. I am now a cause. I just wanted my friends back. And there it is...this feeling as though I am having 10 micron sections cut from my heart, day after day, like some freak side show at The Bodies exhibit.

These three years taught me about how anxiety can take a fully capable and confident young scientists and make them sit in their car hoping to get the courage to go into work and cheer my students on, ever fearful they may see thru me. Afraid that my exhaustion, brokenness and sadness will one day over run my desire to see them succeed. I have cried every day since May 9th and many days before that. Sometimes I cry giant ugly fat tears of rage and despair. Other times hot tears of injustice. I have seven main kinds of crying. When you cry enough and you're a scientist, you start to categorize them. My family and friends have seen me turn from exuberant and engaged to shattered and with no clear career path. No one asks me to give their kids tours of the campus anymore because I just sort of mutter things and point at trees. I don’t have anything to say.

Tomorrow I'll talk to the Justice Department. They have assured me that they are the best of the best; that I have followed every step as I should have and now they will take on my university’s Title IX office. They tell me my university loves lawyers and fights hard against any punitive action or being forced to acknowledge wrong doing about sexual assault or harassment. I understood that pretty clearly a long time ago, but I guess it’s nice they confirmed it? The Department of Justice has also told me that the most severe punishment they can impose is to require more training for everyone at my university. Nothing public. Just everyone taking more training. I laughed when they said it. I asked them if they knew training didn't work for sexual harassers. People had studied it and it doesn’t work. Yes, they said…they do know that. I then wonder why I was laughing. Maybe I haven’t found tears for when the Department of Justice says you’re screwed even if you win?

It's 2 am and I’m sitting with my winning report in one hand and knife a friend gave me to protect myself in another. He sent it to me because the person accused of harassment also cyber stalked and intimidated me and my friends. He posted pictures on our account of him with his guns and called us out by name. He told my husband he “didn't have any plans” to hurt me or my children. Others told the committee that yes, he was obsessed with me, but they weren't worried-he couldn't be *that* dangerous. Many a sleepless night I’ve wondered how far I'm going to get with a guard dog and a 3 inch knife and a heart that is barely intact when this man finally goes into his inevitable rage. The knife won't do much. I know this. But I want my friends to know I went down fighting. I wonder when this man's rage will come out fully. Sometimes I’m 100% convinced that will be the day when this all becomes public, and I'll need that knife. On particularly bad nights, when I know he’s been taken to task for his bad behavior that day, I have friends check on me in the morning. To make sure he hadn't killed me in my home. I tell them about what’s happened that day, tell them where my diary is hidden that night and make them remember to tell the police to look him up first. I forbid my children to sleep in my bed. I desperately want to curl up with them, but it seems unsafe for them to be so close to me if he comes. This is what it's like to win your Title IX case.

Friends and the DOJ suggested I call the police. When I did, a very sweet officer came and sat in my living room and told me the kind of gun I should get. And how, when I had to kill the trespasser I was to say, "I was in mortal fear for my life" when the police come. Apparently juries and judges like that. I am, in fact, in mortal fear for my life. This is what it’s like to win a Title IX case.
And if, while I’m talking to the DOJ tomorrow, someone on my campus is be assaulted, the investigator who interviews them may be the same one that helped to turn the tables and make a Title IX investigation about me. He still works here. And he can decide to take a manila folder of information from the victim's assailant and investigate her, because maybe she too will have a credibility problem. Because that's how Title IX works. I should know. I’m a winner.

http://bit.ly/white_flag

19 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    This is really depressing for those who want this to be a decent world.

  • genomicrepairman says:

    Just like to say that I feel awful they had a really fucked up experience when trying to stand up for them and others. A little bit of society's soul is crushed by treating the victims as the accused.

  • civilrightsbaboon says:

    As a civil rights lawyer I have to say that all civil rights laws are intended to protect the person coming forward but the reality is these laws fail and fail miserably. These laws - whether it is Title VII (equal employment) or Title IX of 42 USC 1983 - have been dissected and distorted by federal appellate courts so much that the victim is made to blame.

    If the victim loses a civil rights case then the district court can force the victim to actually repay the costs of litigation. If the victim wins then the institution can pay whatever lodestar amount the court thinks his/her lawyer deserves but not until the lawyer has withstood brinksmanship maneuvers by counsel for the university/employer, etc. I have been called a "fucking lying baboon" which was at least creative. They do anything and everything to dissuade a lawyer from staying on a case and will stop at nothing to include late night filings for sanctions and Friday afternoon "emergency" motions.

    What these laws don't protect is the integrity of process or the integrity of the victim. The DOJ has refused to do its job many times over until citizens of the municipality or students of the university demand that the DOJ actually do something and even then the DOJ can only do what the federal courts allow it to do. Mind you these federal court judges are appointed for life -- known as Article III judges -- and they can be as conservative as they want to be. The federal appellate courts aren't any better.

    So what is the solution? Getting the information out there to be published in the media whether it is on blogs or in newspapers or on TV news stations. It is only when citizens start demanding that universities stop employing and protecting predators that the universities will know they are under the microscope. Without public involvement nothing will change. Not now not ever.

    I realize you cannot publish the name of the university to protect the identity of the victim but please reconsider and post the name of the institution at some point in time so allow the public to become informed and aware.

  • To Civil Rights Baboon: a) This kind of thing happens in every university in the land. It's SOP from coast to coast. And b) publishing the school's name will cause a LOT more trouble for the woman.

    To the author: If you seriously believe this chucklehead will come after you, it's time to cut your losses and run. There IS life outside of academia. Generally the life is better paid and one hell of a lot less annoying. You can't protect yourself with a three-inch knife, nor, given your state of mind and the fact that you have children, should you even think of having a loaded gun in the house.

    The tenor of this screed suggests you are so stressed and so maxed out, you need medical and psychological help to cope with the assaults to which you have been subjected. If you haven't already sought the advice of a good medical doctor and a therapist, I hope you will do so. At the university where I used to work (mercifully, "used to"), one of my colleagues discovered there is a therapist in the city whose ENTIRE PRACTICE consists of university faculty and staff. You are not alone. You don't have to go on suffering.

    You won, evidently a Pyrrhic victory. Now it's time to take care of yourself.

  • The Author says:

    Dear Baboon,
    Every DOJ and DOE lawyer I have interacted with has left me with a greater sense of impotence than the next. Three DOJ lawyers laughed out loud when I told them what I wanted was the whole truth to be told and for my university to apologize.
    As an educator, the idea that nothing will come of these events takes me out at the knees. I've come to find comfort in smart friends (H/T @proflikesubstance et al) who remind me that change is incremental until it isn't. I hope that blogs are an improvement on the usual 'whisper net' of how things are handled.

    Funny About Money,
    I am not alone. I am taking care of myself. My job is scientist and educator. Let those who threaten our students leave. I'm not going anywhere.

    PLS,
    Thank you for crossposting. Pastebin doesn't allow comments and I think this is worthy of discussion. Also, thank you for being a mensch. You Scientopians keep many folks sane.

  • EPJ says:

    Author,

    I think you are strong and have courage and believe in what you think the system should be. Enjoy you family and kids, and be sure that time and introspection heals. Do small healing activities for yourself that put together take you to reaffirming your personal beliefs or to change the wrong ones.

    Justice is just the final stop in an organized social system, but when it is not best fitting to a population it will damage over time every component of that society.

    Perfect words written as laws are interpreted and applied by others, but if there's lack of good moral principles they are worthless, or even damaging.

    Remember that most of these problems are fixable, but very few have the power to make count the ideas and solutions. It is not totally your fault, be sure of that.

  • odyssey says:

    EPJ: "It is not totally your fault, be sure of that."

    Seriously?!?!? So you think some of it is Author's fault? That kind of comment only serves to hurt those who have already suffered.

  • EPJ says:

    Odyssey,

    Are you a scientist? if you are make sure you always question your own contributions to a situation or experimental results, etc. It sure helps in many situations that you are part of it, and in science. You are not gods and are not perfect, that's a good starting point.

    Have yo ever suffered? do you ever engage on self analysis? are you working for the human law or for the natural law system?

    If you want a discussion, fine, but don't put forward unneeded provocations because I read them as coming from a paid provocateur. And don't try it anymore.

  • odyssey says:

    EPJ,
    Yes I'm a scientist. This is not about me questioning my contributions. It's about you questioning someone else's. You honestly think Author has not engaged in the deepest self-reflection over this? Are you really that oblivious? Try reading the post again.

  • The Author says:

    EPJ et al,
    None of this is my 'fault'.
    I told the truth. I am braver than most because the idea that the same Title IX officer can go to a student and be horrifically scrutinized if they are a witness or a victim in a Title IX case is intolerable.
    This sort of 'look at your own' behavior garbage is beneath contempt and I'm entirely grateful to Odyssey, for calling it out. It is not 'unneeded provocation'. It is defending someone Odyssey knows to be on the right side of this terrible experience.
    EPJ, I have no doubt you are not alone in half patting me on the head as you dole out personal judgements. I don't care for your judgement or advice.
    This is the only piece I have ever seen about what it is like to come out on the other side of a successful Title IX case. To have the front line comments suggest I seek mental health care, and not worry about my fault in this is disgusting.
    You are the problem. Believe me. You are the problem and any woman reading this who has faced similar circumstances has just been gut punched by your insensitivity and mansplaining. Shame.
    The Author

  • EPJ says:

    Author,

    Indeed, you are not alone, and that carries weight in more than one way, so I am seeing your situation from actual experiences heard about and lived through, including in internet, you can call it the usual and the very unusual. So I actually believe you, and is not totally your fault because you are interacting with many different types of people and that matters since some people would be more sensitive to things you would not be, especially nowadays.

    So I offered a simple way to start healing from a very damaging situation, and placing emphasis in engaging yourself more since once that process gets going it increases the likelihood of full recovery of yourself. I have noticed that the aim of the aggressors seems to be that of shattering your whole person hood, like it would be with a child, and they succeed because they hunt the most naive and well intentioned. Don't let them recruit you for their cause by keeping you permanently suffering. But if you consider that is garbage then "they" won, for now at least.

    And you are correct in that it is a form of PTSD, not a mental illness but a mental state, that may result because rather than doing wrong you actually tried to do right from the beginning and encountered contradictions to what is expected, so you have to resolve that contradiction by mental exercises and personal assistance when feasible. If you do that part what you conclude will be healing to your mind. About that I just wonder why people in society don't want to do the right things at a common place of work, or in social media. That is a general problem society now has.

    If you want you can notice my sentences: Do small healing activities for yourself that put together take you to reaffirming your personal beliefs or to change the wrong ones. And I am referring there to what happens when beliefs are shattered, or trust is destroyed.

    But, I actually touch a sensitive aspect in the context of a sexual case: "look to your own behavior". it is not what I said in terms of sexual behavior because I am no witness of it. what I said is engage is to engage yourself in revising your part to either reaffirm your belief and possibly change your view on what needs to be to live in a large society that has accumulated many habits and problems that one just needs to overcome in a different way that what is going on, by now too many decades.

    I could tell you more but you have good assistance, obviously, some other people don't even get that, no matter what age they are.

  • Odyssey says:

    Good grief.

  • EPJ says:

    Odyssey,

    self reflection or evaluation while getting ready for a trial is just more stress in the same context, but she can do it at home, away from phones, tv, just doing simple nurturing activities, increasing summaries of her own paperwork for herself, until it is just that bad experience in her own whole life. Basically proportionally put it in the same dimension as other many things one lives in joy.

    Who ever are behind this world wide situation rather need excellent restrain and good medical care.

  • EPJ,

    If you can't see how your "advice" is simply feeding into the narrative of "this happens and you, as a woman, need to change your behavior" then I'm not sure what to tell you.

  • EPJ says:

    proflikesubstance,

    maybe it is when you are focused on that narrative, be it by convenience and on purpose or not, I kind of know that, but fighting over the same narrative favors fixation on it, and the problems are just increasing. So I decided to express an opinion.

    I am no neurologist, so that I'm approaching the situation from a more general stand that includes experiences people live through, as I'm sure scientist can spot due to the skill of analysis being used frequently.

    No, my comment is not about changing your behavior as a woman, though the case is that of a woman, but rather telling you all of a general method to heal the mind when psycoassaults happen, even in the sexuality context, be it real life or through the modern media. That you review the many details you need and place them in writing, like she did, that then you include in the analysis your own contribution because the person is part of the situation in real life, and that it should be a form to resolve the cognitive dissonance that results as a survival and defense of the self (beliefs, ideas, etc). That is the self is shattered it facilitates the integration of the whole person, and that the small nurturing events have a healing effect in real life, that then the view would become less of a zoom in to that of a panorama and recovery of your whole life, as much as possible. In the process a part of your belief may change, or be reaffirmed., even all of it. That's just for the individual, but then you have the environment to deal with, and that gets improved by all of people as much as possible.

    I wonder if it would apply to males too, and maybe you men can tell us if that is or not part of the behavior approach you carry on in your everyday life. Yes?.

    I have noticed that many people are fixed on hurtful events and that the social process we have going lengthen the stay in those events, kind of like a zooming event that is needed for many reasons, and society is being brought down. But the more that people exchange ideas in a non destructive way the better we all will be.

    I get upset about it too.

  • NeurallySound says:

    EPJ, are you a mental health care provider? If not, stop giving mental health advice. And if you are, stop giving unsolicited and plainly unwelcome advice. It's derailing any conversation that could be had about the actual post.

    Thank you for sharing this story. It was heartbreaking to read, but that's why stories like this shouldn't be buried.

  • The Author says:

    EJP,
    Please go punch yourself in the throat.
    Thank you Neurally Sound, PLS and Od.
    -The Author

  • Susan says:

    Author, I am so sorry this saga has happened to you and your life. My thoughts are with you.

  • Richard Aubrey says:

    I see three possibilities:
    -The admin and its toadies were protecting a BMOC.

    They were being vindictive just because they could...maybe this line of work attracts the little Nazis.

    -This result is inevitable, given the way Title IX is interpreted.

    -Other than that...what? Hard to think of a valid reason for this.

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