In the second part of our series about sexual assault on campus, Title IX, and “The Lists,” I talk with a person who understands these lists in a ways most of us cannot—he’s actually on one of them. Our original conversations were held in private, have been transcribed, and are reproduced here by a voice actor—all identifying information has been removed.
We talk about the experience of being on one of the lists, how he thinks Title IX could be changed, and what he thinks accountability looks like. While this interview is in no way exhaustive, his perspective and experience is an important part of understanding how issues of sexual violence are being handled at the Claremont Colleges. Please send all thoughts, questions, and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eli Cohen: [00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the second episode of DisCo. Last time, we talked with a number of people about the topics of combating sexual violence, the Title IX process, and one measure, the lists, that were an attempt to bridge the gap between the two. We looked inside our own campuses, and outside as well, to try to see what was being done about this pervasive and disturbing topic.
If you haven't had a chance, I'd recommend giving that a listen first. Today, I want us to hear from another voice that was conspicuously absent from part one, someone who has actually been put on one of these lists. After all, they are the people who are most intimately aware of how these systems actually operate. While producing episode one, I made it generally known that I was looking for such a person in hopes that someone would come forward and offer to speak with me. And someone did. We talked at length, and decided it would be better if our conversations stayed confidential.
To preserve this confidentiality, I transcribed our conversation and had a reader reenact a condensed and edited version. To be clear, the voice you are about to hear is not the person with whom I spoke, the voice you will hear is simply reading a script. One other clarification. While I removed the parts of our conversation, which could reveal the interviewees identity, you should know something about his specific situation. He does not know who put him on the list, and is even unsure of why they might have done so. I do not mean to imply that his experience speaks to every case. Just like I do not think this episode comes close to an exhaustive conversation about this difficult topic.
Eli Cohen: [02:04] Can you describe the experience of being on this list and how it has changed your life in any facet?
Anonymous Respondent: [02:12] The the first impact of this list really was a profound sense of guilt and shame. I'd assume that be considered positive for them. It's kind of in part what they want. So it was kind of it was torturous to imagine what I had done. This, like uncertainty of you've done something wrong, but you don't know what it is can make you think of the worst case scenario. Yeah, it's, it's torturous, for sure.
Then the second effect its had is sort of social paranoia. It is, to some extent real because I thought everyone that everyone hated me. I thought I didn't want to be on this campus. I thought I was seen as a rapist and a monster and right, I thought myself that I was a monster.
Eli Cohen: [03:01] So what do you want to see happen going forward? What would those next steps look like? Are you going to seek some kind of retribution?
Anonymous Respondent: [03:08] I'm on my side, I don't, I don't want to seek anything. I just, I just continue to handle my guilt and shame as well as I can, having conversations with my friends about what this is meant.
Because I'll probably have to deal with this in most of my friend like relationships throughout my time in college, I mean, I have to address it, because I don't always. Well, there's always a fear that they've already been told him or perpetrator, and you don't know how they will react. But they're just conversations so that I'll have to have. And the last ingredient is a little bit like my own accountability, trying to own up to what happened, and I do want to own up to it, it doesn't seem like advocates would believe anyone in my position saying this from the sort of rhetoric they use but but I do care.
I care that I fucked up, I care that I heard someone, I don't understand how they think it's so easy to just brush off an accusation. Making you doubt your worth as a person is something that hits you really hard. Obviously, from from now a number, step number one is to be a lot more aware, and all my relationships in the future, about consent, and be really careful about how I treat others be really careful in my drug consumption and, and that of others. But in the sense of trying to be more accountable, I don't know what I can do. Because at some points, I've even wished I'd been reported. So we could actually actually, you know, know what happened and address it and take responsibility for it and and try to do something. But for now, it's just, I mean, I'm in the dark. So I don't know what can do other than just do better in the future.
Eli Cohen: [05:04] So on the one hand, I find it remarkable, that sometimes you wish you had been formally accused. And and that's telling to me about how difficult this likely has been. But on the other hand, I can see a critique of what you're saying, which would go something like, of course, someone in your position would want to be formally accused, because because everybody knows that people who go through the process, usually get off with minimal consequence. What would you say to a critique like that?
Anonymous Respondent: [05:43] So I think this all comes from frustration about how complicated the Title IX processes and also some legitimate suspicions that the school doesn't have a big incentive to really address sexual assault because they want to protect their reputation.
And I mean, those are really legitimate concerns. What I don't think is that there can be an alternative system. And if you want to handle this better, we just have to put pressure on on the school, and hopefully this has, but then again, advocates need to want to engage in that conversation. And it doesn't seem like they want to do that right now.
Eli Cohen: [06:26] What would be one of your major critiques of the list?
Anonymous Respondent: [06:30] There's an underlying demand for punishment. Because you're sharing this list and you were defaming someone, and even though they think it's for the protection of survivors, I think they're just taking justice into their own hands. They said this before, like, what we want is justice, and the school and Title IX doesn't give us justice. Right. But I think it's pretty insidious to hide your will for vengeance under suppose protection of survivors.
Eli Cohen: [06:55] Let me ask a question about one specific in what you said earlier, which is right, lot of these lists purportedly are not shared, they're managed by one person and one person alone. the privacy of the list is paramount. And, and the consequences of being on the list is supposed to be exclusion from a singular discrete event, or series of events, and nothing more. But what you're telling me definitely does not confirm that. So I think a lot of this is kind of predicated on how seriously the confidentiality of these lists is taken. And when people say that there's not a consequence for for being on the list. Are there other consequences that are very real, but that the the makers of the lists don't publicly say?
Anonymous Respondent: [07:45] I mean, I think it could be the case that I've been put on every list out there. I don't know, so I can't say anything. But when I can say things about it's, it's about literally an advocate herself coming up to me and telling me I've been accused. So I, how the fuck are you defending privacy? And this is the person I respect, the person I actually know as well intentioned, but how do you misunderstand your own systems so profoundly, that you think that that's acceptable?
I've had people not only coming up to me, but someone's coming up to my friends, my friends and my relationships, and people are going out to friends of mine, people around my circle and telling them I'm a perpetrator, and that they should stay away from me.
Eli Cohen: [08:33] Can I ask you a question about that last part, which is about that label of perpetrator, even though you don't have evidence to that label, you you use it on yourself? Can Can I ask you what your thought process is there?
Anonymous Respondent: [08:51] So you said that, though there's no evidence, I am still considering myself a perpetrator of sexual assault? I Yeah, well, for one, I am in the eyes of many people. So that's done. And two, I do believe I heard someone it's just better as a working hypothesis, I guess. Otherwise, like, what am I? I'm just this victim of a witch hunt? Like, I don't think that doesn't take me anywhere. So I think it's better to just admit that I'm flawed, and that I hurt someone and then try and work from there. And then these categories of perpetrator and survivor, I think, I think I understand this is an attempt to be empowering for those who've suffered violence. But I think it's dangerous to put people in these categories and create sort of a sort of identity around which side you're on. It seems to go against the literature that this is a systemic problem.
Eli Cohen: [09:57] Let me propose a hypothetical, not because I I think it's actually that useful, but just because I think it could be important for people to hear your thought process with which is, if this had been handled differently, say instead of just being put on a list, kind of shunned, but instead, you had been approached for some kind of discussion. How would you have wanted that? How would you have wanted this to potentially be handled differently? And and what would you have done? Were that the case?
Anonymous Respondent: [10:28] Well, first of all, I don't think there's any perfect way to handle this. And you suggested having a discussion. But it's really complicated, because you can't have a discussion. One, you can't expect the victim to come out and talk about it like that. Generally, people want to keep that privacy, and they don't want to address their perpetrator directly, which is understandable. So I don't think that would be great. I understand that the Title IX processes is really taxing them people and that people don't want I do it, and people have to get in front the perpetrator directly, and they have to deal with a lot of formality from the administration.
But I can't really see another option. I I don't think there's another option. I don't think that there's another way of, I mean, I'm sure that there could be improvement on Title IX, that they can make sure it's more supportive, that they can make sure that people feel heard or that there's a more empathetic people involved in the process. But it's the only way to impart some sense of justice, if you want to impose punishment.
And I just, I do think that going through a process is really important, because although we believe survivors, and I do myself, like, I believe that I hurt someone. I'm sure they don't go out there to just just level basis accusations, and that doesn't mean that you can just throw any sort of process out the window. Survivors are believed in the context of a process.
Eli Cohen: [12:13] Right, but that that process itself is so flawed. We know that people go through the process all the time, and have zero accountability. What does accountability look like to you?
Anonymous Respondent: [12:29] You know, I don't think it would have been much less devastating if I had been formally accused. So if that's what you're looking for just just go through the system, and then you can actually do something about it. But yeah, there there can be uncertainty in the system, and there's the possibility of not doing anything about it.
So for me, trying to own up to it, it's just accepting that I did something wrong. And and after that, well, I don't think my owning up to it is this, my owning up to it is what I do in therapy, and what I do every day trying to accept my guilt. It's not this, I wouldn't want to conflate the two.
I do think I'm trying to help give my perspective, but doesn't really seem to satisfactory, I guess. What I am worried about is that people will consider that this is an attack on the advocates, but you know, I don't believe survivors or that I don't support survivors. And that's not true. That's just not true. I do think that they're trying their best. But just fucked up on this. This is just wrong. And this is really misguided. And this is really poor thinking. And I don't think this is helping them either.
But the problem is they don't allow for any sort of debate. They don't allow for anyone to question their, their policies and their ideas. So I had to do this anonymously. But yeah, those those are two different things. And I think also a little bit, to maybe show that perpetrators can feel their guilt and engage with the shame that, that that is, having done what we did. It's not downplaying the wrong of it. But I think it's better for people to speak about it and handle it, and then just leave it in the back and let it rot and develop more and more hatred against anyone that accuse them. Because I don't think that's going to help anyone, I think we did something wrong, and we have to learn to be better.
Eli Cohen: [14:58] I want to go ahead and respond to a very real concern that I know many of you will have with this interview. The fact that I'm giving an alleged sexual assailant, a platform.
I can understand the platforming argument. But I actually disagree with its fundamental premise. I believe you can listen to people, engage with people, and even broadcast people, when you do not agree with everything they say. That's not to say that words don't have power, and in some circumstances, can inflict real pain. If I didn't believe in the power of words, I wouldn't be doing this.
But precisely because I believe in that power. I want everyone to know that disco will continue to be an open space for anyone who is willing to sit down with me, consider the questions I asked, and of course, respond with questions, concerns, and critiques of their own.
You are listening to Sonate Pacifique, by L'Impératrice. The episode opened with long ride home by Pomona alum, Zane McFarland. And again, huge thank you to Jeremy Snyder, Erica Tyrone, and Susan McWilliams. For the next episode, we take a step back and ask how did we get here?