A Letter to Candice Jackson

Candice Jackson (Mike Wintroath/AP Photo)

Dear Candice Jackson,

How could you? One would think, as someone who is a survivor of rape herself, you would not make such an ignorant remark that leans toward victim blaming. Candice Jackson, I ask you, what research have you done that lead you to say that 90% of sexual assault cases fall under the category of “we were both drunk, we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right”? I’m a survivor as well, just like you. My story didn’t fall under this scenario, I was completely sober, he was my friend, I trusted him, and he took my virginity away from me my freshman year of college. As a survivor yourself, you know what type of trauma we can experience. The eating disorders, sleepless nights, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and others. You know how it feels to have your autonomy taken away from you, to find yourself often times feeling alone because nobody understands what you’re going through. Candice Jackson, I don’t know you personally, and I don’t know your story, so I would never discredit it or say that I didn’t believe you. So I ask you, why would you discredit survivors of campus sexual assault and why would you call those who accused Trump of sexual assault “fake victims”? We live in a society where the credibility of the survivors will continuously be questioned more than the guilt of the accused. No one is suggesting that false accusations do not occur, but the percentage is minuscule compared to what you are making it seem. In regards to the falsely accused who commit suicide, I agree that suicide is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed. I never want to ignore an individual who is falsely accused and commits suicide or has other mental health related problems, but what about survivors who have the same issues of suicide and mental health because they are not being believed and supported? What about them? Depression, suicide, and anxiety are all real things for survivors, too. We, by no means, live in a perfect system of justice. However, we have to do right by those who are vastly underrepresented.

For you and Betsy DeVos, it seems that your main concern is false accusations; when will we get to a point where we can put survivors first? When are we going to start holding institutions and perpetrators accountable for their actions instead of shaming survivors for coming forward? This lets me know that both you and DeVos are not adequately educated on the issue of sexual assault and unqualified for the current positions that you hold. At best, your approach to these issues have been unadulteratedly insensitive to the plight that survivors face every day. Clearly, these are issues that lay close to my heart; however, this is more of an issue of how you expect us to move forward when we do not take care of the most defenseless in our society. For those who do not think they have a voice, what does it say when we put people other than survivors at the forefront?

You recently issued an apology for your asinine comments, but I am sorry it is not enough in order for us to move forward. Enforcing Title IX, supporting survivors, believing survivors, holding YOUR President accountable for his actions, and holding institutions and perpetrators accountable is a way to move forward in the right direction. I can only hope that in the 90 minutes spent with survivors and organizations that you all were inclusive by recognizing that sexual assault does not only pertain to cishet white women. That marginalized communities such as black women, the LGBTQ community, and disabled survivors need to be centered because their voices, stories, and rights matter as well. We all need to get to a point where we don’t perpetuate rape culture and there is a safe environment for survivors to come forward. Where we recognize that patriarchy, racism, homophobia, misogyny, among other things are the reason why people commit acts of violence and not alcohol and clothing. Until we can realize these things we’ll never be able to move forward.

Sincerely,

Venkayla Haynes, Survivor