What happens when a sexual misconduct claim is made?

Reporting sexual harassment or misconduct is hard, no matter how warranted the claim may be. One of the reasons may be a lack of understanding about the processes that take place once a claim is made. For sexually assaulted college students, no template or standard response for claims exists –as each case is individual— yet what follows is a little background on Title IX and how a report is generally handled.

The Title IX Act in 1972 was initially a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The CRA was passed into law to end discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It did not apply, however, to sex discrimination against those at institutes of education who were not employed by them. Title IX was a response to this deficiency, though it primarily addressed equality in high school and collegiate sports when it was drafted.

A notable expansion occurred (unofficially) during the Obama Administration, when Title IX added protections for physical/mental limitations as well as for gender identity and sexual orientation. In recent years, Title IX has also been extended to support sexual harassment issues.

So what could a student expect to happen after reporting an incident (or repeated incidences) of harassment or aggression on campus? What processes take place? April Hamlin, Dean of Student Services and Title IX coordinator, would likely field a UCC claim regarding students and says, “We collect reports (and) offer resources and referrals as appropriate. After that, depending on the information we receive, we determine a course of action from there.” She says also that “all reports are seen as legitimate.”

Of course, many variables affect the correct response to a claim. For instance, Hamlin explained, a student who asks another out on a date more than once and is declined in a passive fashion – “I’m sorry, I’ve got plans” for example — may not be reading a simple and clear “no” in the translation. In such a case, a code of conduct violation may be more appropriate than proceeding with a sexual harassment claim.

Policies at UCC that draw these distinctions are currently being reviewed and moving through an approval process, but the need for clarity is evident. Currently, in a very oversimplified case like the one given, “part of the process of working with a student who has made this report (after contacting the respondent and asking them to stop asking the person out on a date permanently) is to help the student say no to a request for a date implicitly,” says Hamlin. “We probably wouldn’t find the other student as ‘responsible’ for sexual harassment. Instead, we would work with both students to ensure they had skills that helped them say ‘no,’ hear ‘no’ and pick up on social cues.” Hamlin says that an improvement upon the “no means no” maxim is in order as well. “We need to empower people to say ‘no’ very clearly, and we need to define ‘consent’ as ‘yes means yes,’ not ‘no means no.”

If an unwanted advance has gone past communication and listening failures to the point of sexual assault, Hamlin says an immediate safety plan would be created with the student who has made the claim and “we would do our best to create safe and equal separation of the two students while an investigation ensues,” says Hamlin.

In regards to criminal acts (such as stalking, making threats, physical violence, sexual violence, assaults ect.) and the involvement of local police, Hamlin says, “I will always encourage a student to report it to law enforcement. Typically, this decision is left to the student.”

Lynn Johnson, the director of Human Resources at UCC, concurred with Hamlin in an email interview. “Many victims of sexual assault do not come forward because they fear they won’t be believed, they fear retaliation, or the offender is a friend, acquaintance or former intimate partner,” she says. “Many victims or survivors do not report to law enforcement out of fear the criminal justice system will re-victimize them, as opposed to assisting them. At UCC, we do our due diligence to ensure complaints of sexual assault are investigated timely, confidentially and with the highest degree of integrity.”

Reports or questions related to Title IX can be directed to:
April Hamlin
Dean of Student Services
Phone: 541-440-786
Or
Lynn M. Johnson
Director of Human
Resources

Phone: 541-440-7690.

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