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My Title IX Report Experience: False Claims, Victim Blaming, & Backstabbing

5 years ago, I reported my abuser to my college. Here’s what happened when I filed that Title IX report.

(Trigger warning: sexual ,physical, and abuse; gaslighting—there are some graphic, heavy parts in this blog)

She was my best friend for years. We went to high school together, spent all our free time working on art pieces in the studio, prepping our portfolios for college. 

We went to different schools, me to Maryland Institute College of Art, her to something more northeast. But, she struggled. After a mental breakdown, something about stalking a fellow student, she left that school. I convinced her to transfer to mine and she did. I thought she needed my support, I wanted to take care of her.

Instantly, the abuse started. 

Over the summer, in our shared hometown, she’d rape me in my childhood bedroom. I was too shocked to process what my best friend was doing, I convinced myself it was consensual even when I was crying, shaking, hurting. Even though I had a boyfriend. Even though I was gay.

It continued into college. She’s stay in my room, keeping me up until 4, 5 in the morning with abuse. There were more nights I was abused than nights I was free. 

Progressively it got more violent. She acted as if she was “possessed” by the spirit of my childhood abuser (as she was the one person I’d confided in that I was abused as a child too) and I believed her. 

She didn’t want to abuse me, she was just “possessed.” It was easier than coming to terms with my best friend doing these horrific things to me…

The abuse got worse, I kept denying what was happening

We became roommates when I had an internship. That was when it hit me how unsafe I was. She started holding knives to my throat, locking me in closets for hours, drowning me in the bathtub if I resisted. I was beaten until I was bloody, I probably broken ribs. I’d bleed internally for days. I had no way of getting to the hospital—I had no way of escaping safely. 

Plus, for a while, I still believed it was consensual…just BDSM. (“That’s what it’s like, right?” For reference, no, it’s not at all like that.)

By the end, I knew I needed to get out. I took my chance when our lease was up to live separately at college. I didn’t even think of filing a Title IX report yet. This was all just a mistake, I needed space. I needed to understand why this had happened. 

The reason “why” she abused me

She came over once more, to apologize, after I told her it wasn’t safe to be her friend anymore. I needed to know why she “let” the spirit of my childhood abuser hurt me—then I could decide if I had to walk away for good or not.

Her excuse? “It felt good. I could feel the pleasure too.”

“You were so attractive.”

(When I was bleeding on the ground in front of you? When I was crying? When I was begging for you not to kill me??)

That rocked my whole world. The delusion I’d held onto, that she wasn’t at fault and it was just my childhood abuser’s spirit—him moving through her—shattered. She WANTED to do this to me.

I couldn’t get out of bed for three days. I barely managed to text a friend to ask her to bring some food from the dining hall. This was the deepest, most traumatic betrayal I’d ever faced. 

Before I thought this wasn’t her fault, I convinced myself out of realizing she was abusing me. But now it was all an inescapable truth. I spoke up.

This is also what spurred me to file a Title IX report.

I needed to keep myself safe. We had classes together, she had started following me around campus.

That week, I was thrown into appointments with student affairs. Two hour long interviews and statements of all that had happened over the past 13 months. I, fortunately, did not need to face my abuser in the same room. Our interviews were separate. 

But, my abuser wasn’t done tormenting me. She filed a counterclaim, citing the fact that she was depressed and said she couldn’t consent. 

First off, people living with mental illness CAN consent (just not in the middle of a crisis). Second, she assaulted me during panic attacks, dissociation, and more. I was the one who couldn’t consent!

And…of course, the abuse victim is never assaulting their perpetrator by being abused. Sure, we were intimate…but it was forced on me. Her reporting me in retribution was gaslighting at its best. 

I remember being called into the office, told she had filed a claim that I had been the one to rape her. I was so numb, I started shaking, nodding and listening to how the procedure would go. I’d need to be interviewed by a new person, I’d need to defend myself all alone. 

The counterclaim was quickly dismissed, but fighting a false Title IX report was terrifying.

Once this was solved, she appealed the result that she was at fault and would face penalties for it. We went through everything all over again, three months after the initial report. Everything was dissected. Her parents were given access to the 100 page report (which is illegal, I learned later. You dropped the ball on that one, MICA). 

I had to review the entire case too. Read all 100 pages, everything all witnesses said about me. My closest friends simultaneously validated I was abused and blamed me for all that happened. They validated I was almost killed multiple times, while saying I was reporting just because I wanted attention. 

I lost all my close friends. Every single person on campus knew who I was because of the vicious rumors spread about me. Some people stood by me, many questioned my sanity. 

I kept leading, I kept being a model for the residents I watched over. I kept attending classes. Somehow, I got a 4.0. Work was safe for me, it was the only place of peace. I poured everything into my art. 

The case was finalized 4 months later—here was the result:

She was expelled. She was banned from being on campus for any reason. It was a victory, but it didn’t feel like one. I was too traumatized to celebrate. But, at least I was safe enough. My friends, even those that dropped me, were safe from her. 

It was the best outcome, but it was a fight to get there. And I’m the only person I know who’s abuser actually got expelled. That’s really only due to undeniable proof she’d tried to kill me several times. Other survivors should have had their cases taken as seriously, even if their abusers weren’t as violent.

How this Title IX report affected the rest of my life

The semester after the report, I took a leave of absence. A year later, I left for good. It was unbearable to be on campus, even though I loved college.

I moved a little ways away, started taking on odd jobs. I began healing, going to therapy, growing stronger. During this journey, I also fell down many times. I struggled. I wrote about my experiences, people started to look up to me. That spurred me to keep going. That drove me into the work I do today. Learning how to rise made me realize my journey—even just sharing it—was changing the lives of others for the better. 

Today, I’m blessed to be able to help other survivors.

I’ve built a life I love, even with the PTSD that remains. I have an amazing fiancé, a sweet dog, a nice and safe apartment, I run businesses I love. I’ve reclaimed my art too—making a cute dog-themed tarot deck

This Title IX report was one of the hardest things I’ve done, and sometimes it still hurts to look back on. But that’s okay. Of course it’s going to ache, even if that pain has lessened over time. What happened was unfair, terrifying, and traumatic. 

My abuser still does art. It hurts whenever I see it, knowing I had to give up on my illustration career because of the trauma I went through. 

But, I think I made something better. I fought and healed and now I elevate other survivors. I was stomped on, broken, and I rose up and bloomed again. And I’m going to keep growing, sparkling, and healing. Plus, I haven’t given up on art either.

I survived this—you can too. You can learn to shine again.

If you are considering filing a Title IX report against your abuser, or have a story to share, please comment. I want to elevate your voice—I want you to feel heard, whatever outcome and struggles you faced. 

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  1. Adrienne MacIain

    Your bravery is a true inspiration. Thank you for speaking out and up!

    • Arien Smith

      Thank you so much, Adrienne!


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November 17, 2020