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Letter to the Editor: Northwestern treats anonymous sexual assault reports seriously, and so should we

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I want to begin this response to the letter to the editor published Monday in The Daily entitled “Wait for the facts before rushing to judgement based on unverified accusations” with a very explicit trigger and content warning for rape and sexual assault.

As a two-time survivor, I want to foreground this letter with the stakes of victim blaming for the survivors on campus I call my sisters, brothers and non-cisters — the most resilient people I have ever known. I am a survivor, not a victim, because of the survivors on this campus.

In accordance with the definition of “confirmation bias” in Monday’s letter, if we refuse to believe that campus culture is a rape culture, then no rape allegation — especially an anonymous one — merits action. If one holds fast to a belief that anonymous complaints are less legitimate or potentially unverifiable, then people will be disincentivized to report their peers’ trauma.

This letter selectively cites Rolling Stone’s article as context for the Northwestern community’s response to recent events. Numerous studies find statistics on false reporting to be between 2 and 10 percent, according to The Washington Post. The National Sexual Violence Resource center cites three separate studies concluding 7.1 percent, 5.9 percent and 2.1 percent. And still, the anomalous Rolling Stone incident was selected as evidence.

NU treats anonymous reports seriously, giving people the option to file a report electronically. As members of the NU community, so must we.

The letter refuses to hold hegemonic structures accountable for their endorsement of misogynistic masculinity and subsequent dehumanization of female-assigned bodies. This unwillingness is connected to the structures that secure white, cis privilege among faculty at institutions such as NU. These are the very structures that produce a confirmation bias against and invalidate survivors.

The rhetoric that demands “we know exactly what happened” before taking action is trauma-inducing for survivors. I would hope any educator would feel that same obligation toward allyship to their students, some of whom are among the survivor community.

I survived rape twice. Once, I was asleep in a room full of people. Once, I was immobilized by a partner I stayed with. It wasn’t long before I came to Northwestern, and I didn’t yet have the knowledge to call it what it was. I have not reported. As a non-binary, the paradigm of Rape Trauma Syndrome informed me that my assaults were validations of my body as legible. I continue to grapple with this notion.

I cannot sleep in the same location for more than two nights in a row. I have to see the door in every classroom I am in. I cannot be approached from behind without experiencing a panic attack. My RTS, PTSD and internalized transphobia — in concert with my punitive self-harming behaviors — have informed every day I have spent on this campus, and the two quarters I spent away from it.

I am infinitely grateful to all the professors, advisers and mentors on this campus who told me they believe me. That it is not my fault; that they see me. I feel safe knowing they would say the same to any survivors on this campus.

Hannah Merens,
Weinberg senior

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