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Intimate Partner Violence & Title IX

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Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Title IX


Anyone who attends an educational institution or works for one should know about Title IX and its protections against sex discrimination in education. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in various educational settings and programs. Specifically, this federal law 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 educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” As you may know, Title IX also provides protections against sexual harassment and sexual assault as forms of sex discrimination. Under Title IX, colleges and universities must develop policies for handling Title IX complaints, must have clear procedures for students to file Title IX complaints, and must have a Title IX coordinator.

Many students, faculty, and staff are familiar with Title IX as a result of sexual misconduct policies and hearings at colleges and universities. While sexual misconduct is defined in various ways by educational institutions, it is important to know that intimate partner violence (IPV) can — be and often is– considered to be a form of sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that many different issues are involved in Title IX cases pertaining to intimate partner violence, and it is critical to understand how your school defines it.

What is Intimate Partner Violence?

In general, any kind of violence or abuse that occurs between people who are in a dating relationship can affect both male and female students. To be sure, relationship violence, or dating or domestic violence, can be perpetrated by male and female students at a college or university. Likewise, people who are harmed by dating abuse or domestic violence are both male and female.

While many common narratives of sexual misconduct prohibited under Title IX involve parties who are not in intimate or dating relationships with one another, it is important to know that Title IX also provides protections against intimate partner violence, or IPV. Whether you have been subject to intimate partner violence or have been accused of it, it is important to understand how your particular institution defines it in order to prepare for a Title IX case.

Learning More About Intimate Partner Violence on College Campuses

The following information from the Association of Title IX Administrators provides historical facts and data about intimate partner violence and Title IX cases on college campuses:

  • About 43 percent of women report that they have experienced “some violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal, or controlling abuse”
  • Approximately 22 percent of college women report that they have experienced “actual physical abuse, sexual abuse, or threats of physical violence”
  • More than 50 percent of college students say that they have difficulty identifying “dating abuse”
  • More than 21 percent of students report that they have experienced “dating violence by a current partner while in college”
  • More than 40 percent of LGBTQ students in college indicate that they have “experienced intimate partner violence in their current relationships”

While each of these statistics provides information about potential sexual misconduct allegations on college or university campuses, the specific language in each data point may not be defined as intimate partner violence by a particular institution (but instead may fall into a different definition or classification).

The Prevalence of Intimate Partner Violence on College Campuses

Despite campaigns to raise awareness, efforts at prevention, and public penalties imposed on perpetrators, intimate partner violence remains a serious problem on college campuses affecting a vast number of students.

Statistics on Campus Dating Violence

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH), a staggering 29%–one out of every three–female college students report that they have been in an abusive relationship with a dating partner. The organization also relates that 52% of women in college have a friend who has endured violent or abusive dating behaviors such as:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Digital harassment
  • Verbal harassment
  • Controlling behaviors

While many organizations have observed that women of college age are at the greatest risk of sexual violence regardless of their status as a student or their residence in a campus setting, the NDVH notes that of college students who experienced violence in dating, 57% reported that the violence occurred while they were in college.

Moreover, a disturbing number of college students, more than half, said they find it difficult to identify dating abuse, which means the actual instances of intimate partner violence could be substantially higher.

How the Numbers Compare to the Off-Campus World 

The dating and domestic violence figures for women off campus, while not encouraging, can be seen as slightly better than for women in a college environment. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which operates the National Domestic Violence Hotline, reports that one out of every four women in the U.S. have suffered through severe intimate partner violence, and one out of every seven women has been injured by an intimate partner.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that sexual violence is the most prevalent crime on college campuses. There are twice as many sexual assaults against women reported on campus than there are robberies. By contrast, robbery is the more prevalent crime when the population of women is considered as a whole. In the general population, women report 20% more robberies than sexual assaults.

RAINN statistics also point to significantly high rates of sexual violence on campus. The organization reports that 13% of college students have experienced rape or sexual assault involving the use of force, and over 26% of undergraduate females experience this type of serious sexual violence. In addition, over 23% of TGQN college students have also reported being sexually assaulted. While these statistics cover situations beyond intimate partner violence, nearly half of all rape victims nationwide were victimized by someone they knew.

Prevention and intervention efforts on campus should potentially be concentrated in the fall. RAINN statistics show that more than half of all sexual assaults on college campuses occur between August and November. In addition, students face an increased risk of sexual assault during the first few months of their first two semesters in college, so it is particularly important to educate new students about the dangers and the resources available if they face intimate partner violence or other forms of sexual violence. 

Varying College and University Definitions of Intimate Partner Violence

From institution to institution, the specific definition of intimate partner violence can vary. Accordingly, it is critical to understand how your specific institution defines it if you plan to file a Title IX complaint related to intimate partner violence or you need to defend against allegations.

For example, Swarthmore College defines intimate partner violence as including “dating violence, domestic violence, and relationship violence,” and explains that it can be characterized as “any act of violence or threatened act of violence against a person who is, or has been involved in, a sexual, dating, domestic, or other intimate relationship with that person.” Swarthmore further clarifies that intimate partner violence can “encompass a broad range of behavior, including, but not limited to, physical violence and sexual violence.” According to Swarthmore’s policy, IPV can take the form of threats, assault, property damages, and violence or threats of violence.

Differently, Trinity College draws distinctions among domestic violence, dating violence, and intimate partner violence. Trinity College specifically defines intimate partner violence as “any physical or sexual harm against an individual by a current or former spouse of, or person in a dating relationship with, such individual that results from any action by such spouse or such person that may be classified as a sexual assault, stalking, or family violence.”

You will want to understand the precise definition of IPV at your college or university as you seek assistance with your case.

Seeking Legal Advice from a National Title IX Attorney

Intimate partner violence is a serious issue on college and university campuses, and anyone who has been the victim of IPV or has been accused of engaging in prohibited behaviors knows how difficult these cases can be. In most college and university settings, allegations of intimate partner violence can result in a Title IX complaint, an investigation conducted by the Title IX coordinator, and a hearing after the investigation has been completed. In general, the complainant and the respondent are each permitted to have an advocate with them, and that advocate can be a national Title IX lawyer with experience handling similar cases. It is extremely important to know how the Title IX process works at your institution, and what policies your college or university has put in place to move through a Title IX allegation, investigation, and hearing.

If you have questions about your rights or need legal assistance, you should get in touch with one of the national Title IX attorneys at Duffy Law, LLC. We are highly experienced lawyers who serve clients across the country in Title IX cases. Contact Duffy Law, LLC for more information about how we can help you with your case.

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