There is a great deal of information related to the responsibility of colleges and universities to protect students and address sexual violence on campus. This information can be overwhelming to advocates and survivors alike. As advocates, our role is to focus on empowerment and choice with survivors and to know where to find information and resources related to campus systems, rather than memorizing the depth of federal law and policy.
Advocacy & Confidentiality
Like all of our work within systems, advocates are constantly negotiating building strong systems partnerships while keeping our clients’ information confidential. This process is supported by clearly and firmly communicating our limits with our systems partners and remembering that we respond to each new system with the same confidentiality practices. There is no system that changes our responsibility to protect survivor information. The same policies and procedures that support your agency’s work within the criminal justice, medical, and corrections systems are transferable to working with campuses, regardless of MOUs or compensation for services. Community based advocates play a crucial role on college campuses precisely because they are outside of the campus system and have clearly defined and time tested protections that student survivors need
If a survivor chooses not to report a sexual assault, this choice must be honored and their anonymity protected for the purpose of Clery Act reporting. Guidance provided to universities regarding their obligations to disclose survivor or incident information must reinforce the value of privacy for survivors. Title IX and Clery both reference survivors’ rights related to privacy and confidentiality. All advocates, whether working on a campus or in the community, must be able to honor the confidentiality needs of survivors. The cornerstone of rape crisis advocacy is empowering survivors to regain control of their lives by making their own decisions following sexual assault.
Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Title IX is a very short statute but Supreme Court decisions and guidance from the U.S. Department of Education have given it a broad scope covering sexual harassment and sexual violence. Under Title IX:
- Schools must disseminate a notice of nondiscrimination.
- Schools must have a Title IX Coordinator. A campus Title IX Coordinator ensures schools are compliant with Title IX, coordinates investigation and disciplinary process, and identifies systematic problems with compliance.
- Schools have to adopt and publish a grievance procedure outlining the complaint, investigation, and disciplinary process for addressing sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.
- Schools are required to be prompt when receiving a complaint of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence in order to remedy any hostile educational environment created by such behaviors.
The Clery Act requires schools to send timely warnings to the school community when there are known risks to public safety on campus. It also contains the Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights, which requires colleges to disclose educational programming, campus disciplinary process, and victim rights regarding sexual violence complaints.
- Reporting: Crimes that occur on school grounds and within school owned buildings qualify for reporting under the Clery Act. Sexual assault is a crime listed under this requirement. The Clery Act does not require a college or university that receives a report of a campus crime to initiate an investigation, nor does it permit a university to release identifying information about a victim. Clery Act crime reports include only the date of the report, the date of the crime, and the general location.
- Disciplinary Process: Colleges and universities must have a policy on campus disciplinary proceedings (from investigation to the hearing to the final resolution) for dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
- Prevention: Colleges and universities must have a policy in their Annual Security Report about primary education and awareness programs for incoming students and employees, as well as ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns.
- Rights: Under the Clery Act, any student or employee who becomes a victim of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking (whether on or off campus) has the right to receive written explanation of their rights and options. The Clery Act also protects against retaliation by an institution, officer, employee, or agent of an institution for exercising their rights under the Act. Retaliation includes intimidation, threats, coercion, discrimination, or any other form of retaliation.
Under Title IX, the person to whom a report is made may have to submit a form, which is used to compute campus crime statistics as mandated by the Clery Act. The form asks for information like what kind of offense occurred and whether it happened on campus property. Survivors do not have to provide any details beyond those they are comfortable sharing, and have no obligation to give the perpetrator’s name. An anonymous report may be possible, depending on the person to whom you report, but victims names should not appear in a college’s public crime statistics. Once a report is made, the school is responsible for carrying out an investigation. Survivors can still pursue criminal legal action outside school systems but the school is still responsible for handling the civil aspects of campus sexual violence cases. A school cannot stop investigating a complaint just because a case has been filed through the criminal justice system.
- Title XI. Know Your XI. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/title-ix/
- Clery Act. Know Your XI. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/clery-act/