As Unearthed begins its second season, we’re bringing you the weekly recap. This week the second season, “Boundaries: Sex and Consent,” provides an interview with Miriam Langmoen and her experience reporting a sexual assault on campus.
In her freshman year at Brown University in May 2014, Miriam Langmoen, a recent graduate, went on a date with a boy. It went well and later that week, she invited him to her dorm room.
“We had sex then after we had finished, he asked if I was up for a second round and I was like ‘no,’” Langmoen said, “He just would not take that no for an answer.”
He became increasingly aggressive and kept pressuring her, ignoring her clear refusal. He penetrated her with his fingers and kept “nagging,” pleading that if she gave him a blowjob, he would stop. Powerless and wishing to protect herself, she did what he asked.
The next morning, Langmoen left her own room while he was sleeping.
“That was the moment I realized that something was terribly, terribly wrong. Like I’ve literally never in my entire life, sooner or later, been as afraid as I was right then,” she said.
Langmoen made an appointment with a student advocate from Brown’s sexual assault support center and what ensued was an incredibly complicated and traumatic Title IX process with the university that lasted 10 months. Fearing her name and face being published in the Providence Journal, she decided not to file her report with the police, so she relied solely on the university for justice.
According to Lynette Labinger, a private practice lawyer in Rhode Island who has been working in higher education law for decades, the Title IX process, originally created to prohibit gender discrimination in the 70s, is completely at the discretion of individual universities. Each university decides how its own Title IX “trial system” works, and each university has an incentive to protect the school’s reputation.
Langmoen first filed a sexual assault complaint at a Dean’s office. She met with a Dean, submitted a 1500-word witness statement describing the assault to provide testimony. Her perpetrator’s testimony was also submitted to the Dean and, when the two returned to school the following fall, the Dean set a date for the hearing.
The hearing took place in a room at the Office of Student Life on campus; the room looked like, what Langmoen described as, a “faux courtroom.” At the hearing, both parties and their witnesses testified and were questioned by the panel members.
“They would ask him questions like, ‘But do you agree that Miriam said she didn’t want to,’ and he was like, ‘Oh yea, she told me several times, but sometimes you know you just have to ask girls enough times and then they give in, you know. Plenty of women have told me that they don’t really want to, but eventually they say yes,’” she said. “I was just sitting there thinking Jesus Christ. It seems pretty obvious that I’m not the only person who’s had a really bad experience with this guy. Now, this is like a public health and safety thing.”
Brown decided to suspend Langmoen’s perpetrator for two years. She thought it was all over. She thought that the Title IX process had delivered her justice and promised her a school environment free of her assailant’s presence, but, just two weeks after the hearing, her assailant appealed the decision.
He had not been informed of his right to have a lawyer present and insisted that his testimony was not substantiated. The decision from the first hearing was wiped clean. Langmoen was back at square one.
The second trial was pushed back and Brown discouraged Langmoen from seeking out an attorney and pushed her to drop the case altogether. In the midst of finals, Langmoen was in the “middle of a depressive episode” and effectively lost control of her own case.
Her assailant was found responsible for sexual assault almost 10 months after she originally reported him. His punishment was shortened to a one-year suspension. He would return to campus the fall of her senior year.
Despite her own traumatic experience with the Title IX system, Miriam says that she would never discourage a survivor from reporting.
“You know I can say for statistical purposes I think it’s important that Brown knows how prevalent this actually is so that these numbers aren’t hidden. For anyone who is willing and able to report, I think that is important, but I just have every understanding in the world for why that can be too difficult of a hurdle for people,” she said. “Because again, if I had known that my case would turn out the way it did, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Listen to the First Episode here:
This recap was compiled and written by WBRU News Staff Writer Alicia Mies.