Title IX’s Important Role in Preventing Sexual Assault on College Campuses

College QuadLast summer I spent a lot of my time planning what I would take to my first year of college. I made extensive lists, set up reminders on my phone and triple checked the date and time I was supposed to move in. Yet, even with all of my preparation, there were still things I forgot. There was one thing, however, that I made absolute certain was with me: pepper spray. It’s sad that my excitement for college included fear for my safety. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Title IX works to alleviate this fear by setting up standards and procedures  that schools must follow in cases of sexual assault.
Sexual assault is a pressing concern on all college campuses. The recent Stanford rape case has highlighted this in the most horrifying way. The letter that the victim wrote to the rapist Brock Turner went viral, reminding the country that sexual assault is a real problem, and most importantly, not the victim’s fault. Rapist Brock Turner was found guilty of three felonies, and yet because the judge thought a more severe sentence would “have a negative effect on his future,” he was only given a sentence of six months in jail. Considering the severity of his crimes, and the slap-on-the-wrist punishment he received, it’s no surprise that many exploded in outrage.
However, what’s even scarier is that it’s so rare for a case like this to even go to trial. On average, out of every thousand rapes, only six rapists will receive a sentence of any kind. Just think: 994 out of every one thousand rapists get to walk away free. Furthermore, 90 percent of campus rapes are perpetrated by repeated offenders. Given these statistics, the fact that rapist Brock Turner will spend six months in jail almost counts as a win. But it’s hard to call that a win when the victim in this case was violated in so many ways: sexually, physically, emotionally.
This needs to stop. The culture around rape and sexual assault needs to change so women can be empowered to speak out when something as horrifying as this happens. Out of every thousand rapes, only 334 are reported to the police. Title IX allows students to file complaints with their schools thereby alleviating some of the stress victims may feel when going to the police. In addition, schools can offer victims more support such as counseling.
Title IX requires schools to address sexual violence regardless of whether or not a police report is filed. Allowing students to file complaints with their schools gives victims another avenue to pursue justice. This reiterates the obligation that schools have to protect their students and give students a space to speak out about sex discrimination of any kind, including sexual violence.
Like many other equal protection policies, it’s not always enforced properly, as depicted in the Stanford rape case, but it’s still a step in the right direction. Furthermore, there are laws in place that ensure confidentiality, yet still make sure colleges and universities are able to publicly report sexual violence and other campus crimes. The NWLC’s resources on Title IX outline how to file a sexual violence complaint with the US Department of Education and what a school’s duties are in regards to Title IX.
It’s natural to be excited to go to college – it’s a new chapter in life filled with new people and new experiences. However, it’s not natural that I felt a pressing need to buy and carry pepper spray with me. Sexual violence is an urgent concern, especially on college campuses. It’s time schools are held accountable for their responsibilities under Title IX.
How to File a Title IX Sexual Harassment or Assault Complaint with the US Department of Education
Title IX Requires Schools to Address Sexual Violence
Actually, You Can Disclose That: Transparency in Sexual Assault Reporting & the Family Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA)