Ten common misconceptions about Title IX reporting

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sexual or gender-based harassment, discrimination and violence in higher education. The goal of Title IX reporting is to address a victim/survivor’s immediate safety and needs on campus, eliminate the discrimination, harassment or violence, prevent its reoccurrence, and address its effects.

I recognize that these reporting regulations require a trust and understanding of the steps that will be taken when the information is shared with the Title IX Coordinator, and that trust is still developing on our campus. By exposing the most frequently heard misconceptions about Title IX and our interim policy, I hope to clarify the process, decrease anxiety, and increase trust among my community members. Nina Harris, our Violence Prevention Educator and Advocate, succinctly sums up the Title IX process, “report to connect with support.”

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about Title IX?

 1. Title IX forces victims/survivors to share their experience with the College. FALSE.

A survivor-victim always retains the right to choose who to talk to and what level of information to share. We will never force a survivor-victim to share their experience, but when a report is shared with the Title IX Coordinator, we have a legal duty to follow up on the report to assess safety and the appropriate response under Title IX. The College’s Title IX team will conduct an initial Title IX assessment. Among other factors, the assessment will consider the nature of the report, the safety of the individual and of the broader campus community, and the complainant’s expressed preference for resolution.

 2. Title IX always starts a criminal/legal process. FALSE.

Title IX is a civil rights process and not a criminal justice process. Going to the police and pursuing criminal action is always available to you and we will help you access those resources, but it is a separate and different process from the College’s Title IX process. A community member can pursue both the criminal justice process and the college process at the same time.

 3. The only avenue I have for recourse against the respondent is a disciplinary process. FALSE.

Following the Title IX assessment, and often working closely with the complainant to best understand their own preferences, the College may seek a remedies-based resolution that does not involve disciplinary action against a respondent. A remedies-based resolution may take many forms. It may include interim protective measures, like a no contact order or a residence modification. It may also include targeted or broad-based educational training. Choosing to participate in one of these forms of remedies-based resolution is voluntary and a victim/survivor can choose to participate or not to participate. In some cases, remedies-based resolution is not appropriate based on the facts and circumstances of the misconduct. For example, the College will not use remedies-based resolution for conduct that presents an ongoing threat to an individual or to the broader community.

 4. The Title IX Coordinator is intimidating and will pressure me to pursue disciplinary action. FALSE.

The process may understandably prompt fear. However, I will never pressure a student to pursue a specific action and my goal is to treat every community member with compassion and respect. The College may need to pursue a path the student is not comfortable with ONLY IF there is a broader safety risk for the community, but that will be a burden carried by the Title IX team and not the student.

5. Title IX means that if I am a required reporter I have to report everything from the past. FALSE.

If you are a faculty or staff member, or a student in one of the six identified groups required to report all instances of sexual assault or harassment (RA, SMARTeam, DART, ASAP, SAM, PA), you are not required to report information you learned about prior to taking on your new role except in the presence of an active safety threat to campus. Any student in one of these six groups who is aware of an ongoing or current potential hostile environment or active safety threat must report that information to the Title IX Coordinator regardless of when they learned the information.

6. Title IX is most concerned about the College’s liability. FALSE.

Title IX is about eliminating threatening or abusive behavior, preventing the recurrence of these behaviors, and addressing the effects of these behaviors through support and resources. Title IX is about creating a community where sexual violence will not be and is not tolerated so that all community members can thrive.

7. The Title IX Coordinator and Public Safety don’t care about victims/survivors. FALSE.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Both I, as Title IX Coordinator, and Associate Director of Investigations Beth Pitts have extensive experience working with victims/survivors and specific experience with sexual violence. We, along with the other members of the sexual assault response team, intentionally create a compassionate, sensitive environment to address the issues, gather facts and connect all community members with appropriate support and resources.

 8. Title IX only deals with sexual assault and rape. FALSE.

Under Title IX, discrimination on the basis of sex can include sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and harassment, sexual violence, sexual assault, other forms of sexual misconduct, stalking, intimate partner violence, retaliation, and bullying/hazing.

9. Title IX requires all College employees to report incidents of sexual assault or harassment. FALSE.

Title IX requires many College employees to report, but not all. Some College employees have legally recognized confidentiality and will not share information without the consent of the victim/survivor. The on-campus confidential resources include CAPS counselors, health practitioners at Worth Health Center, religious advisors, and the Violence Prevention Educator and Advocate, Nina Harris. We also encourage students to contact Women Against Rape (WAR), a Delaware county-based group that serves as another confidential resource. For an overview of resources and all reporting options please refer to the interim policy or the Sexual Assault Resources site, Sexual Assault and Harassment Resources.

10. There is a time limit for making a report of sexual harassment or sexual assault. FALSE.

There is no time limit for making a report. The College encourages reporting an incident as soon as possible in order to maximize the College’s ability to respond promptly and effectively. The College does not, however, limit the time frame for reporting. If the respondent is no longer a student or employee, the College may not be able to take judicial action against the respondent, but it will still seek to meet its Title IX obligation by taking steps to end the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects, when relevant.

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