Campus News

Xavier Title IX office offers additional support for survivors of sexual assault

By: Tatum Hunter

The addition of a Title IX office at Xavier has brought changes to the process of reporting sexual assault.

The Title IX office is responsible for reviewing all reports of sexual discrimination or assault and organizing prevention education efforts on campus. Kate Lawson, Xavier’s Title IX coordinator, has been working with leaders from the Office of Student Integrity, the Advocate Program, XUPD and Residence Life to ensure that students who choose to report sexual assault are made aware of all their options and that this information is clear and understandable from the beginning.

“We have devoted a great deal of energy in the last four months to reviewing, revising and strengthening Xavier’s sexual assault policies and procedures,” Lawson said.

Before the addition of the Title IX office, XUPD and the director of Student Integrity were largely responsible for handling reports of sexual assault and informing survivors about their options and resources. Now, the process is being changed to give the Advocate Program a larger role in informing students of their options and resources early on. The goal of this change is to ensure that students feel they are in control of the process.

A student can speak to an advocate without having to file a report. The student’s information will be kept confidential within the Advocate Program unless he or she is at risk of harming himself or herself or the Advocate Program deems it necessary to share the information with other select Xavier representatives in order to keep the student and the community safe.

If a survivor desires, an advocate will accompany him or her to the hospital or the police and help him or her develop a safety plan in conjunction with Residence Life, academics and Campus Police. Advocates keep records of their sessions with students, which may be subpoenaed by the legal system. These records usually do not include the details of the event; these details are recorded if the student chooses to file a report with the Title IX office or XUPD.

If a student chooses to talk to a Xavier staff or faculty member about an incident of sexual assault, that employee will most likely be required to report the incident to the Title IX coordinator. Depending on a variety of factors concerning the incident, the Title IX coordinator may or may not choose to pursue an investigation. “In these cases, I would keep the student informed about any such action and would take all reasonable steps to keep her or his name confidential,” Lawson said.

If a survivor wants to talk to someone completely confidentially, he or she should contact a priest, counselor, psychologist, social worker or doctor. These professionals are required to keep a student’s information confidential as long as they are acting in a professional capacity when the information is shared. If a student chooses to file a report, he or she has the option of

reporting the incident as a criminal offense or Code of Conduct violation. The Office of Student Integrity handles all Code of Conduct violations, while XUPD and possibly the Cincinnati/Norwood police handle criminal cases.

“All of these things depend completely on the individual and the situation,” Director and Chief of Campus Police Mike Couch said. “Anything can be subpoenaed anywhere. As far as which organizations become involved after a student chooses to report, to the best of my knowledge, that’s never been an issue, and the student’s wishes will certainly be taken into consideration in that type of situation.”

According to the most recent information available from the Advocate Program, in 2012, the advocates dealt with eight cases related to sexual assault and 21 cases related to stalking, harassment, relationship or domestic violence or other types of cases. From January to September 2013, the advocates dealt with five sexual assault cases and 14 other cases.

“Most of our clients are hesitant at the initial contact to move forward with reporting,” Dr. Anna Ghee, director of the Advocate Program, said. “Generally reporting occurs after some time has passed beyond the victimizing event.”

“One problem is the fear that once the reporting process has begun, survivors will re-experience being stripped of their freedom,” Ghee said. “Another problem is the legitimate concern that survivors will be subjected to false stereotypes about rape that remain prevalent in the United States.”

Lawson expects that the efforts of the Title IX office and its affiliates will help assuage this hesitancy. “Given my new full-time position and the outreach, education, training and visibility efforts of the team I am working with, I anticipate that reports of sexual harassment, misconduct and sexual violence will increase this year. This will be one of many indicators that students’ knowledge of options and resources is increasing and barriers to reporting are decreasing,” Lawson said.

Ghee also expressed hope concerning the struggles faced by those whose lives are affected by sexual assault. “My hope is that if each individual realizes how she or he contributes to these patterns of stereotyping victims and perpetrators, then as a collective we will stop the societal problem.”