Title IX Complaints Against Universities Grow
Lately, we’ve been hearing more and more about the mishandling of sexual assaults on college campuses. Although these allegations span years, sexual assault on college campuses is by no means a new conversation. The recent wave of outrage and advocacy began with a courageous young woman named Angie Epifano. Angie was a student at Amherst College in Massachusetts when she was raped by an acquaintance. She received little to no help from the University, and eventually published a first hand account in The Amherst Student, the student newspaper on campus. Her entire, heart-wrenching story is here (trigger warning), but the gist is that the school that she trusted institutionalized, discounted, and questioned her every move instead of providing her with appropriate and much needed resources.
The University of Connecticut, located in the sleepy northeastern countryside, has also come under fire for how they have handled sexual assault cases. Victims claim that UConn didn’t help them, and that they were discouraged from reporting the rapes to the police. One young woman, Rosemary Richie, who was raped by a football player, claims officials at UConn did not believe her.
There are stories after stories after stories on almost every single college campus in the country. Take Amanda Tripp, at the University of Indianapolis. She filed a report that she was raped on November 26, 2012. When she saw a copy almost 2 months later, the police had written, “a crime did not occur” on it. No one ever followed up with her. Or how about Landen Gambill? She reported being sexually assaulted by an ex-boyfriend. The UNC honor court subsequently found him not guilty. She was then charged herself, accused of creating an “intimidating and hostile” environment for the man who had assaulted her by charging him with such assault. Regardless of whether or not he was actually guilty, a young woman should never be scared that she might get in trouble with the school if she reports a crime.
The numbers speak for themselves: at least 1 in 4 women in college will be the victim of a sexual assault during their time in school. Colleges need to be able to provide resources for that 25% of their female population that is attacked. But as we’ve seen time after time after time, this often is not the case.
Now, these women are fighting back. The Title IX Network —an informal network of activists–has helped women at multiple schools file federal claims against the universities. The Title IX Network bills itself as “working to support all survivors, to change how colleges and universities handle sexual assault, and to change a culture where violence is normalized.” Most recently these include Amherst, UConn, and Vanderbilt University; earlier this year claims were filed against UNC, Occidental, Swarthmore, UC Boulder, Dartmouth, USC, Berkeley, and Emerson.
The complaints have been filed under both Title IX and Clery Act provisions. Title IX states that universities have a responsibility to take immediate and effective steps when allegations of sexual violence are brought forth. Under Title IX, the Department of Education can impose fines or block access to federal funds. The Clery Act requires schools to accurately disclose crimes that occur on campus. By not handling and reporting these allegations of sexual assault properly, the universities against whom complaints have been levied may be in violation.
Something has to change. Twenty-five percent of young women, twenty-five percent of my peers, should not be assaulted in the environments in which they are supposed to learn and grow. If these charges lead to any sort of change in the abhorrent way universities have been handling this issue, I say more power to the Title IX network.
Anneliese Mahoney (@AMahoney8672) is Lead Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at amahoney@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [Wolfram Burner via Flickr]