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Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

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What to Do Immediately if Sexually Assaulted at an Educational Institution

After the trauma of a sexual assault, you may feel that there is something you should do, but you’re not sure what it is. The most important issue is to take care of yourself. Remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible. Seek medical care. There are trained professionals you can reach out to anonymously for support.

If you are a student or member of the staff or faculty at a college or other educational institution, your school probably has a crisis hotline. Once your immediate needs are cared for, there will be time to consider whether and how you want to pursue justice for what happened. But self-care comes first.

Getting the Help You Need

Whether you feel like it or not, it is a good idea to go to the hospital. You may be injured and not fully realize the extent because of your emotional pain. Medical treatment can speed the healing process for your body and prevent infection. A medical exam can also provide valuable evidence about what happened and the identity of your attacker. This evidence will be lost if you delay or avoid a medical exam.

You should be able to receive a “rape kit” free of charge, and you can receive tests to detect sexually transmitted diseases and emergency contraception. While you may not want to be touched and just want everything to go away, the fact is that your mind and your body will need to process this trauma, and medical treatment is a vital step toward your recovery.

In the present and in the future, it is good to have someone to talk to and support you. If you don’t want to rely on family or friends, a therapist or counselor provides a confidential source of support. Even when you do receive support from family and friends, a trained professional can help you deal with the pain and other emotions.

Collecting Evidence

You may not be certain what you want to do to pursue justice against your attacker, and that’s okay. However, it is a good idea to collect and preserve evidence that can be used if you choose to later. Bag up the clothes you were wearing, bedding, and other items you came into contact with so these items can be tested for DNA evidence- use paper bags or cardboard boxes for evidence collection and storage- do not use plastic.

Write down the names of anyone who may have witnessed the events leading up to the attack and what happened afterward. Also, try to write down what you can remember about the assault. While this is a painful process, acknowledging memories rather than suppressing them can help with healing.

Learning About Your Options

Educational institutions that receive any form of federal funding—which includes almost every college, university, public high school, and public K-8 school in the country—are required to abide by Title IX rules aimed at preventing discrimination. Sexual harassment and misconduct such as assault are covered under these rules. The school is required to have an appropriate process for filing complaints about sexual assault, and you may have several options for proceeding depending on the policies set up by the institution and the federal rules currently in force. You also have the option of pursuing criminal charges.

An experienced Title IX attorney can help you review and understand your options. Your attorney can help you get interim measures put in place such as no-contact orders to protect your safety and peace of mind. A lawyer who understands Title IX can explain how the process would work if you file a formal complaint or what would happen if you pursue an informal resolution, depending on available options.

Generally, when you file a formal complaint, you initiate an investigation and the determination process that the school may continue with even if you change your mind. An investigator will question you and others involved at length, and under the current rules, there is likely to be a hearing where you may be cross-examined. All of this can be very traumatic. Once the new rules take effect, you will have more options for informal resolution where you may not be required to face the person who assaulted you. Even under the current rules, it is often possible to work through a less formal process so that it can proceed quickly with less potential trauma.

New Rules Will Make it Easier for Sexual Assault Victims to Seek Justice Under Title IX

Although the rules have not yet been formally released, it is clear that these rules will make it is easier to pursue a Title IX sexual assault claim in many ways.

Title IX Relief Will Be Available in More Circumstances

The new rules change the definition of sexual harassment and misconduct so that more types of conduct can be considered a Title IX violation. In addition, the reach of Title IX provisions will probably expand to include conduct related to school and not just conduct on school property or involving a school program. Title IX provisions will also apply to conduct overseas as well as in the U.S.

Schools Will Be Required to Do More for Those Seeking Relief

Under the new rules, schools will be required to investigate all complaints of Title IX violations, and not just those where a formal complaint has been filed. That means victims of sexual assault may be able to seek justice without filing a formal complaint. Additionally, all school employees will have the responsibility to report Title IX violations.

Those Reporting Sexual Assault Have an Easier Time Avoiding the Person Accused of Attacking Them

The new rules allow schools to take temporary supportive measures that may burden the respondent. For instance, they may be banned from certain places on campus or from participating in activities or classes. This can reduce the stress on a complainant by reducing the potential for contact with a respondent.

In addition, the new rules allow schools to resolve Title IX proceedings without a formal hearing. This means complainants would not be cross-examined by the respondent’s attorney, and the process could be resolved more quickly with less potential questioning, confrontation, and trauma.

Work with a Dedicated Title IX Attorney

If you or a loved one have suffered sexual assault or harassment in connection with an educational institution, it is important to understand your rights and your options for receiving justice. An experienced Title IX can be your best ally at this painful time.

At Duffy Law, our practice is focused on protecting the interests of students, faculty, and staff in Title IX cases. We work hard to understand all the nuances that can affect a campus proceeding so we can help our clients reach the best possible resolution regardless of the circumstances. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.

Felice Duffy

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Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.