March 8th, 2016|
As of July 2015, 124 colleges had open Title IX sexual violence investigations against them. This was seven months ago and the numbers are not changing. Sexual violence and students’ Title IX complaints have spread throughout college campuses across the country.
What Is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal law, so it applies to all schools and colleges. Under Title IX, colleges must have an established system for investigating complaints of sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. Schools must take immediate action to ensure a victim can continue their education without ongoing sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence. Schools may not retaliate against someone filing a complaint and must keep the victim/survivor safe from other reciprocal harassment or behavior.
Victims and survivors should also be aware that schools have authority to issue a “no contact order” under Title IX to stop the accused assailant from approaching or interacting with the victim/survivor. The school is prohibited from allowing or encouraging mediation and instead should conduct a formal disciplinary hearing if sought by the victim/survivor. Universities should not make the student pay costs of necessary accommodations required to continue education after experiencing sexual violence. Through Title IX, students shall have the opportunity to continue their education in a safe learning environment where schools hold perpetrators of sexual violence accountable for their actions.
Are Universities Protecting Their Star Athletes From Title IX Prosecution?
Notably, one in three college sexual assaults are committed by student athletes. While the general population has an 80% conviction rate, the athletes’ conviction rate stands in stark contrast at a mere 38%. Recently, nationally acclaimed athletes Jameis Winston and Peyton Manning were identified as sexual assailants in Title IX lawsuits.
Just last month, Florida State University settled their federal Title IX lawsuit with Erica Kinsman, former student who said she was raped by quarterback Winston in 2012. When she first made her allegations, the University treated her as if she had committed a crime by reporting the rape by its star quarterback. She fought back and persevered. The school agreed to pay Kinsman $950,000 including attorney’s fees and a five-year commitment to prevention and training programs to make students more aware of sexual violence.
This month Peyton Manning was identified in a Title IX complaint against the University of Tennessee, just two days after his Super Bowl victory. The lawsuit was filed by six female students who claim that the university violated Title IX. The women state that the University fostered a “hostile sexual environment and culture” that enabled sexual violence, especially by student athletes. The lawsuit also claims that when acts of violence by athletes were reported by the women, the University administration acted with “deliberate indifference” and repeated “grossly inadequate discipline and resolution in favor of male, ‘major sport’ athletes.” This case is still pending.
As these cases demonstrate, it is important that survivors and victims’ come forward. No matter whom the perpetrator is, whether it be the football quarterback, an administrator, or a stranger at the local bar – the law does not provide immunity. Victims should seek immediate medical help and support from the local rape crisis clinic; find the courage to tell their families and close friends so you know you are not alone. Victims should not have to fear repercussions after coming forward. Title IX mandates that students have an opportunity to be heard without fear that their complaints will be overlooked or even worse, that they will be blamed for their own assault, harassment, and/or rape.
At Cory Watson Attorneys, we believe that every voice should be heard. Our attorneys are here to provide a legal help to redress such grievances. As advocates for victims and survivors of sexual violence, our attorneys seek to ensure that students get the justice they deserve. Sexual abusers must be held accountable; likewise, people in a position of authority who fails to protect those in their care, must be held responsible for what happens under their care. Lawyers at Cory Watson are available to provide confidential, free legal consultation for victims of sexual abuse.