Going off to college is an exciting milestone for most young adults, but it comes with a terrifying risk. Female college students are three times more likely to experience sexual violence, and women in sororities are four times more likely to be assaulted than non-sorority members. More than 400,000 students roam the campuses of New Jersey’s higher education institutes every day. Statistics vary by region, but the numbers in New Jersey are troubling. Sexual violence on New Jersey college campuses is on the rise, and state schools saw a 15% increase in reports of rape in 2020. Sexual violence takes a devastating toll on victims, and the physical, emotional, and mental effects are often long-lasting.
Sexual assault survivors deserve to see their assaulters answer for their horrendous actions, but accountability is, unfortunately, rare. One-third of sexual assaults are reported to the police, but only 5% of those reports lead to an arrest. As a result, the chances of a sexual predator being convicted of a crime are low.
Victims decide not to report their assaults for a few reasons. They fear police won’t take them seriously, worry they will face retaliation, or simply think law enforcement won’t do anything. However, students who don’t report to the police still have the option of reporting assault to their school’s Title IX office, which is responsible for investigating sexual assault, harassment, and violence. Introduced in 1972, Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination at schools that receive financial support from the government. Schools that don’t comply with Title IX regulations risk losing millions of dollars in federal funding.
What Are Title IX Rights?
In 2020, former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced new Title IX regulations that victims’ rights advocates widely criticized. Those accused of harassment or assault can now cross-examine their accusers during proceedings. The regulations also narrow the definition of sexual assault and harassment, making it harder for victims to come forward. President Joe Biden recently ordered the Department of Education to review its Title IX policies, and the department is conducting public hearings about potential changes to the regulations.
Schools handle Title IX violations differently, but the basics are the same. At Rutgers University, students who have experienced sexual violence can report it online. The form asks for relevant pictures and videos, a description of the incident, and the contact information for everyone involved. From there, the school notifies its Title IX coordinator and campus police. Students can also tell university officials, staff, or faculty about their assaults if they choose not to report them directly to the Title IX office. The school then helps students who are processing traumatic experiences by offering various resources. Some examples, per the school’s official Title IX policy:
- Deadline extensions
- Campus escorts
- No-contact orders
- Relocating students
- Permitting leaves of absence
Next, the school moves forward with investigating the incident. Students usually have two options: informal resolution or formal investigation. During informal resolution, also called the alternative resolution, repairing the harm through education is the focus. Consequences include apology letters, workshops, and listening to an impact statement. Formal investigations take longer and have harsher penalties, like suspension and expulsion. These proceedings often lead to a hearing similar to a trial, with witnesses, cross-examination, and a decision-maker tasked with determining the outcome. Both the complainant and respondent can bring lawyers into the hearing. Attorneys can guide the student through the investigation process, talk to witnesses, and help them navigate the examination process.
When Title IX Goes Wrong?
Ideally, Title IX protects students and gives relief that they may not find during criminal justice proceedings. Unfortunately, schools don’t always meet the standard they should and downplay Title IX violations, even though it’s a decision that could cost them millions of dollars and risk their federal funding.
Students can file complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) if they think their schools violate federal law. OCR will investigate whether the college or university violated federal law and try to resolve the situation. If the school doesn’t cooperate, OCR might move to strip the university of its funding.
If you are facing retaliation or indifference from your New Jersey school after reporting sexual assault, and if the OCR’s findings are dissatisfactory, you should consider pursuing legal action. Students have the civil right to learn without sexual harassment or violence, and schools must enforce Title IX to help protect them. Sexual assault in college is highly distressing for victims, and not being taken seriously by university officials can make it even harder. Attorneys experienced in handling college sexual assault cases can help you get the justice you deserve and relieve some of the burden students feel after being victimized.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault on a college campus in New Jersey or surrounding areas, contact D’Arcy Johnson Day toll-free at 866-327-2952, or online for a free consultation.
From sexual abuse matters to personal injury and workers compensation, Jessica brings a wealth of experience to her practice at D’Arcy Johnson Day. Her fluency in both English and Spanish enables her to help so many members of the community, as she focuses on accident and personal injury cases, work injuries, medical malpractice, immigration, criminal law, and municipal court proceedings among other areas of practice.