On its website, the United States Department of Justice highlights a chilling statistic: one out of every four female undergraduates will be a victim to some form of sexual assault before graduation.
Sexual violence and students’ Title IX complaints have spread throughout college campuses across the country. If you or someone you know was sexually assaulted on campus, our attorneys can help you navigate the complex Title IX process.
What Is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. This includes most schools, including private institutions and grades K-12.
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 the 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 the 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, star athletes Jameis Winston and Peyton Manning were identified as possible sexual assailants in Title IX lawsuits.
Just last month, Florida State University settled its federal Title IX lawsuit with Erica Kinsman, a 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 also 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 who the perpetrator is, whether it be the football quarterback, an administrator, or a stranger at the local bar – they should be held responsible for their crimes. Victims should seek immediate medical help and support from the local rape crisis clinic, and find the courage to tell 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 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 legal help. 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, and authority figures who fail to protect those in their care must be held responsible for what happens under their watch.
Lawyers at Cory Watson are available to provide confidential, free legal consultation for victims of sexual abuse.