Junior Haden Gomez, a candidate in the Missouri Students Association’s 2016 presidential race, took to Facebook on Oct. 7 to clear the air about a personal experience of his.
“This past February, the Title IX Office informed me somebody had filed a complaint against me for ‘kissing and/or attempting to kiss them,’” he wrote in the post, which he has since removed.
The post detailed his experience going through the Title IX investigation process, through which he was eventually found not responsible for a Title IX violation. He called the process “incredibly depressing and really devastating” in an interview the night he made the post, and said he thought there should be more resources available to those accused of Title IX violations.
The next morning, he took the post down and issued a new one apologizing for the original.
“After reflecting on my post, I have realized my intent did not translate into its impact,” he said in his second post. “I am human. I am constantly learning and constantly growing. I am deeply regretful and sorry to anyone it may have offended, triggered or hurt.”
MSA Senator Delan Ellington said in an interview that the first post was harmful to sexual assault survivors because many of them have aggressors who were not punished for their actions.
“A (majority) of the people who have told me they were survivors say the people who assaulted them — nothing ever happened to them,” he said. “So it reminds survivors of that experience, and how nothing has changed to stop the culture of allowing perpetrators of these violent and horrible acts to keep going.”
The recent Association of American Universities campus climate survey revealed that only 21.2 percent of females who experienced penetration by force reported a sexual assault to MU officials. The Title IX Office’s 2014-15 annual report said that of the 332 reported incidents, only 12 were resolved through formal or informal resolution, and of the 12, eight individuals were found responsible for a Title IX violation.
Ellington said he thought the post would discourage victims from speaking about their experiences and cast doubt on legitimate accusations of sexual assault.
“I wholeheartedly believe his intent was good, but his execution was horrible,” he said.
Gomez sought to retract the statements he made to The Maneater in his initial interview and issued the following statement:
“In recent days, I have been listening, learning and growing. With all of that taken into account, I know this interview could retrigger people, and I’m now doing all in my power to avoid that if at all possible. I’m not attempting to avoid this conversation, but the mental health of my fellow tigers is of utmost importance to me. If anybody is ready, willing and consenting to have a conversation, I can be reached at email@example.com.”
His and running mate Chris Hanner’s platform does not reflect a desire to reform the Title IX processes. Many provisions of their platform include collaboration with the Title IX office, the Not Anymore training and other programs that seek to reduce the incidence of campus sexual assault.
“I do not want to continue talking about the initial post, rather talk about what we have learned and what we have within our platform that address sexual assault on this campus and making victims the No. 1 priority,” Hanner said.
Hanner said that he and Gomez hope to foster communication to make MU a “safe, accepting and inclusive environment for everyone.”
“Haden and I foremost recognize the privilege we have and the many topics people bring to us that we will never fully understand,” Hanner said. “That is why we are so thankful for the many people who have reached out to us after the initial post to help us learn and grow.”
Ellington said he thought Gomez should’ve given more consideration to his accuser in the original post.
“I never saw it occur to him that (the person who accused him) probably legitimately felt that something happened between them that made them want to even go through that process,” he said.
He said Gomez should never have made the post.
“It kind of shows his true colors, and it kind of shows what type of person he will be (in regard to his campaign),” he said. “To be honest, it’s kind of detrimental to his case.”
Gomez said in his initial interview that students should not take Title IX investigations lightly.
"People, first off, need to take Title IX more seriously and realize that the things around these are very sensitive, not only to the person who is doing the accusing, but the accused as well.” he said. “It’s also not something to be taken lightheartedly and talk to other people about."