There is a growing numbers of lawsuits being filed against colleges and universities for improper sexual misconduct (link opens in new tab) investigations, filed both by the accuser as well accused. Though with good intent, the reality is most Title IX (link opens in new tab) investigators have little training in the realities of sexual assault and stalking investigations.
Why Are Title IX Improper Sexual Misconduct Investigations Resulting in Increased Lawsuits?
Generally speaking, Title IX, OCR investigators know harassment, discrimination, and gender equity issues and investigative procedures very well; however, sexual assault and stalking investigations are entirely different.
Sexual harassment and discrimination are civil issues; sexual assault and stalking are criminal and much more complex. Investigating sexual assault and stalking should involve someone who has a significant amount of specialized training.
For example, understanding that all stalkers are not alike. With some stalking situations, an investigation would generally not create an increased threat to the target. However, in another situation if an investigation is started and significant efforts are not put into providing a safe location for the survivor, a high chance of physical contact by the perpetrator (stalker) exists. Letters to the offender about no contact are not effective.
Why Does A Title IX Investigation Take Place?
Investigating a sexual assault perpetrated by someone known to the target is perhaps the most common investigation. A successful investigation resulting in sanctions is generally predicated upon understanding the profile and behavior pattern of the offender, understanding the use of alcohol and drugs as tools against reluctance, understanding evidence collection, knowing who to question and how, and understanding the importance of the relationship between the investigator and the survivor.
Where Does the Investigation Fall Short?
Often-times, in understanding the survivor. It is common for survivors of sexual assault to delay reporting. It is common for survivors to have problems remembering specifics. It is rare that survivors show any signs of resistance due to the effects of drugs, alcohol, and tonic immobility. It is common for survivors to have contact again with the alleged offender, due to denial, guilt, self-blame, and confusion. These are but a few facts that many investigators do not have a thorough understanding of resulting in a less than effective investigation.
How Can The Issue Be Fixed?
Writing policies and understanding the legal issues for colleges and universities are important and are stressed for Title IX Coordinators. Unfortunately, what is not stressed is how to get out of the office and conduct a proper, thorough, professional investigation. Once these tools are given to coordinators and investigators, sanctions will increase, and lawsuits reduce.
At No Zebras Productions, we work with Title IX on campuses (link opens in new tab) to educate, affirm and support college students. Has your campus booked it's 2019/20 prevention program training? Contact us today, before we're booked for the year.