Although the #MeToo movement has made an undeniable impact on the way we talk about sexual harassment and assault, many victims still find their voices dismissed or ignored. Most recently, two students at Texas A&M University came forward to say the school egregiously mishandled their sexual misconduct cases.
On the June 13th episode of NBC’s Today, Hannah Shaw and Meghan Romere opened up about the way in which Texas A&M managed their respective complaints. Shaw said she was raped by a member of the swim team in 2015, and while he was found responsible in a Title IX university hearing, he was only suspended for a single semester — and permitted to return to both campus and the swim team.
Meanwhile, Romere said that a football player began masturbating in front of her while she was tutoring him. According to the Dallas Morning News, in a hearing before the university’s conduct review panel, the athlete’s lawyer said the incident was caused by “jock itch.” For this reason, the panel ruled that his actions were “involuntary.”
Shaw’s case gained national attention thanks to a tweet she posted on June 7th. In the tweet, Shaw wrote that she was “unhappy the boy who r*ped me is back on the swim team,” and included the Athletics Department’s response. As of June 13th, Shaw’s tweet has been liked more than 37,000 times and shared more than 15,000 times.
According to the Bryan-College Station Eagle, Gaines West, who represented Shaw’s alleged rapist during the Title IX hearing, issued a statement on June 12th denying that Shaw had been raped. He wrote that his client had been “unfairly maligned and defamed.”
On June 11th, Texas A&M issued a statement that the school has a “deep commitment to a safe, secure environment for all students; to a fair investigative process; to rights of appeals by parties; and to rendering sanctions to those found responsible for sexual misconduct.”
The #MeToo movement has opened up the national dialogue about sexual misconduct, and now is the time for action. Institutions like A&M University must take the revelations of the past six months to heart and enact policies that protect victims — not perpetrators. As always, we stand with Shaw, Romere, and all victims of sexual harassment and assault.