As we are officially one month into the new school year, it is around this time of year that students are receiving their reminder for the once a year required sexual assault prevention training course. In this year’s email, The New School states that they work “diligently to promote and create an educational environment that is healthy and safe for all students.” The purpose of training is to ensure that as students we are aware of the processes and resources available through our university. Topics that are covered include: sexual harassment and stalking, consent and coercion, values, identities and relationships, stereotypes, bystander intervention, and the options that are available for a survivor. When approaching these subjects, it is critical that we have a shared understanding of what sexual assault, consent and Title IX are.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network), women ages eighteen to twenty four are at an elevated risk of sexual violence. In college, women are three times as likely to be at risk, while women who are not attending college are four times as likely to be at risk. Individuals with disabilities are three times as likely to be at risk for sexual violence. RAINN, amongst numerous other organizations, estimate that one in five female college survivors received assistance from a victim services agency and that college age victims often do not report to law enforcement. Likely, the reason that colleges enforce sexual assault prevention training near the beginning of the school year is because students are at an increased risk during the first months of their first semester in college. More than 50 percent of sexual assaults occur during the months of August, September, October and November. These statistics are provided to assist survivors, advocates and researchers for ending violence against women.
The organization Knowing Your IX details from a survey from 2007 that, “Survivors cite a number of reasons for not reporting such as not wanting others to know, lack of proof, fear of retaliation, being unsure of whether what happened constitutes as sexual assault, did not know how to report, and fear of being treated poorly by the criminal justice system.” Sexual assault is a crime where an offender subjects a victim(s) to unwanted and non-consensual sexual contact. It is a form of sexual violence which is an umbrella term that encompasses sexual abuse, assault, and rape. In understanding consent, consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. A newer model for consent is called enthusiastic consent which is an understanding that consent is a positive expression and confirmation. It may look like an affirmative expression and mutual understanding of each other’s boundaries. It is not something that can be given if underage, intoxicated, incapacitated, asleep, unconscious or given under pressure of intimidation or threat under unequal power dynamics. Consent can also be given at one time and taken back at another in knowing you can change your mind at any point in time. It’s important that we understand that sometimes our physiological responses such as being aroused does not equate to consent. Our bodies’ reactions do not always match up to how we are truly feeling on the inside.
How does this relate to Title IX? Title IX was formed in 1972 as an educational amendment act. It requires schools to “adopt and publish grievance procedures for students to file complaints of sexual discrimination.” This includes complaints of sexual harassment and/or sexual violence. Title IX allows for the school to use disciplinary procedures to address sexual discrimination and violence by prohibiting sexual violence, rape, harassment, exhibitionism, threats and abuse. According to Knowing Your IX, international and undocumented students face additional concerns with currently few answers for the intersection of Title IX and immigration status. Research also indicates that nearly half of all transgender and bisexual women experience sexual violence within their lifetime, and under Title IX, they all are protected.
Title IX protects students from sexual harrassment and violence and enforces schools to take on their obligation to stop sex discrimination. It covers all students regardless of sex or gender identity, international, foreign, all students are protected by Title IX. The New School’s website states that, “The New School is committed to…offer(ing) assistance to community members affected by sexual harrassment and other forms of sexual violence.”