I’m not ordinarily one for commemorating marginal legislative victories with the passionless tallying of passing years, but Title IX is truly an exceptional case. The law was enacted at a time when sexual harassment was a new concept, and over the years Title IX has become best known for its effect on high school and college athletics. However, the law has developed into arguably our best tool to ensure fairness and compassion for student survivors while addressing sexual assault as the serious offense it is. In recent years, Title IX has had momentum in the courts and federal agencies, and now seems to be picking up steam.
This really is cause for excitement.
So, what makes Title IX so terrific? Well, in a sense, you could say it’s us. I don’t just mean that we advocates work hard to influence our schools’ sexual assault responses (although we do). What I mean is that Title IX is that all-too-rare case of the law reflecting the collective knowledge of experts in the field (that’s us). As advocates, we understand sexual assault dynamics. We understand that rapists rape because they believe they won’t be held accountable, and that survivors won’t report if they believe it won’t do any good. These core insights have not been lost on the government officials and litigators who have shaped the contours of Title IX in the last decade.
Today, virtually any response to sexual assault (or lack thereof) that sends the message to students that sexual assault won’t be addressed promptly and seriously, or that survivors risk negative consequences by coming forward, will violate Title IX. Thus, it’s not just about the written policy. It’s also about the student body’s perception of school policy.
Here are a few notable practices the Department of Education and/or federal courts have forbidden in the last 5-15 years for all schools receiving federal funds:
-Deferring to results of a criminal investigation instead of conducting an independent investigation (e.g., OCR Case No. 01-93-1123, Millis Public Schools, May 19, 1994)
-Failing to take interim measures to protect or accommodate the accusing student during an investigation (e.g., OCR Case No. 06061390, Mansfield School Dist., April 16, 2007)
-Failing to take additional safety measures for the survivor where initial measures were inadequate (e.g., OCR Case No. 09-93-2141, University of California, Santa Cruz, June 15, 1994)
-Taking negative actions against an accusing student as a result of reporting sexual assault (e.g., OCR Case No. 06111487, Henderson ISD, June 14, 2012)
-Granting rights to the accused but not to the accusing student, such as legal counsel, questioning witnesses, or reviewing the accuser’s statement before giving own statement (e.g., OCR Case No. 10922064, The Evergreen State College, April 4, 1995)
-Basing disciplinary decisions on a standard of proof higher than the preponderance of the evidence (e.g., OCR Case No. 11-03-2017, Georgetown University, May 5, 2004)
We know campus sexual assault is epidemic. But rather than dejection, let’s respond with enthusiasm. In this field, we don’t always have the luxury of powerful policy solutions to our clients’ problems. In Title IX, we should recognize a great opportunity to use—and help guide—the law for the benefit of sexual assault survivors everywhere.
As a first step, I encourage you to check out the April 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter” issued by the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, which outlines the most important applications of Title IX to sexual assault response. Find the letter and more information at www.hopelaws.org/legal/education/. Then, please contact us at TAASA to talk about how best to get your local college or school district engaged in making its sexual assault response the best it can be.
Rodney King has passed, and although he was never a great leader in our community, his tragic incident with LAPD shed light on police brutality around the country. One article I read started off with, “He wasn’t Rosa Parks, but he sparked a National outcry”.
Rosa Parks was not considered a leader in her day, but she led by example. Looking back we see what a leader she actually was. Rodney King had no one except people looking to prosper and gain notoriety from his tragedy. I think had someone stepped in with his best interest and the interest of the Black Community at heart Rodney King’s incident could have been a catalyst for much more.
While I’m not sad about the riots that preceded the announcement of the acquittal of the LAPD Officers, I do think it’s a shame that most things leading to major change have to turn violent before the actual change. Change comes through evolution. And when evolution is sometimes too slow, revolution is sure to follow.
I started a summer internship at TAASA on June 4, 2012. I am a student at Texas Tech University, majoring in Health, Exercise, and Sport Sciences (HESS). I know, I know… my major just doesn’t sound like it belongs at a place like TAASA. Let me explain.
I was first introduced to TAASA the summer before my 8th grade year, when I attended my first STAR conference (what has now become the Texas PEACE Project) with my best friend. I later applied to be a part of the first Youth Advisory Board, and got to help with the planning and details that went into the annual summits. I fell in love with this organization, and all they stand for.
I graduated high school in 2008, and made the long journey to Lubbock, TX. Completely unsure of what I wanted to do with my life (I’m still a little unsure!), I chose a major that just made sense to me. I was very involved in sports and athletics growing up, and HESS seemed fun and interesting. I chose health and fitness promotion as my focus inside my major and later decided Corporate/Worksite wellness may be a good career choice.
In order to graduate with a HESS degree from TTU, students must first complete a 300 hour internship. I thought long and hard about where I wanted to complete this internship, and after weighing pros and cons, I decided that I wanted to be back in central Texas. It just made sense to ask TAASA, the organization that I had fallen in love with years ago. I am so thankful that they have allowed me the opportunity to work with them, and have already been introduced to some awesome projects, including a wellness program that can be implemented in rape crisis centers. It is such an honor to use the information and knowledge I have to assist the people who make so many sacrifices to advocate for survivors of sexual assault. Working in high stress environments, such as rape crisis centers, can Read more
The old saying “change is inevitable”, does not quite capture the power of the spark initiating that change. TAASA’s Texas PEACE Project summit last week (June 8, 9, 10) in Navasota, TX sparked youth from across the state to embark on a journey of change on the grounds of Camp Allen . The weekend included courageous conversations around issues of race, sexism, homophobia and adultism. Through the course of the weekend the correlation between bullying, dating violence, sexual violence and the above issues became apparent. Workshops on spoken word, creative writing and theatre inspired attendees to express their desire for change through an impromptu performance on the last day of the summit.
Change is not easy and the dialogue around change is difficult. Congratulations to all who participated in the summit. Never underestimate the power of youth, peer education and determination. The Texas PEACE Project is a community of peer educators determined to make a change. Although the courageous conversations may have taken place at Camp Allen, the ignited spark of change is coming soon to a community near you.
For more information on the Texas Peace Project contact Ted Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-474-7190 ext. 34
The work of an advocate is never done. As advocates we constantly walk the tightrope providing a balance of hope and realistic expectations for justice. Our work offers no perks, glamour or recognition, yet the impact is tremendous. We provide a pathway to healing by advocating on behalf of survivors as he/she journeys through the many unforgiving systems. Our work is rewarding though challenges are inevitable. As a result, our response to survivors at times may be lacking.
Recently I’ve fielded many calls from survivors who felt slighted by both law enforcement and community advocates. The intention of this blog is not to point fingers at any particular agency or role but instead to challenge us all to take a moment and reflect. Ponder how your work impacts a survivor and community. Ask yourself, “Why am I here?” The answers will truly inspire you. There are certainly survivor situations out of our control and beyond our expertise but in that moment, ask yourself,
“Am I advocating for this survivor or am I simply passing the buck?”
“I went to the police and they did not believe me” “It was like they were trying everything in their power to let the rapists off the hook by focusing on what I did or didn’t do” “I feel like everyone is trying to pass me on to the next person without even trying to help”
Unfortunately the work associated with violence and change exerts energy and stress detrimental to our emotional, mental and physical health. Self-care is vital to ensure the health, safety and wellness of our staff, as well as, survivors. In conclusion, the complexity of our work requires tenacity because the survivors of sexual assault deserve justice. May the tireless work of advocates withstand the threat of complacency and may the passion and dedication sustain our advocates.