As you may recall, I’ve been awaiting an incredibly important, incredibly terrifying day – the day of my Title IX hearing against my abuser. And despite my doubts and frustrations with this whole process, this day finally happened.
The hearing was probably one of the hardest, most surreal experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. I won’t even try to recount it, because doing so would be like trying to recount the relationship itself – tedious, grueling, and downright exhausting. But I will mention that during this hearing, I did something I never thought I could do (in addition to this whole process I mean, because I never thought I could do that either). During the hearing, I read my impact statement directly to my abuser. I faced him, looked him right in his eyes, and spoke the words I could never say aloud to him. I stood up to him, showed him that he did not break me, and that he will never silence me. But the most empowering part was that I wasn’t even afraid of him – something I never thought was possible.
Ultimately, Title IX found him guilty and sanctioned him with a conditional suspension of one year, meaning that after this one year suspension, he can only return to school on the condition that he passes a psychiatric evaluation, the chances of which are very slim. And even if he does pass the evaluation, it is unlikely that he will achieve his medical degree with this suspension on his record. Ironically, I received this decision the day before the 2-year anniversary of the night we broke up, when the cops came and my world felt shattered beyond repair. And now, this… the irony never seems to stop. But maybe this story, and the ludicrous process that is Title IX, finally will.
I will say that one year doesn’t feel like enough. Not nearly. And at first, this news felt very disheartening and discouraging to me. But I started to realize that, maybe, nothing would ever feel like enough. After all, how do you put a number on something that changed your life forever?
And although I technically “won,” if anyone really wins at a thing like this, they still didn’t find him guilty of everything he did to me because I didn’t have enough evidence (who ever does, I don’t know). This of course felt incredibly invalidating for me. But then again, maybe this whole thing wasn’t just about me. One of the main reasons I went forward was because this man is on the path to get his medical degree. And based on what he did to me, he is well on his way to becoming another Larry Nassar. I wanted to stop him from having that power over so many people. Because there are so, so many lives he could hurt if he achieves this degree. And although that risk isn’t completely gone, the possibility of him actually becoming an accredited physician is moving further and further into the distance, hopefully, just like this whole story.
And with this victory, I want to remember the very brave woman who stood up to him several years ago, a woman who fought for 2 years through a criminal trial and still lost. I don’t know who or where she is, but I hope she knows that her actions were not in vain. Because what she did made it that much easier for me – to show that this is a pattern of behavior for him and he is not going to change; to convince Title IX that this man should not be a doctor and have power over others; and to get them to wake up and see what’s right in front of them. She made a difference, just like every other survivor who goes forward, no matter what the outcome is.
The world may not always wake up the first time, or even the second or the third. But eventually, it will – when people are left with no other choice but to finally listen and acknowledge the truth. And I guess, I’m living proof of that. To quote the wise words of Mariska Hargitay, “Deep cultural change does not happen overnight. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take enough people in enough communities deciding that they’ve had enough.”