‘I was terrified’

Student Kenedy White recounts her Title IX experience, hopes to change the narrative for survivors
Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
Ishika Samant

Editor’s note: This article contains detailed descriptions of sexual assault that may be uncomfortable to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

When 17-year-old Kenedy White came to College Station, she envisioned a bright future for herself. After being bullied in high school, attending Blinn College with hopes of transferring to Texas A&M to study psychology seemed like a fresh start. 

However, just weeks after she turned 18, White was allegedly assaulted in a cabin while on a student trip. In her pursuit, spanning from November 2022 to May 2023, White became engulfed in a hearing process with A&M’s Title IX Office, and therapy would become a twice-a-week necessity alongside PTSD and anxiety treatment. 

The Trip 

Looking to make new friends, White began her freshman year at Blinn by getting involved with the A&M Coastal Conservation Association, drawing on her longtime interests in environmental protection, fishing and generally being in the water. A month later, the group hosted a beach cleanup trip four hours away in Rockport. White signed up, bringing a friend with her. 

“We get to the house, and immediately, we walk in and there were probably five or six of the guys there,” White said. “They were all drinking.” 

They grabbed a drink and sat down, and when the other girls arrived, the gathering moved onto the patio. There, White said a male in the group put his arm around her. “I was a little anxious about it because I just wanted to make friends,” White said. “I didn’t really want something sexual.”

While she had never been friends with him, she had seen him in the organization occasionally, and they had interacted before. Previously, they matched on Tinder after White swiped right because she “thought it was awkward and funny to see someone [she] had met in [the conservation association],” but nothing came of it. 

She moved inside due to the cold, and the male followed. They talked, he put his arm around her again and she said he put his hand on her thigh. 

“I just didn’t say anything, and I was like, ‘OK, he’s not really hurting me, I guess, so it’s OK,’” White said. 

When recounting the stories to investigators months later, the accounts diverged here. White claimed she got up and walked to her room to grab a sweatshirt, and the male followed inside. He claimed they walked into the room together while holding hands.

Both parties acknowledge he laid down on the bed and invited her to cuddle. He said she came willingly. She said she complied reluctantly, laying down as far as she could from him. They stayed there for a few minutes before he tried to kiss her. White said she was thinking she’d just pull away and walk out. 

But when he moved in, White said he — 6 feet 2 inches tall and about 220 pounds — rolled on top, suffocating and restricting her. 

“Whenever I actually tried to pull away, I couldn’t,” she said. “He just kept pressing himself into me, and I couldn’t turn my head or lift my head up or my upper body at all. I couldn’t breathe, and I started panicking.”

He began groping her chest, she said, before sticking two fingers down her pants. “It hurt,” she said. 

In his statement, the man said they chose to go into the room together to cuddle before they began consensually making out. He claimed he put his weight on his left forearm instead of her and that she never tried to get away. 

“He never asked if any of that was OK,” White said. “He never tried to get consent from me. He never had any nonverbal consent. He never had verbal consent. There was no sort of questioning if he was going to do this to me because it didn’t matter what I would have said. He was going to do it anyway.”

White said he then grabbed her hand and attempted to put it outside his sweatpants on his crotch. She pulled back, but he grabbed it again.

“I pulled away again,” White said. “Then, for a third time, he did the same exact thing and put it inside of his sweatpants on his penis. I pulled it away. And he finally kind of realized that I was not OK with what was going on, and he leaned up off of me.”

White said she finally got a gasp of air before the man asked if she’d give him a handjob. Then, he asked for oral sex, before finally asking for penetrative sex.

“He said, ‘Oh, well, you’re gonna give me blue balls …,’” White said. “At that point, I was terrified. Everybody else that was at the house, they were outside on the patio, and there was music playing so nobody could hear me. … I was just trying to figure out a way to survive that situation and just get it over with because I just wanted it to end.” 

Then, she said he asked her to kiss his neck while he masturbated. White said she asked if she had to, and he persisted. Desperate for it to be over, White complied, and he left the room after ejaculating. 

In the man’s statement, he wrote she willingly gave him a handjob while his fingers were in her pants. He couldn’t recall who initiated it but said White appeared to consent because “she was moaning, continuing to kiss him, and she nodded okay when he asked if she was okay with his intentions,” the hearing report reads. 

The man also alleged White’s friend entered the room at one point to look for something, speaking to White for a few moments before leaving. White denied the claim, and the friend couldn’t recall to investigators whether it was true. 

The man testified that he asked her for oral sex once they left, which he claimed she agreed to, doing so until he asked if she was interested in sexual intercourse. He said she declined after he stated he wasn’t looking for a relationship.

“He claims he accepted her rejection of sexual intercourse and then asked her to kiss his neck while he masturbated so he would not have ‘blue balls,’” the report reads. “He claims she immediately began to kiss his neck and never pulled away while he masturbated for 2-3 minutes.”

White said once the man left the room, she also left to speak to the other women. There, she recounted everything, stating, “Can you please make him get out? I can’t be around him. I’m scared. I just can’t be around him.” 

He began isolating her from the others on the trip, White said, and telling the group they consensually hooked up. Many of the men on the trip were his close friends, some for up to two years. 

But the students were dismissive of her story, she said. One girl laughed when she talked about what happened, saying that’s how the male always acted. Later, when driving home with her friend, White said she tried to discuss the events, but they shrugged it off and slept throughout the drive. 

The Investigation 

That Monday, she went to a previously scheduled therapist appointment and was told it was sexual assault. Because it happened with an A&M student, she took it up with the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations and submitted a report. The response came almost a month later, requesting White set up a Zoom meeting with them. 

One of the options presented to her was a full investigation with a final hearing — the only avenue leading to consequences, including potential expulsion for the rest of the year and a mark on his transcript indicating a Title IX violation. With that in mind, and because she said she didn’t trust the police, she pursued it. 

The office was supposed to give the man a notice of investigation and a no-contact form, but after waiting three weeks for the meeting, it look another three weeks for the forms to reach his email. An interview with White followed, where investigators questioned her about that night. 

“It was just victim blaming,” White said. “Trying to manipulate me and get me confused in what I had said and make me say something that didn’t add up to what I had said before.” 

One particular interview was “just dehumanizing,” she said. “[They asked,] ‘What were you wearing?’ What does it matter what I was wearing? I was wearing black sweatpants and a black sweatshirt. What does that mean? What difference does it make?” 

As previously reported by The Battalion, Title IX Coordinator Jennifer Smith said in an email late last year that the Office of Civil Rights and Equity Investigations, which oversees Title IX, was understaffed. Smith said the office would total six case managers and a deputy Title IX coordinator by November 2023, an “appropriate level of staffing for [their] workload.”

A counsel was assigned to her by March. But for the months and weeks leading up to the hearing, White claimed they barely updated or contacted her.

At this point, White was attending therapy appointments twice a week. Her grades were slipping, she began anxiety medication and a few months after the incident, her therapist diagnosed her with PTSD.

The Trial

Six months after the incident, the hearing was finally held over Zoom. Each party, their counsel, witnesses and the hearing officer attended — the last of which was the sole decider if there was a 50% or more chance the man did the alleged actions. “I’m on the verge of a panic attack because I can’t breathe,” White said. “I’m terrified to see his face. I’m terrified to hear his voice.” 

Her opening statement, marked at the top with Psalms 23:4, began the hearing. “The changes in who I am are the result of being a victim of sexual assault,” she wrote.

Immediately, the opposing counsel accused her of “looking for attention [or] a boyfriend,” she said. Even when speaking to White’s witnesses, she said he was aggressive. 

“I have no words,” a witness texted White after a cross-examination. “He got me [so] flustered, I couldn’t say what I wanted … I have sm [sic] more to say to that man, his questioning was ridiculous.” 

White claimed the man and his friends collaborated to tell false stories throughout the hearing. “They said I was all over him throughout the weekend,” White said. “They said I had sex with him. They said that I gave him oral sex. They said he wasn’t drunk. They said he was sick. [They said] he didn’t actually drink anything. … They said I bragged about being sexually assaulted after the fact.” 

Hours later, the hearing — filled with witness statements, cross-examination and more — was over. She was crying, alone and desperate for it to end, “so I can hear that somebody believes me,” she said. 

“I read my statement, and by the time I got to the last page, I was having a panic attack in this Zoom meeting in front of these people while they’re staring at me crying my eyes out, hyperventilating in a room alone,” White said. 

She received the ruling via email a month later. Opening it, she found that the hearing officer declared him innocent. She had a week to appeal but decided there was no point. 

“I try to do everything to fix this, but it doesn’t go away,” White said. “It’s still there. No matter how much I shower, no matter how much I clean my body. Somebody has taken something away from me that I can’t get back. I don’t feel safe in my own bedroom. I don’t feel safe anywhere. I’m always looking out for the next predator. And that’s not OK.”  

White moves on from Blinn and will officially transfer to A&M in the fall of 2024. Despite persisting PTSD, anxiety and sleep issues, White said she’s not giving up. 

The prior months solidified her passion for clinical psychology, where she hopes to become a women’s advocate and help victims of bullying and sexual violence. 

Using her experience as a springboard, she aims to become involved in the community and help wherever she can. “I can relate to them,” White said. “I know how to address that and communicate to them how I feel and how I’m there for them without overstepping.” 

But with her bachelor’s and master’s years ahead of her, White said she’s taking it one day at a time. 

“I want to make a change in the school system, in the police system, in the Title IX system and society in general,” White said. “My goal is to help as many people as much as I can for the rest of my life.”

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