This year, Title IX has been a headline issue both on our campus as well
as in our country. Saint Vincent released new Title IX policies via numerous handouts this semester, and the Trump administration is taking action to rollback the Obama-era Title IX guidance in response to the lack of due process they claim the guidance holds.
In response to these actions, we support all efforts to protect and aid the victims of assault, as no one should feel detached because of violence inflicted upon them. We hope that the precautions will be taken, however, to execute justice when upon those who commit sexual assault, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, stalking, sexual or gender-based harassment and retaliation.
Confidentiality is important to us; the victim of sexual assault should always feel safe. The trauma involved could be life changing -- emphasis should be placed on the health and protection of victim. Additionally, if there is no promise of secrecy, those who were assaulted will be hesitant to report the incident knowing that they may be identified to more than one person.
The Title IX policy at SVC now includes “support persons” who are “obligated to report the nature, date, time, and general location of an incident to the Title IX Coordinator while keeping confidential any information that would directly or indirectly identify the victim,” according to the Title IX Resource Guide for Students. All other faculty, staff and administration are required to tell the Title IX Coordinator everything they know, including the identity of those involved, so that an investigation can begin.
These support persons are a positive addition to Title IX policies, and we hope that more victims will come forward to receive support because of the security involved. Knowing that they have somebody to talk to in complete confidentiality, victims will hopefully take advantage of the help they can receive and feel safer to make a public accusation.
However, what happens if the assailant is never accused of the crime?
The Trump administration reports that Obama’s policies deny the person accused of assault of their legal rights to confidentiality.
In the cases where the perpetrator is falsely accused, anonymity is positive. But when the assaulter has committed a crime, anonymity prevents the person from receiving justice. This subversion is where we begin to question if confidentiality for the accused will only reduce the number of criminals being punished for their crimes. What is the balance between the safety of the victim and the safety of others who now live and interact with an unconvicted assailant?
As a whole, we believe that the steps should be taken so that victims of sexual assault of any kind do not feel isolated or at fault. The balance of responsible employees and confidential employees and support persons should prove beneficial on Saint Vincent’s campus.
We hope that the detailed handouts explaining what defines sexual assault, who is confidential or responsible with whom to speak, and how to file a report or complaint will open discussion and eliminate the taboo nature of sexual assault on campus.
For questions or to file a report, email or make an appointment with Eileen K. Flinn, Esq., Title IX coordinator at Saint Vincent College. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 724-805-2897 during office hours and at 724- 672-0033 outside of office hours.
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Photo: John Wojtechko