According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities which receive federal financial assistance.” It states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” For the purposes of Title IX, sexual violence falls under the definition of sexual harassment. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing Title IX and provides guidance to schools/agencies to assist them in complying with the law. If someone is a victim of discrimination, they may file a complaint with OCR under Title IX (U.S. Department of Education, 2014).
The Clery Act is a federal law enforced by the U.S. Department of Education that requires colleges and universities in the U.S. to disclose information about campus crime. As part of the law, schools must publish an annual security report, maintain a public crime log, release crime statistics, issue timely alerts about crime, implement an emergency response plan, and have procedures for handling missing persons cases.
Forms of sexual violence:
Sexual violence is a broad term and includes rape, incest, child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure and voyeurism. Sexual violence is a social justice issue that occurs because of abuse, misuse and exploitation of vulnerabilities. It is a violation of human rights and can impact a person’s trust and feeling of safety. Acts of sexual violence are not only about control and/or sex. Rape culture exists, in part, because of disparities in power that are often rooted in oppression. Sexual violence happens to people of all ages, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, abilities, professions, incomes and ethnicities.
Who commits sexual violence?
There are common misconceptions and stereotypes about people who sexually abuse. It is not helpful when these stereotypes are reinforced in media coverage. Here are some facts about people who sexually abuse:
- Not all offenders are the same. Some are more likely to reoffend than others, and there are different motivations for offending.
- They can have strong social ties in the community. People who sexually abuse can be male or female, and span a variety of backgrounds and ages. Some individuals are married with stable relationships, employment and lack a prior criminal history.
- The majority of sexual violence is committed by someone the victim knows — a family member, intimate partner, coworker, classmate or acquaintance.
Consent means you are free to enter and free to leave, this means that at any time you are welcome to say no or leave the situation. What takes away consent? Consent is taken away if physical force is involved. Consent is also taken away if for any reason you are incapacitated, this can be from age, mental status or alcohol. In order to give proper consent, the message must be clear.
Ways to prevent sexual violence:
Risk-reduction and prevention are different things. Primary prevention approaches acknowledge that prevention is possible, and this approach addresses the root causes of sexual violence and aims to change cultural norms. Risk-reduction approaches seek to decrease a particular person’s risk for victimization, such as self-defense classes. Some primary prevention approaches:
- Be a role model for respectful relationships
- Speak up when hearing harmful comments or witnessing acts of disrespect or violence
- Create policies at workplaces and schools
- Talk with legislators and ask them to support prevention programs
When and how to intervene:
Every situation is different and there is no universal response when intervening to prevent sexual violence. Safety is key in deciding when and how to respond to sexual violence. Every person must decide for themselves the safest and most meaningful way to become an engaged bystander. Some ideas on how to maintain safety while being an engaged bystander:
- If you witness sexual violence, get support from people around you. You do not have to act alone. If you do not feel safe, contact the police.
- Practice with friends and family about what you would say and how you would say it.
- When intervening, be respectful, direct and honest.
- Contact your local sexual assault center to see if they offer resources or trainings. For contact information, visit http://tinyurl.com/lkdsbd8.
- Download a free copy of National Sexual Violence Resource Center Engaging Bystanders to Prevent Sexual Violence Information Packet: http://tinyurl.com/n92ze24.
What do I do if it happens to me?
If you have been a victim of sexual misconduct, it is important that you speak out. Many times, sexual misconduct is not reported because the victim feels ashamed, or feels as if they are going to hurt the person who did it. You are not alone. It is important to speak out and to stop it from happening to you again or to others around you. Tell the police, tell security, tell someone. Get help.
What will happen if I speak out?
If you speak out and fight back against sexual misconduct, you are preventing it from happening again. Whether you are the victim or a witness, it is important to help give information in anyway you can. Staying silent won’t help you or the victims of sexual misconduct, but speaking out will. You are helping, not hurting.