Legislating cultural change
Federal and state laws that help move the needle against sexual assault.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal civil rights law, was first connected to sexual harassment in 1977; a group of Yale students argued that sexual harassment and violence constitute sexual discrimination. Title IX:
- Is known for requiring university women’s sports to be funded equally.
- Prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding.
- Includes sexual harassment, sexual battery, sexual assault and rape in the definition of sexual discrimination, as these can “effectively bar the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.”
- Requires that universities investigate sexual assault accusations promptly, through an established, campus-based procedure, regardless of whether local law enforcement authorities are involved.
- Requires schools to continued education for the complainant, implementing no-contact orders against the accused and changes to housing, class schedule, sports teams, campus jobs or extracurricular activities, as needed.
- Prohibits retaliation against a person for filing a Title IX complaint.
- Prohibits encouraging mediation rather than a formal hearing.
Since 2009, when the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights began tracking sexual violence-related Title IX complaints, 337 Title IX sexual assault complaints have been filed, with nearly one-third (122) filed in 2014.
Complaints under Title IX trigger Office for Civil Rights-initiated remedies. Although the law technically threatens termination of federal funding for violations, this step has never been taken.
The Clery Act
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, a federal law, was named for a freshman girl who was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986. The Clery Act:
- Requires that colleges and universities disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.
- Requires public disclosure of an annual security report and crime statistics for on-campus incidents.
- Requires timely warnings about crimes that pose a serious or ongoing threat.
- Requires an emergency response, notification and testing policy.
Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights
This Bill of Rights is a part of the Clery Act and:
- Requires that the accuser and the accused get the same opportunity to have others present at a hearing.
- Requires that both parties be informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding.
- Requires that survivors be informed of their options to notify law enforcement.
- Requires that survivors be notified of counseling services.
- Requires that survivors be notified of options for changing academic and living situations.
Clery Act violations trigger fines of up to $35,000 per violation.
The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act
The SaVE Act is a 2013 amendment to the Clery Act that strengthens protection for survivors and:
- Requires that domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking be disclosed in campus crime reports.
- Gives victims the right to assistance from campus authorities if reporting a crime to law enforcement, including a change in academic, living, transportation or working situations, to avoid a hostile environment; access to and enforcement of a no-contact directive or restraining order; a clear description of disciplinary processes for accused individuals; and information about counseling, health, mental health, victim advocacy, legal assistance, and other services on campus and in the community.
- Clarifies minimum discipline standards.
- Instructs colleges and universities to provide specific programming for students and employees addressing the issues of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The Campus Accountability and Safety Act (proposed)
This bipartisan bill was proposed by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and would amend provisions of the Clery Act. The bill:
- Requires schools to designate confidential advisers to coordinate support services and accommodations, provide information about options for reporting, and provide guidance or assistance, at the direction of the survivor, in reporting sexual assault crimes to campus authorities and/or local law enforcement.
- Prohibits schools from sanctioning students who reveal violations such as underage drinking in the process of reporting sexual violence.
- Requires completion of minimum training for campus personnel.
- Strengthens transparency, including requiring an anonymous student survey about sexual violence on campus to be published online, and a list of schools with pending investigations and resolutions related to Title IX to be publicly posted.
- Increases accountability and coordination with law enforcement.
- Enforces stiffer penalties—up to $150,000 per violation of the Clery Act, and up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget for noncompliance with the new act.
The Campus Accountability and Safety Act never came to a vote but will be introduced again in the 114th Congress. A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives last summer by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).