With April being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Auburn’s Title IX policies remind us that the University has many resources for survivors of sexual assault while protecting itself from discrimination.
Katherine Weathers is the Deputy Director of the Affirmative Action / Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the Senior Deputy Title IX Coordinator at the University and has been working in this area since 2010. The AA / EEO office handles all issues. issues of discrimination and title violation. IX.
“The law is actually more geographically limited,” Weathers said.
Title IX legislation does not protect against violations that occur outside of Auburn’s main campus or academic activity, such as in study abroad programs.
“If you are not in the United States, you cannot violate Title IX,” Weathers said. “But Auburn, and universities across the country, want to be able to hold their students and employees accountable for this behavior, so we have policies. That go beyond what the Title IX law says.”
Auburn’s Title IX policy protects against discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation and harassment. It also provides subgroups, such as sexual assault with or without penetration, to these categories to make reporting more accurate.
Weathers said the most common reports she saw from college students were of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking. For employees, it is sexual harassment and relationship violence. The least common reports she sees are quid pro quo sexual harassment, legal rape and incest. At the university, she said, there were, on average, 200 reports a year of some type of sexual misconduct.
“You can look at the experts out there online, national organizations and things like that, where they’ll say 20% of college students report, which means 80% don’t,” Weathers said. “So extrapolate that from 200 reports.”
Reporting an incident involves searching for “Auburn Title IX” and filling out the form on the AA / EEO office web page. They can also email Title IX coordinator Kelley Taylor and Senior Assistant Weathers directly.
“Reporting does not commit [the person reporting] to do anything, ”Weathers said. “We’re just reaching out.”
She said the reporter had no obligation to take action, but the office was simply providing them with resources such as Safe Harbor – a 24/7 hotline for victims of sexual assault – or student counseling services. .
“It could be as simple as a contactless directive,” she said.
A non-contact directive is a common response to reports. The office coordinates communication between the two parties involved, essentially telling them not to communicate directly or indirectly and not to let anyone communicate on their behalf. If it is broken, then the problem is handed over to student conduct as non-compliance.
A similar office tool called an informal agreement allows them to draft separation terms that both parties agree to, such as one party will not go to events or places the other frequents.
“So it’s not disciplinary or punitive action against someone who is accused of something,” Weathers said. “It is only an administrative action.”
The AA / EEO office may also contact the student’s faculty to make sure they can help them be successful under the circumstances.
If the victim wishes to make a formal complaint, the office can investigate the case which is ultimately a hearing taking place, currently on Zoom, where a hearing officer asks questions of both parties and reviews the case to take a decision.
“Our standard of proof is only the preponderance of evidence,” Weathers said.
Weathers said the office was not responsible for putting anyone in jail. At worst, they would tell them to quit college.
“I think the police have some kind of blunt instrument,” Weathers said. “We have more precision instruments that we can use to help students as much as possible.”
However, she said she still encourages students to report to the police as well. The only time the office should report an incident to the police is when the victim was a minor.
Weathers warned that people tend to say that the first 6-8 weeks is a vulnerable time for freshmen to be sexually assaulted, due to regained freedom and the introduction to alcohol, but any great feast is also a vulnerable time. She also said most cases involved a situation where a group of friends lost track or let a friend go on a party night.
“The point is, someone took advantage of this situation,” Weathers said. “So that’s wrong. There may also be a few behaviors that are just not correct. It might not be a sexual assault … but we should also be trying to stop bad sex behaviors. “
Allison Vandenberg, a teacher in women and gender studies, often deals with topics of gender discrimination in her field of work.
“When we look back at the history of women’s education in the United States, we see that there are a lot of women who get opportunities through athletic scholarships that would not have been available to them otherwise. for Title IX, ”Vandenberg said.
Vandenberg also recognizes that the law protects students from trauma and harm. The best way to do this is to report when a violation has occurred, she said.
“When we have reports through Title IX, it tells us what is really going on with the students,” she said. “So we get more data from that, and, in turn, allows for a greater allocation of resources so that we can not only create, but also expand much of the efforts already being made on campuses.
Vandenberg said that to adequately address the issue of sexual assault on our campus, victims must report it, so that sufficient support can be provided to future victims. The University must also let the community know that this support exists and that it will be there for them if they need it, she said.