Best known for its impact on high school and college athletic programs, Title IX allows women more access to participation in sports. Aside from its advance in the arena of sports, less publicized is how Title IX affects students, in particular, women, on university and college campuses.
Under Title IX and the Clery Act, students are guaranteed a right to education unencumbered by sexual violence and harassment. Even so, under the federal law Title IX, universities across the country are under fire for the way in which they handle sexual violence. The fact that one in four women are sexually assaulted while in college is egregious and unacceptable. This law not only applies to perpetrators who are more or less considered strangers, but also intimate partners within or outside of the respective institution. Universities and colleges need to be held to a higher standard in creating a safe environment for students. Perpetrators need to be held more accountable for the acts they commit.
While some higher education institutions have responded to students’ activism against sexual violence, many institutions take steps that are only beneficial for the schools’ public relations. These steps are largely superficial and even harmful to student survivors dealing with the aftermath of sexual violence. In the past, women’s personal and private experiences have been used as platforms for social activism. Women should be able to report their own experiences of assault without their information being publicized; victims’ stories should not be revealed without their consent. When Title IX incidents are handled correctly, victims should have access to privacy, protection, and dignity.
Although Title IX is a valuable first step in the right direction, there is still much work to be done. The need for schools to refocus their actions and policy around the interests of students is immediate and imperative. Thankfully, there are ways students can work to change the way their school handles sexual violence and policy.
To raise awareness about Title IX, students can:
- Advocate for their school to require comprehensive Title IX sessions for new students
- Demand that their school hire a well-qualified full-time Title IX coordinator if the school doesn’t already have one
- Join or create a group on campus to raise awareness about Title IX and support survivors of sexual violence
- Speak with administration about meeting the needs of students under Title IX
- File a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education to investigate school policies and practices
- File a lawsuit against their school under Title IX if their school is not already compliant
Access to education is a fundamental civil right; women should be able to enjoy their education without the burden and hindrance of sexual violence. To learn more about Title IX and how you can be an agent of change on your campus, please visit www.knowyourix.com.
Dayan Flynn-Walsh was a NWHN Intern in Summer 2015.
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