Quote of the Day: MRA says to build police trust by forcing survivors into system

This morning, the House of Representatives’ Education and Workforce committee held its hearing on campus sexual assault and heard from what was truly a strange range of witnesses. Not a single one, as Dana pointed yesterday, was a student survivor with actual knowledge of the problem. However, we did get to hear from Joe Cohn, the Legislative and Policy Director at FIRE, a civil liberties organization that often advocates for accused rapists. 

Cohn is in favor of the (Un)Safe Campus Act, a bill recently introduced in the House that would force rape survivors who want justice through campus disciplinary procedures to report their assault to the police. I’ve never met Cohn before and went into the hearing thinking maybe-oh-maybe him, the bill’s co-sponsors, and supporters somehow just don’t know how violent the police is and how little they are trusted by victims of gender-based violence, amongst undocumented students, amongst POC, amongst others.

But, nope, Cohn (and I’m guessing the Congressfolk that gave him a platform) proved my optimism undeserved. They know how untrustworthy the police is; Cohn just thinks there is “no way to build up more trust with police than to work with them.”

Well, actually no, as one of the protesters at today’s hearing held up on a sign, that’s just flat out wrong.

Safe Campus


The problem is not a lack of interaction with the police; it is the police itself. We hear too many stories about survivors who are harassed, doubted, and further traumatized by the police. To reduce harm under a very violent police state, we have to allow survivors to choose whether and how to report and to whom. This is why advocates are organizing against forcing rape survivors (particularly those from already heavily policed communities) to participate in criminal legal system. Echoing what friend and fellow organizer at Know Your IX Olivia Ortiz tweeted out earlier today: we don’t need to build up trust with the police, we need the police to build up trust with the folks they harm.


Mahroh is a community organizer and law student who believes in building a world where black and brown women and our communities are able to live free of violence. Prior to law school, Mahroh was the Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization empowering students to end gender violence and a junior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research addresses the ways militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally.

Mahroh is currently at Harvard Law School, organizing against state and gender-based violence.

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