Our son leaves home this August for his first year in college, and the excitement around our house is palpable. A few weeks back the school sent a suggested packing list, and it mirrors similar lists that are being sent to the more than twenty million other students who will attend American colleges and universities this fall. Lucas is advised to pack his clothing, bedding, computer, toiletries, and room décor—just to name a few items from the top of the page. Nowhere on that list is a suggestion that a student should prepare for college by learning in advance about the possibility of sexual violence on campus.
Does that sound ludicrous? I am, at least in part, just joking. Although the packing list is not the appropriate place to educate college students on sexual assault, I believe this information absolutely needs to be shared. Despite the fact that our news media has begun to share more about campus sexual violence in recent years, we as a society do not grasp its magnitude. One in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted while in college (www.nsvrc.org). Those are staggering numbers, and the impact brought on by the trauma of sexual violence has life-long implications for everyone affected.
My intent is not for you to run straight to your child’s room and begin unpacking his/her bags for school. This is a message of awareness and education. I want to tell you about Title IX and the ways in which it can protect your child.
How much do you know about Title IX? If you have heard about it, you may think it’s about giving women the right to play sports. Or more recently, it has been mentioned regarding the debate on gendered restrooms. Title IX is far more encompassing than that. In short, it is a federal law that guarantees every student access to the benefits of education free from sexual harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking. So what does that mean? It means that any person who experiences sexual violence on campus is entitled to rights, a few of which include:
The right to report any sexual harassment or sexual violence by a campus employee or fellow student, regardless of whether it happened on or off campus.
The right to decide whether to report to local law enforcement, the school, both, or neither.
The right to be notified of counseling and other support services.
The right to be safe from any retaliation for reporting sexual harassment or violence.
The right to ask the school to take certain measures to keep you safe including:
- Academic accommodations—such as receiving an extension on a paper after an assault, or expunging low grades caused by the lingering effects of violence.
- Housing accommodations—such as moving the attacker out of the residence hall.
- Employment accommodations—such as changing the work schedule to prevent interaction with the perpetrator if the two work in the same place.
- Campus restraining orders—to prevent the perpetrator from contacting the survivor.
Campuses are also working hard to prevent sexual violence. Your child is likely to receive training about consent, healthy relationships, and bystander intervention during orientation or in the residence hall. Faculty and staff members across your child’s campus are trained to report any Title IX violations and help your child to get the services he or she may need. Schools must also offer a person with whom your child can speak confidentially (i.e., a counselor or member of clergy). For a lot of easy-to-understand, helpful information about Title IX, check out www.knowyourix.org.
You’ve likely heard the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that’s true. I also believe that everyone has a role to play in preventing assault and that together we can look after one another. The Center for Women and Families through its CASE Project offers free and confidential services to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. We work in partnership with campuses in the Louisville area, raising awareness about Title IX and letting students know the protections the law affords them. Together, we can work to create a world without violence.
For more information:
CASE Project: Call confidentially for free help at (502) 773-6403. Free legal assistance is available for survivors of sexual assault or intimate partner violence. Help is available for a wide range of legal issues including administrative hearings on campus, housing, right to a safe learning environment, no contact orders, stopping harassment, referrals to authorities for criminal prosecution (if wanted – not required), Title IX Issues, and family law matters.
Center for Women & Families: Call 24/7 for free & confidential services for survivors of sexual assault or intimate partner violence at (502) 581-7222 or toll-free at 1 (844) BE-SAFE-1