Sexual misconduct: Recent case sheds light on Title IX, university procedures and resources

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Sexual misconduct: Recent case sheds light on Title IX, university procedures and resources

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As stated in an incident-report summary from the Department of Public Safety, a sexual assault took place near Xavier Hall on Oct. 10 around 2:30 a.m. The incident serves as a reminder of the reality of sexual assault on college campuses and the need for students to be informed about consent and reporting procedures.

While the accused party is a student at Saint Louis University, the alleged victim of the assault is a female not affiliated with the University.  This incident adds to the four reported assaults that took place on SLU’s campus in 2014, which was cited in SLU’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. The report also noted that a combined seven sexual assaults were reported in 2012 and 2013.

Under Title IX, which the Department of Justice states is the “comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity,” universities must investigate reports of sexual assault and will then make decisions about what steps should be taken. Due to restrictions under Title IX, the Title IX Coordinator at SLU, Anna Kratky, is unable to speak about specific incidents of sexual misconduct. However, Kratky explained in general terms the procedures that the University takes after a case of sexual misconduct is reported.

Once an incident has been reported at SLU, Kratky and the various Deputy Title IX Coordinators will provide the reporting party with information about resources, remedial and protective measures, and reporting options – some of which include assisting the individual to a hospital upon request. The coordinators can also provide alternative housing for someone if they feel unsafe in their current residence hall. The coordinators may also provide academic assistance and will also help with filing a communication “no contact” order between the reporting party and the accused party.

From there, the Title IX Investigator will gather information by speaking with both parties about their accounts of the incident, obtain surveillance footage and then speak with other witnesses or persons that they deem knowledgeable of the incident. Once the investigator believes that enough information has been compiled, an investigative report will be written and will claim ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to whether the accused party is at fault for the incident. That report will go to a hearing officer, who will then take all of the information provided, make a decision and, if necessary, determine appropriate sanctions.

Once the decision is made, either party may file an appeal with an appeal board, which is made up of individuals who are highly trained in the intricacies of sexual misconduct. These board members sit in panels of three and have the ability to modify decisions or sanctions placed on the accused party, or uphold the decision of the hearing officer completely. However, whatever the panel decides, it is the final arbiter in the case.

There are various scenarios in which the sexual misconduct policy outlines the procedures in which the Coordinator and Deputy Coordinators will act: cases in which both the reporting and accused parties are students, or in which the reporting party is a student and the accused is not affiliated with the university. Incidents also arise like the one that transpired on Oct. 10, in which the reporting party is not affiliated with the University and the accused party is a student.

In cases where the reporting party is not affiliated with the university, Kratky says that SLU will “still go through the process if that person is willing to go forward. Then we will still investigate that as we would anything else.”

Consent

The latest version of the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, which has been in effect since Aug. 26, 2015, spends a great deal of time spelling out what is and is not effective consent.

The policy defines effective consent as “an affirmative, knowing and voluntary decision – clearly communicated through mutually understandable words and/or actions – to willingly engage in mutually acceptable sexual activity.”

Another major note from the policy is that consent may not be granted if one or both parties are incapacitated from the use of drugs or alcohol. The policy says that incapacitation is “the inability, temporarily or permanently, to give consent or communicate unwillingness, because an individual is mentally and/or physically helpless, unconscious, asleep or unaware that the sexual activity is occurring.”

There are various ways of knowing when an individual is incapacitated, some of which include difficulty walking, slurred speech and experiencing difficulty communicating, confusion about where the individual is and what is happening, as well as displaying combativeness or emotional volatility that shows a change in demeanor.

One way that the University tried to educate students on consent and sexual misconduct issues has been adopting “Haven” as the online vehicle for the University’s student sexual-misconduct-awareness training.

Haven is an interactive online module that provides students with information on sexual assault and other Title IX issues, and then takes the student through various situations and asks them what decisions might be made in the scenario

Kratky stated that Haven was the best option in terms of getting the information across to students. She also noted that the module is in line with the University’s Jesuit Mission in that it is “about choices, and what kind of choices do we want to make in our lives?”

Resources

In order to report an incident of sexual misconduct, Kratky or any of the Deputy Title IX Coordinators may be contacted. Kim Sahr, the Equity Officer for Title IX issues, can be reached to make an appointment with Title IX staff. Students may also contact DPS, and the department will leave a message with the Coordinators.

Additional information and the complete contact information for the Title IX Coordinator and Deputies can be found on the sexual misconduct resources website.

Every student is responsible for learning the resources available and what effective consent means. Preventing sexual misconduct is possible when students participate in the efforts against it.

 

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that a “no contact” order would be between the university and the accused party. However, the order would be between the reporting and accused parties. The accused party will always be able to contact and communicate the university.