by Hannah Schultz, Executive Editor
Senior Megan Gieske recently went through a situation that took an emotional, mental and physical toll; however, she hopes her experience will empower other students to speak up for themselves. During the fall of 2016, Gieske filed an official complaint against a professor for sexual harassment and went through a subsequent Title IX investigation.
Gieske says she felt uncomfortable due to comments made by the involved professor about a third or halfway through the semester. Wanting to follow the biblical model for confrontation, Gieske emailed the professor. “He never replied and just continued to do the same things,” she said.
“I felt hurt, humiliated and fearful because who I am as a person and my voice wasn’t respected or listened to,” she continued. “That didn’t foster an environment for me that valued who I am.”
After receiving advice on the situation, Gieske spoke with Sarah Baldwin, the vice president of student life, then filed an official complaint. She was connected with Kim Martin, the victim advocate, and questioned by Asbury’s Title IX investigators.
The investigators are required to let the accused party know who complained about them, which Gieske believes causes many students to stay silent.
“I had tried to get other students who said he said inappropriate things to write a letter, but I couldn’t get anyone to do it for the risk of him finding out it was them,” she said. “I was scared. I spent a lot of time off-campus.”
Currently, the policy has an extensive list of measures in place to protect students who engage in this process from retaliation during and after the process. Gieske was allowed to change classes after she entered into the investigation.
After risking “opening those wounds again and again” and losing the investigation, Gieske says she hopes that her experience will cause Asbury to revisit their Title IX policy and expand the definition of sexual harassment. She also hopes her public statements will spread awareness about using this official process to confront uncomfortable situations.
“I believe if [inappropriate behavior] happens multiple times and a student goes to the professor and tells them that they feel it’s inappropriate and the professor should stop, but the behavior continues, that is sexual harassment,” she said.
Gieske also pointed to the 10-day appeal window as a place where reconsideration of policy could be needed. She says that the opportunity to appeal the decision of the Title IX coordinator was not long enough for her to recover from the stress of the ordeal and the disappointment of the decision in order to consider going through that process again.
Before she came forward, Gieske says she was warned by friends about what often happens to women who go public with sexual harassment charges.
“People asked me, ‘Are you ready for what will happen to you?’” she said. “I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ And they were like, ‘Are you ready for people to discredit you and try to say that you’re lying?’”
“It’s easy to lack empathy if you’re looking into an experience that’s outside of your own,” she said. “If you haven’t experienced sexual harassment, it doesn’t mean that other people don’t.”
Since then, Gieske says that the response has been mixed — some have supported her, while others have attempted to discredit her. Ultimately, she is glad that more students are stepping forward and being honest about their experiences.
“I think it’s positive because I got to hear from other people who had been in the same situation, and I didn’t feel like I was as alone in that,” she said.
Gieske says her post was motivated by an “active love,” and she wants “other women to be protected in ways that I and others weren’t.”
“Love requires justice and demands action,” she said. “If you’re going to love someone well, I think it also means protecting them from themselves. Love demands that if you know someone is hurting other people, that you not allow them to because they’re also hurting themselves.”