Columns / Discourse / October 21, 2015

What happens to a Title IX complaint?

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the fundamentals of mandatory reporting. As I talked to students about reporting procedures, a question that often came up was what happens when a person’s complaint goes through an investigation and resolution. Although talking through Title IX procedures isn’t necessarily entertaining, it’s a necessary conversation that we as a community should have. Please also be aware that you may find a comprehensive PDF of Knox’s policies online, as well as a PDF detailing various types of Title IX investigations. If you have further questions, you can always contact our Title IX Coordinator, Kim Schrader.

Right off the bat, we have to define what exactly we are talking about when we say “Title IX investigation and resolution.” There are multiple types of processes for resolving intimate violence (intimate violence meaning stalking, dating and domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment), and each of these are different. First of all, if a student or mandated reporter reports an incident, in some cases the student can simply file the report and be done with the process (or they can file an anonymous report). The Title IX coordinator will follow up with that student with a couple of emails to ask them to meet and discuss the incident, but if a student does not respond, the process typically ends there. However, be forewarned that on occasion, even if a student chooses not to go through the process, the school may sometimes decide it is necessary to continue an investigation without the student’s permission. Basically, if the victim is a minor, if a weapon was involved, or if the incident appears to be part of a pattern of repeated violations, the federal government requires that the College investigate the incident. In that case, the College will inform the victim that an investigation must proceed, but the victim need not participate in any way.

Whether or not an investigation occurs, and whether or not an alleged perpetrator is found responsible or not, most students can fairly easily also obtain a No Contact Order. A No Contact Order directive from Knox does not prohibit as many things as a court-ordered one — it prohibits all communication between two parties, but cannot limit much more than that. Another option for closure that does not involve a full-on investigation is a Voluntary Resolution. In certain cases of sexual harassment, a student can choose this route, but the federal government does not allow this option for victims of sexual assault, dating violence or stalking. A Voluntary Resolution is a mutual agreement designed to stop the problematic behavior and make a safer environment for the victim and campus community. Voluntary Resolution options will look different depending on the scenario, but remember Ñ they’re not available in most instances of Title IX complaint, and only at the request of the victim.

If a student undergoes a full-on Title IX investigation, the length of time required can be strenuous — a typical investigation will last longer than two months. Fortunately, students are not required to bear the brunt of the investigation, since it is mainly an investigator’s responsibility to move the process forward. First, the victim will meet in person with a Title IX coordinator and give them basic information about the intimate trauma (date of occurrence, name of perpetrator, etc.). At this time, the Title IX coordinator will offer Interim Remedies and Measures, meaning aid and support. These remedies can be anything from changing dorm rooms to helping the victim connect to a nearby rape crisis center to many other options.

The college then engages an investigator, a professional who is trained in trauma-informed investigative procedures. The victim relays all information possible about the misconduct, and turns over any evidence either at the initial meeting or soon afterward. After meeting with the victim, the investigator meets with the alleged perpetrator and conducts a similar interview. The investigator then holds brief interviews either on the phone or in person with any witnesses, including not only people who directly observed the incident, but anyone who may have observed either or both parties directly before or after the incident. After collecting this information, the investigator compiles a preliminary report detailing all the evidence they have collected so far. They then send the preliminary report to both parties so the victim and alleged perpetrator can provide corrections or clarifications.

With the final additions and corrections completed, the investigator submits a final report to the Title IX coordinator, along with their finding on the veracity of the allegations. The Title IX coordinator submits the report to an administrator (usually Dean Deb Southern), who will then decide what sanction (or punishment) to give the perpetrator. After the finding and sanction are handed down, both the victim and the perpetrator have the right to file an appeal Ñ to essentially ask the Title IX coordinator and a panel of staff to reconsider the findings of the case and change the outcome. If no reversal of the case is reached, the perpetrator will be sanctioned accordingly.

This is a very brief synopsis of the Title IX process, and remember — the process looks — different according to different situations and people. If you feel that you have been mistreated during your Title IX process, students are allowed to file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. Most importantly, anyone who goes through the Title IX process (as well as people who don’t!) deserve support on campus. For more information about support services available, contact Erica Witzig at elwitzig@knox.edu or Sithara Vincent at svvincent@knox.edu.

 

Erica Witzig

Tags:  complaint no contact order Office of Civil Rights title ix voluntary resolution

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