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Students express grievances over Title IX during Take Back the Night rally


On Wednesday, Oct. 6, the SUNY Brockport Center for Women and Gender, aided by the Prevention and Outreach Services, hosted the first Take Back the Night rally of the fall semester. Take Back the Night is an international charitable foundation that combats sexual violence in all forms since the 1960s across Asia, Europe, Oceania, the Caribbean and North America. 

The rally gave survivors of sexual assault a space to heal and uplift other survivors in an environment that is safe from judgment. Throughout the initial rally, speakers shared their stories of assault while echoing the main message of the night– any survivor of sexual assault must not blame themselves. 

Kaitlin Hill, a former SUNY Brockport student, could not attend the rally but submitted a prerecorded message for the attendants, describing her assault and subsequent feelings of guilt, shame and anger. 

“I somehow fell into this trap where I blamed myself for what had happened,” Hill said. “I believed the misconception that it was my fault, that I was too promiscuous, that I was too drunk, that I was too naive and I shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I am here tonight to tell you that that is bulls—, that I didn’t do anything wrong. What happened to me was not my fault.”  

As more guest speakers shared their stories on surviving sexual violence, another common message emerged among both the speakers and the general audience that SUNY Brockport and its facilities are failing to protect and provide justice for victims of sexual violence. Rachel Rosenberg, a current SUNY Brockport student, spoke about her experience with sexual violence and how resources that are regularly endorsed by campus faculty have failed in their mission to protect survivors.  

“There was a remediation two days after the assault which never should have happened considering this was a Title IX matter, and I had to sit two feet away from the person who assaulted me and address him directly,” Rosenberg said. “Over the course of the investigation, I went through a lot of trauma and had to repeatedly tell my story to a lot of different people who didn’t believe me.”  

Title IX is a federal civil rights law under the Education Amendments of 1972 that prohibits discrimination based on sex within any entity that receives federal funding, especially educational programs. Discrimination, under Title IX, encompasses sexual violence, such as sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking against any individual based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.  

In a statement on the SUNY Brockport website regarding Title IX, the president of SUNY Brockport, Heidi Macpherson Ph.D. addressed the colleges stance.

“SUNY Brockport rejects sexual violence and gender-based discrimination in all forms. Our commitment to establishing and maintaining a climate free of discrimination and violence is guided by foundational principles of integrity, civility, respect and justice.” 

Additionally, another speaker at the rally, Leana Coll, voiced her grievances with Title IX and other Brockport resources as well. She stated that Title IX had failed her.  

Sarah Link, college advocate for sexual assault services addresses the crowd. Photo Credit: Zachariah Lyman.

“Title IX is far from survivor-centered,” Coll said. “When I asked for accommodations during my hearing, I was told, ‘You need to be reasonable.’ What is reasonable is not being assaulted in the first place, what is reasonable is actually having a system in place that centers the survivor and doesn’t protect the assaulter. Survivors need empathy and justice, something the Title IX office felt I was unworthy of.”  

After the presentation, nearly 300 demonstrators walked the streets of the village of Brockport, holding picket signs denouncing sexual assault and yelling chants from cards that were handed out during the presentation. While most of the given chants were exhausted, student demonstrators created more chants, such as “P—- power” and “F— Title IX”, the latter expressing the general discontent with Title IX and the various adjacent resources. The program coordinators and organizers did not condone the latter chant and tried to turn the demonstrators’ focus on more moderate chants.  

Rachel Greene, a peer educator at Prevention and Outreach Services and SUNY Brockport freshman, spoke about the discontent that some students feel regarding Title IX.  

“We as Prevention and Outreach Services and Hazen are trying to continue to work with Title IX to strengthen the resources that we can offer to students and be a support system if we can’t give students justice in the court,” Greene said. “We’re also trying to increase the protection that Title IX has to offer. There have definitely been instances in which students have been failed by them, and it is really disappointing to hear.” 

Greene acknowledges that there are certainly instances where students did not receive the support and protection that SUNY Brockport promised them, but she believes that some resources in place must be reinforced instead of scrutinized in entirety.  

“We’re trying to make students more aware of our services so that they feel like they can come to us and that we can connect them with those resources, but it’s different in every situation,” Greene said. “I think a lot of people’s distrusts of Title IX also comes in with that, we want to be able to support them even if they don’t want to go forward with a court case and they don’t want to press charges. We can just be here as a support system.”  

Regardless of the criticism garnered by many demonstrators against Title IX during the demonstration, Greene believes the rally was ultimately successful in providing a safe space for survivors of sexual violence and creating a more safe and supportive community on campus for survivors.  

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