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Quote of the Day: “If You Feel Triggered, Trigger Somewhere Else”

That’s what Georgia legislator Earl Ehrhart told rape survivors on the House floor yesterday.

The comment came during a debate on HB 51, a bill that would strip rape survivors of control over their own sexual assault cases. After a witness claimed that 40% of rape claims were false — which is wildly inaccurate — survivors in the room protested, prompting Ehrhart’s remarks. He went on to say in an interview, “I’m not going to allow spoiled children to hoot and holler and act ridiculous.” Earlier in the week, Ehrhart called Georgia students “snowflakes,” who “require puppies, Play-Doh, and safe spaces to deal with conflict.”

To be clear, these “spoiled children” are anything but. The grassroots youth movement against HB 51 has been spearheaded by Grace Starling, a rape survivor and current law student, who’s launched a nationwide petition, testified before the Georgia legislature, and, along with her co-organizers, lobbied in opposition to the bill. They’ve engaged tirelessly and spiritedly in debate — sans puppies or Play-Doh — with men questioning their right to be safe at school. That takes strength, guts, probably a robust sense of humor, and a lot of smarts. And Starling and her colleagues have all that in spades.

As Starling wrote, “Despite countless attempts to participate in the legislative process in a constructive way, we have been ignored, patronized, dismissed, and insulted.” She reminded the legislators, “We are not your children, and we are not your inferiors. We are your constituents.”

Among other things, HB 51 would mandate that professors and administrators who become aware of a sexual assault must report it to law enforcement, with or without the victim’s consent. We’ve talked a lot about the problems with these “mandatory police referral” bills on the site, but a quick refresher: Survivors overwhelmingly say that, were their schools to automatically turn their sexual assault reports over to the police, they would simply tell no one at all. That means that perpetrators would shirk accountability with impunity. More importantly, it means that victims would lose out on all the accommodations schools can provide to students in the wake of a rape, like free therapy, academic tutoring, or assistance moving to a dorm away from the perpetrator. These may sounds trivial but they’re essential to the many survivors (like me) who desperately need them in order to stay in school, feel safe, be able to learn, and find some normalcy in the aftermath of violence.

And it’s why accommodations like these — and the ability to access them without filing a police report — are at the heart of the federal civil rights law Title IX. Title IX is a four-decade-old law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. It recognizes and — unlike Rep. Ehrhart — cares about the equality consequences of pervasive gender violence. Put simply: when one in five women (and survivors of other genders too) are sexually assaulted during their time in college, they lose out on the ability to participate as fully in their education as their (primarily, though not exclusively, straight cisgender) male peers. Many watch their grades drop, some take time off, and others drop out altogether. Ehrhart’s efforts to eviscerate survivors’ access to school support lay bare his beliefs about educational equality — about who he believes belongs in school, and who doesn’t.

HB 51 is headed to the Georgia Senate next.

If you’re a Georgia resident, today is the day to call your state senators — and get your fam, friends, neighbors, co-workers, professors, and barista to do the same — to make sure Ehrhart’s misogyny doesn’t become the law of the land.

Header image via.

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and the co-founder of Know Your IX, the national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She's also a student at Yale Law School, and you can find her on Twitter at @danabolger.

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and a student at Yale Law School.

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