I remember the day I found myself in the University Title IX office in an intake meeting like it was yesterday. When I was emailed in 2018, I was told no action was necessary, but the next steps would be to come in and learn about the Title IX process in case I did want to take action. Of course now in 2023, that meeting feels like it happened in a different life. I moved on, and I healed from my trauma all because the intake meeting was a blessing in disguise. I remember how kind and patient the intake officer, a male employee in the Title IX office, was with me. As a male, he recognized that this might be uncomfortable for me, so he asked a female Title IX employee to sit with me for support since I came alone.
During the intake meeting, the officer walked me through the entire process, both criminal and the college Title IX process, so that I could make a fully informed decision about proceeding with either or both types of cases. I was informed about the possibility that the outcome could be one I wouldn’t like, and steps I could take without a formal complaint, like a No Contact Order. I was also walked through how I would be protected from retaliation and how I’d be protected if I decided to pursue a case against my ex, who was also a student, and how he would be notified. In addition to being informative, the intake officer was reassuring. He asked me if I needed to take any breaks or to let him know if at any point in time the meeting was too much for me. He ensured I had the contact number for the University’s legal office and thoroughly discussed the other resources on campus I could turn to – therapy, wellness, health center, etc. After my meeting, the intake officer walked me out and introduced me to other staff in the Title IX office so that I would feel comfortable if I decided to return, and there were always tissues on hand. Literally everywhere within reach. What I thought would be an intense, sterile, dreadful experience turned out to be very warm, natural, and attentive.
I left that meeting feeling empowered and ready (as well as a little scared, of course; was I ready to face it once and for all? Did I really have all the evidence I needed?). Ultimately, it felt like a sign to move forward, since someone else reported my case thus setting things into motion outside my control. It was time. Had the intake meeting not been so transparent, compassionate, and supportive, I am not sure I would have filed a formal complaint with the University.
I feel beyond grateful that my case was decided in my favor. I am so thankful I kept my evidence and that witnesses were willing to speak on my behalf. The biggest thanks, though, goes to the Title IX staff that took the time to care about me and my situation and understand its full complexity and the way it impacted my life and my health. The case allowed me to live my life again. The Title IX process allowed me to be me again, someone I had lost along the way through my unhealthy relationship and never thought I would get back.
So that is why, in my opinion, the intake meeting is the most critical step in the Title IX process. Despite being such a preliminary part of a complex process, the intake meeting matters. Intake officers are the ones that walk the victim/survivor through the process and help us understand where it could all go. The good, the bad, the ugly, the options, and the power to choose to move forward with a case or not. Let me say that again. The options: to pursue action even when it may not turn out the way you hope. That standing for something, for yourself, matters. When your life is turned upside down, and you have been violated in a way unlike any other, you feel like there are no options. Your power and dignity feel like they have been stripped away, so what is left? The Title IX process and its options. If you have been a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence it is important to speak out and know you have options in moving forward; you are not alone. And if you work in Title IX, just know that even if a potential case never goes beyond that intake meeting, you still have so much power to create a lasting impact that survivors deserve to be heard, supported, and believed – every step of the way.
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