Considering sexual assault and Title IX
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.