Title IX

SEXUAL ASSAULT AND VIOLENCE

Sexual assault is one of the most serious offenses a person can face in college. In addition to school disciplinary action, the accused is potentially exposed to criminal charges and if convicted required to register as a sex offender.
 
A sexual assault occurs when a person commits any non-consensual sexual act against another person, which can include simple unwanted touching or forced sexual intercourse. Sexual assault can also occur if a person commits a sexual act with someone who is unconscious, intoxicated, or otherwise incapable of providing consent. Even if some sexual acts have been consented to, this will not necessarily be held as evidence that other sex acts were performed with consent.
Sexual Assault
The standards for sexual assault on campus are different than under the criminal justice system in most states, and much more prone to findings against the accused. Almost all colleges and universities have adopted policies of Affirmative Consent. Affirmative Consent requires that a person must give consent to all sexual acts, whether verbally or nonverbally. Consent must be mutual, voluntary, unambiguous, and freely given, that is without coercion or incapacitation. Consent may also be revoked at any time.
 
Schools typically take charges of sexual assault more seriously than other violations. And penalties can be more severe for those found responsible, including expulsion or, for employees, termination.
 
Victims of sexual assault, as well as witnesses or other parties (for example, friends or professors) can report the incident to the Title IX coordinator for investigation. The college usually works to protect your confidentiality, but cannot guarantee it. Victims of sexual assault need support. They often feel they are reliving the trauma of the event over and over during the course of investigation and hearings.
 
Schools provide some help, such as a referral to counseling services. But primarily the school’s main concern is to safeguard its reputation, avoid litigation, and avoid the scrutiny of federal agencies such as the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Education. Your school’s interests and your interests are not always aligned, even if you have been the victim of a sexual assault and you are offered help.
 
The process can also be unfair to victims. Depending on the status and prominence of the accused, a school may make exceptions to the rules and take action to protect key employees, popular athletes, or important professors. Victims can and do end up being blamed and retaliated against for coming forward.
 
Both sexual assault victims and the accused can and should seek the assistance of a qualified attorney as soon in the process as possible – even before a complaint is filed with the school. An attorney can guide you through the investigation and bring leverage to bear to help you. A lawyer will ensure that your basic rights to a fair proceeding are preserved, that you get access to relevant evidence, and that you have the right to present your own evidence. An attorney can help you prepare for the investigative process, preserve evidence, and prevent the college or university from mishandling your case. Ultimately, if the school bungles the matter or looks the other way—by refusing to take proper action, discriminating against you, or otherwise acting improperly—an attorney can file a civil suit.
 
Due to the seriousness of sexual assault charges and the impact on the students involved, you should always seek the help of an attorney.
 
Sexual Harassment

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual harassment is different from sexual assault and does not need to involve any sexual conduct or sex acts. Sexual harassment occurs when a person is targeted or singled out for discrimination on the basis of sex. This behavior is prohibited under multiple state and federal laws.
 
For example, female students in STEM classes may be consistently discouraged because “women can’t do math,” or they may be denied opportunities otherwise available to male students. This form of discrimination is unacceptable and against the law.
 
Sexual harassment can be physical, verbal, or visual. An example of verbal harassment might include unwanted, lewd comments about a person’s body, dirty jokes, or spreading rumors about someone’s sexual activity. Visual sexual harassment can occur through the display or sharing of obscene pictures, messages, or objects. .
Different schools define sexual harassment in different ways. However, Title IX requires all schools to take steps to prevent sexual harassment and investigate reported abuse. A pattern of recurring behavior may constitute sexual harassment, but investigators can also find that a single incident constitutes a violation.
 
If you have experienced sexual harassment on campus, write down what occurred and when the incident took place. For online harassment, take screenshots as proof of the harassment, with a record of time and date. If you are subject to sexual harassment, you can not only report the harassment to the school’s Title IX coordinator; you may also file a state or federal lawsuit. Litigation can be particularly appropriate if the school is unresponsive to legitimate complaints or, worse, retaliates against you.
 
If you are accused of sexual harassment, your school is obligated to investigate the claim under its Title IX procedures, which guarantee you the right to legal representation. As with other Title IX infractions, a sexual harassment charge can have serious repercussions for your education. A skilled attorney can help guide you through the process, protect your rights, and ensure that the investigation is fair and conducted properly.

STALKING

Stalking is the repeated and unwelcome attention of another person, typically an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or would-be partner. Victims almost always know their stalker.
 
Many behaviors can be characterized as stalking. These include following someone or “lying in wait” at a dorm room or another location, but it can also include remote contact through social media or unwanted phone calls. Digital means of communication have opened the door to “cyberstalking,” which includes tracking someone through a social media platform, sending unwanted texts or e-mails, repeated posts on your social media pages, or other methods.
 
Most states have statutes that define stalking as criminal behavior, but colleges and universities frequently investigate and impose sanctions for stalking under Title IX that does not qualify for criminal charges. Stalking has become one of the most common accusations on campus under Title IX, and is sometimes brought by students who simply do not want to be in the same class or the same dining hall as one of their peers.
 
You have defenses available to you if you are accused of stalking. In many cases, a stalking charge arises out of a miscommunication or because a person is unaware that his or her actions were objectionable to another student. Having a legal counsel can help clear these matters up and ensure that a charge of stalking does not derail your education.

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INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE

Violent or abusive behavior from an intimate partner can affect both men and women. In campus sexual codes and under Title IX, this falls under the general label of “intimate partner violence,” or IPV. But it is probably more commonly known as domestic and dating violence or abuse. Like other forms of sexual assault and violence, it often goes unreported. Victims have difficulty identifying abusive behaviors, blame themselves, or keep silent.
 
In addition to physical or sexual abuse, dating violence can include verbal or emotional harassment. A partner may belittle their boyfriend or girlfriend, call them names, threaten them, or seek to control their behavior, such as keeping them from hanging out with friends, constantly calling or texting to check on them, or refusing to let them attend certain events by themselves.
 
These behaviors can have a number of negative effects for the victim. They may experience depression and anxiety in addition to fear, and they may also exhibit antisocial behaviors or turn to drugs and alcohol.
 

Under Title IX, a victim of dating violence can report their partner’s behavior to an appropriate school official.

 
Unfortunately, as serious as dating violence is to victims, IPV claims are sometimes made in bad faith. A partner may accuse a boyfriend or girlfriend of abuse out of revenge during a “messy” breakup, or simply to force them to leave a shared apartment. There are few meaningful barriers to abuse of the system and standards for no-contact orders on campus are usually far more lax than for civil or especially criminal restraining orders.
 
You are entitled to legal representation if you are charged with dating violence and should consult an attorney as soon as possible, especially because IPV charges frequently lead to knock-on charges of stalking and harassment.
 

RETALIATION

Some may fear to exercise their rights under Title IX because of negative repercussions, but taking action against someone simply because they file a Title IX complaint or because they have been accused is illegal.
 
Under Title IX, retaliatory acts are also discrimination. It is discrimination even in cases where an original complaint of sexual discrimination is eventually found to have no basis. Typically, professors and school officials have more power to retaliate against an accuser – for instance, by giving a poor grade, prohibiting a student from participation in campus activities, or denying tenure or raises to a professor who reports Title IX violations within their department. But students and student organizations can also be found responsible for.
 
Even seemingly innocuous actions can constitute retaliation. People accused of misconduct may approach their accuser directly in the belief that everything has been a misunderstanding. They think they can convince the accuser to withdraw the complaint. In such an event, they can quickly find themselves subject to a knock-on accusation of retaliation.
 
The sooner you involve a qualified attorney in a Title IX matter, the better you will be able to navigate such pitfalls. Likewise, if you are the victim of sexual discrimination, harassment, or assault, a lawyer will be able to recognize retaliation that you may be unaware of, but which is hurting you and compromising your case. Of course, if you are accused of retaliation you should engage counsel to defend yourself as with any other Title IX charge.

SPORTS EQUITY

Title IX is not only about sex. It is a civil rights statute with broad scope designed to secure equality in all areas of higher education. Before about 10 years ago, Title IX was best known for its role in sports equity.

 
In 1972, when Title IX was passed, there were just 30,000 women competing in NCAA sports – a miniscule number compared to the 170,000 male athletes in NCAA programs. Women were not eligible for athletic scholarships from the NCAA and could not compete in NCAA championships. Title IX legislation sought to bring equity to the athletic world, threatening to withhold federal funds from colleges, universities, or any educational institution that did not provide equal opportunities for both men and women – whether in sports or in other educational experiences.
 
The law vastly increased participation in sports among women. The changes have made American women athletes consistently the most competitive in the world.
Sports Equity
 
Some groups argue that Title IX harms male athletes by forcing schools to cut men’s programs when they cannot afford to create a women’s program that provides equal opportunities. When a school cuts programs, either women’s or men’s sports teams or other gender-based clubs and programs, it frequently means the school is failing to comply with Title IX. Schools can be forced to comply through legal action in federal court and if you win, the school can even be forced to pay your legal fees.
 
Allen Law can assist you if you believe your university is not providing equal opportunities in its sports programs.