Campus Sexual Violence: Title IX vs. Trump vs. 'New Power'
by Naomie Tat on March 17, 2017 - 10:40am
Do you know your rights? Because most victims of campus sexual violence do not.
Jessica Luther, in her New York Times’ article “Fighting College Sexual Assault in the Trump Era”, talks about the rights of survivors of sexual assault on campus and how they might be jeopardized due to the election of President Trump. In 1972, the Title IX of the Education Amendments was voted in the United States. This amendment, which is also known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” has been a powerful tool to combat campus sexual violence. It has not only allowed female athletes to be treated equal to male athletes in all fields of college sports teams, but has also provided protection to pregnant students as well as students who have children. Due to this act, the rights of transgender students, victims of sexual violence and victims of gender-based harassment have been protected. If victims feel that their school has violated Title IX, they have the right to file a complaint at the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), a sub-agency of the United Stated Department of Education. When Obama was in office, the Department of Education signed a bill that further protected those rights. Since October 7th, 2016, colleges and universities around America have the obligation to adequately respond to allegations and complaints of sexual harassment and violence. Thus, if they do not do so, it becomes a violation of Title IX. The bill of rights also asks for those institutions to have a specific coordinator who is responsible for investigations as well as the prevention of harassment and sexual assault through counseling and offering other accommodations, such as changing course schedules or campus housing. As of February of 2017, the OCR is investigating over 300 cases of Title IX violations by 223 colleges and universities around the country due to many reports of unfair investigatory processes and failures to investigate complaints. Last month, Trump’s pick for the new education secretary, Betsy DeVos confirmed that she is not willing to continue enforcing Title IX.
So, what is the issue? There are many issues regarding Title IX and how the Trump government will affect the act. The main problem is that many schools will make their efforts to help survivors and investigate cases assault even less prominent. They will stop preventing future occurrences. On thing to be hopeful is that college and universities have put a large amount of their money in building Title IX departments and hiring staff to run them. Therefore, there is no worry that schools that already have that established will go “backwards at this point no matter who is running the Department of Education” as John Clune, a Title IX lawyer from Boulder, Colorado has said. However, it will still inevitably slow down the progress that schools have been making to protect their students’ rights.
In brief, as a staff lawyer of the American Civil Liberties Union, Chase Strangio, described: “the source of substantive protection of the civil rights laws are the civil rights statutes themselves and the [federal agencies] can’t undo that.”
“New Power”, which is often defined as something that is made by many, is open to participation, is peer-driven and, like a current, distributes rather than captures, can enable individuals and groups to respond to this issue. To solve these issues in a concrete way, many different organizations have created projects, like Reach Out: College Edition and Callisto (by Capptivation). Reach Out is a smartphone application which helps high school’, college’ and university’ students learn about their rights, their options and the laws that protect them from campus sexual misconduct. It connects students directly to their Title IX coordinators and the authorities. Some schools have even expanded the app to help students with other areas such as academic support, substance abuse, depression, bullying, disabilities, etc. On the other hand, Callisto recognizes that “20% of women, 7% of men, and 24% of trans and gender nonconforming students are victims of sexual assault.” According to Sexual Health Innovations, the company that generated Callisto's, research, less than 10% of campus assault survivors report their cases to authorities and those who do wait almost an entire year before doing so, because they take time to realize what happened to them and label it. 85% of college sexual assault survivors are terrified to speak up because they are afraid of the social consequences and to not be believed by their friends, family members and/or school administrators. As a solution, Ladd created Callisto, a website launched to college campuses around the country that provides a safe and supportive platform for students to learn about and report sexual assault and sexual violence on their campus. The website can help prevent 59% of sexual assault just by stopping repeat perpetrators early on. Its founders describe Callisto as an information escrow that holds information for you. It only shares the information if two people name the same person or another person describes the same offender. Then, the information provided is directly sent to the Title IX coordinator and the authorities for investigation. Thus, victims and survivors no longer have to physically go report sexual assault and can know immediately when offenders have repeated their behavior. They can know they have helped prevent sexual violence on campus without having to publicly tell their friends and family.
I believe both platforms can do a lot for the issue of sexual violence on college campuses as it can help inform teenagers and help combat a lot of the reasons why they do not want to express their concerns. They are both products of the concept of 'New Power' as they are both peer-driven, are open to participation and distributes information from students to other students, as well as the authorities. In addition, I obviously hope that Reach Out: College Edition and Callisto will soon make their way around the globe and expands from only being available in the United States. However, both ideas and the development of both networks are genius and have an enormous amount of potential.
Here is a link to the TED Talk given by the founder of Sexual Health Innovations, Jessica Ladd, where she clearly explains the purpose of Callisto:
Works Cited List:
- Main Article -
- Title IX -
- 'New Power' -
- Callisto -
- Reach Out: College Edition -