Amid the disruptions and upheavals we’re all facing during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine orders, many of us in the world of sexual violence prevention have been preparing to hear about new Title IX regulations for months. As of yesterday, those new regulations have been released. The new regulations are a sharp departure from how much of this work has been done. Some of the key changes include things that are disheartening to many who work in sexual violence prevention and response.
Some of these changes include:
- Live hearings for Title IX investigations, wherein students’ advisers are allowed to cross-examine parties and witnesses. This means family and friends as well as lawyers may be allowed to interrogate students making complaints of sexual violence.
- A higher threshold of evidence is required in order to enact sanctions, putting what could potentially be a greater burden of proof on survivors of sexual violence.
- Complaints of sexual violence occurring off campus are no longer required to be followed up on by Title IX investigators, unless it happens at a facility such as off-campus housing or a Fraternity or Sorority house.
- A Title IX coordinator no longer has to follow up on multiple informal complaints about one accused party’s actions with a formal investigation.
This is just a small sample of the 2,000-plus page document the Department of Education released, and we at Muhlenberg are still examining and doing our best to make sense of it all. You can read up on them more for yourself here and here. From a Prevention Education standpoint, there are many concerns that arise with respect to believing and supporting survivors, which is what those of us in sexual violence prevention and response are tasked with doing first and foremost. We at Muhlenberg believe these guidelines represent a baseline of what needs to be done, but we are willing and committed to going above and beyond these regulations to support our students. We aren’t crystal clear on what that will look like, but after conversations with Equity and Title IX, I am confident that we will do our best to be just, thoughtful, and do what we can to support those who come forward to report sexual and gender-based violence.
There will be opportunities to discuss these new regulations and how we plan to implement them at our school coming soon. I will update this blog as soon as we know when and how that will happen, so that we can all talk this through as a community.
What can you do in the meantime?
- Learn about the Title IX regulations. This can include following Prevention Ed (@preventionedu) and our Equity and Title IX office (@muhlenbergequitytitleix) on Instagram. It’s On Us, (@itsonus) a program dedicated to preventing sexual violence on college campuses, also has a robust Instagram presence.
- Check in with your friends. Have friends of yours disclosed that they are survivors of sexual assault? Check in on them and see how this information is landing. Just letting them know you care can go a long way!
- Share and promote information. Talk with your friends and family, in your classes, and online about these issues. Only share from reputable sources, and fact-check misinformation when you see it.
- Take time for yourself. If you are a survivor of sexual and/or gender-based violence, give yourself permission to look away when you need to. We all have a lot going on right now, and you’re not required to engage all the time.
- Block the content altogether. There are ways to filter out what you see on social media – this guide can show you how. You can also use this Chrome extension.
- Reach out. If you need support, please contact Title IX, Prevention Ed, or Counseling Services. The Muhlenberg Peer Education group Voices of Strength (@voicesofstrength_muhlenberg on Instagram) works to educate their fellow students on sexual and gender-based violence – you can also follow and talk with them.
Know that if you are a survivor, you are seen and believed. We will all get through this together.