Sexual Assault Alarmingly Present on College Campuses
The risk of sexual assault is often elevated on college and university campuses, yet the odds of a victim reporting are less likely.
By Cecelia Heckman
Title IX Protects Women, LGBTQ+ Individuals
Title IX is a fairly well-known part of the Education Amendments of 1972 that has been a major aspect of both American politics and the education system for decades now. It began with a simple principle: no discrimination based on a person’s sex in educational institutions. Since its inception, Title IX has grown to address more intense gender issues regarding sexual violence and harassment within the American education system, at all grade levels.
“Title IX was originally created to provide equal access to sports for females as well as males in colleges,” Dr. Betsy Crane, a professor for human and sexuality studies at Widener University, said. “It was expanded under the Obama Administration to also include attention to sexual assault, attention to sexual harassment, attention to bullying. And that also included people of varying sexual orientations.”
In order for the mandate of Title IX regulations to apply to a particular school or college, they must be receiving some form of federal government aid; however, this is true of almost all schools, even many private and parochial schools.
Though sexual harassment was not explicitly mentioned in the legislation for Title IX, five years after it went into effect there was a violation case based on harassment. While the case ended quickly based on insufficient evidence, it opened the doors for harassment and similar issues to be discussed under Title IX.
In 1980, the National Advisory Council on Women’s Educational Programs decided to take more formal action to include issues of harassment within Title IX. “The council was particularly concerned about students, since Title VII already protected academic employees,” according to a report from the American Association of University Professors. “The council defined academic sexual harassment as ‘the use of authority to emphasize the sexuality or sexual identity of a student in a manner which prevents or impairs that student’s full enjoyment of educational benefits.’”
In recent years, issues of sexual violence on campus have become an even more prominent part of the discussion when it comes to the law.
“Title IX is a civil rights law,” Executive Director of the Clery Center Alison Kiss said. “One of the tenants of Title IX is looking at gender equity. So, you know, making sure if someone reports that they’ve been assaulted or a victim of harassment, that there’s not an environment that they’d be retaliated against or they’re feeling unsafe.”
One of the regulations of Title IX is that they must inform victims of their options after an assault occurs. They have the right to decide if they’d like to report the incident to the police. The school, whether the student reports to the police or not, then has a duty to make any changes necessary to ensure there is not a hostile environment for the student.
“The purpose of Title IX is to level the playing field,” Kiss said. “[It] is about making sure that it’s an environment, K-12 and higher education, where people can learn and grow safely, and that there are measures in place if somebody reports harassment or sexual violence happening to them. That the campus has obligation to make sure that that student feels safe throughout the rest of their education.”
By Cecelia Heckman