Con­sid­er­ing sex­ual as­sault and Ti­tle IX

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

Wash­ing­ton Col­lege re­moved a male stu­dent from cam­pus ear­lier this month af­ter re­ports that he sex­u­ally as­saulted three fe­males.

“The col­lege is con­duct­ing three sep­a­rate Ti­tle IX in­ves­ti­ga­tions to de­ter­mine if the un­named stu­dent vi­o­lated the col­lege’s sex­ual mis­con­duct pol­icy,” the Kent County News re­ported last week.

At first blush, such a sen­tence should set your teeth on edge. “Sex­ual mis­con­duct pol­icy” hardly does jus­tice in ad­dress­ing the three al­leged sex­ual as­saults by a sin­gle in­di­vid­ual.

But Ti­tle IX, the 1972 fed­eral civil rights ed­u­ca­tion law, pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of sex in any ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram or ac­tiv­ity that re­ceives fed­eral fund­ing, defin­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion to in­clude sex­ual ha­rass­ment, bat­tery, as­sault and rape that are “so se­vere, per­va­sive, and ob­jec­tively of­fen­sive that it ef­fec­tively bars the vic­tim’s ac­cess to an ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity or ben­e­fit.” Ad­vo­cates note that Ti­tle IX em­pow­ers schools to take quicker ac­tion than law en­force­ment to en­sure the safety of cam­pus, in­clud­ing sus­pend­ing or ex­pelling ac­cused per­pe­tra­tors.

But Ti­tle IX is not the only op­tion for sur­vivors of cam­pus sex­ual as­sault — as crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions are still war­ranted for such accusations — and that is very im­por­tant to keep in mind.

In the Wash­ing­ton Col­lege case, the Ch­ester­town Po­lice Depart­ment is con­duct­ing sep­a­rate crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Wendy Clarke, col­lege me­dia re­la­tions di­rec­tor, said the fe­males who re­ported the sex­ual as­saults were told about their right to file crim­i­nal charges and en­cour­aged to talk to po­lice.

We be­lieve that fil­ing a Ti­tle IX re­port should be an op­tion for univer­si­ties and col­leges, be­cause we also un­der­stand that many sur­vivors to­day likely do not feel com­fort­able fol­low­ing through and speak­ing with law en­force­ment of­fi­cers. Sta­tis­tics and head­lines from na­tional me­dia out­lets about rape cases in other parts of the coun­try have quickly called the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem into ques­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the Rape, Abuse & In­cest Na­tional Net­work, only 20 per­cent of fe­male stu­dent sur­vivors re­port sex­ual vi­o­lence to law en­force­ment. It jumps to just 32 per­cent for non-stu­dents in the same 18 to 24 age range. Fo­cus­ing on stu­dent re­sponses to a study, 26 per­cent thought it was a per­sonal mat­ter, 20 per­cent feared reprisal, 12 per­cent be­lieved it was not im­por­tant enough to re­port, 10 per­cent did not want to get the per­pe­tra­tor in trou­ble and 9 per­cent lacked faith in the po­lice.

Look­ing deeper into that lack of faith in law en­force­ment, RAINN states that out of 1,000 rapes, 994 per­pet­u­a­tors will go free. Only 344 cases are re­ported to po­lice, with 63 of those lead­ing to an ar­rest. From there, just 13 cases will be re­ferred to a pros­e­cu­tor, seven will re­sult in a felony con­vic­tion and six — just six per­pe­tra­tors out of 1,000 — will see jail time. RAINN cites the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Na­tional Crime Vic­tim­iza­tion Sur­vey as its pri­mary data source.

But by opt­ing out of a po­lice fol­lowup, sur­vivors are much less likely to see a crim­i­nal put be­hind bars. And make no mis­take, cam­pus rapists, no mat­ter how “clean­cut” or how much “po­ten­tial” they have, are vi­o­lent, preda­tory crim­i­nals.

Rape is not a triv­ial of­fense and should be treated by in­sti­tu­tions of higher learn­ing, po­lice, pros­e­cu­tors and judges with the same sever­ity as all other vi­o­lent crimes.

Only then may Ti­tle IX in­ves­ti­ga­tions no longer be nec­es­sary, as our ju­di­cial branch steps into its proper role.

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