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  • Writer's pictureBecky Stevenson

Reporting Options: Law Enforcement, Title IX, and the Differences Between Them

Reporting your assault is a personal decision, and it’s one that should be your decision alone. We recognize this process can be daunting and that many victims may not know where to begin. We want you to know your options should you choose to report.

Reporting Your Assault to Law Enforcement

Reporting your assault to the police begins the process of formal criminal investigation and eventually prosecution by the District Attorney. In short, there are three main ways you can report your rape to the police: 1) calling 911, 2) physically go to the police station and file a report, and 3) going to the ER (as discussed in the previous post) and electing to have an officer meet you there. Here’s what you need to know:

· There are officers specific to special victims’ crimes

· You will have privacy; law enforcement should be taking these statements in quiet areas away from others.

· You will likely be asked to give both written and oral statements.

· You will probably be asked the same questions multiple times and to repeat your story. We know this can be uncomfortable but know that it does not mean the police don’t believe you. Trauma can severely impact your memory, and phrasing questions differently can facilitate better recall.

· If you need to, you can take a break; the officers taking your statement should be trained in trauma impact response and be equipped to accommodate your needs.

· The investigation will likely begin immediately.

· These investigations can take a long time, especially depending on the turnaround rate for rape kit processing in your jurisdiction.

· The more physical evidence you can provide (for example, a rape kit from your SANE exam) the better. Getting a SANE exam doesn’t mean you need to report to the police—nor does reporting your rape to the police require a SANE exam—however, if you have forensic evidence, you maximize your chances of getting justice.

· The more information and witnesses you can provide the police, the better.

· You can drop charges or suspend the investigation at any point if you decide you don’t want to keep going or if the prospect of going to trial seems too daunting.

· Depending on the jurisdiction, officers may begin interviewing witnesses immediately or postpone the interview process until after the results of your rape kit come back.

· Statute of Limitations: depending on what state you live in and the degree of the assault, there may be caps on how long you can delay reporting (for instance, reporting to the police 10 years after an assault in some states may mean that the statute of limitations has already run; therefore, they can’t investigate or prosecute). RAINN has an excellent chart on state statutes of limitations for reporting assault by the degree of assault, which can be found here:

· We know how difficult the process of recalling and talking about your assault can be. You can have a trained advocate, a friend, or a family member with you when you’re reporting if you need support.

Your Rights in the Criminal Justice System as a Survivor

The Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act of 2016 guarantees survivors of sexual assault statutory rights. Under this law, survivors who report:

· Have the right to have their rape kit preserved for 20 years or the maximum applicable statute of limitations

· Have the right to be notified of the destruction of evidence

· Have the right to be notified about the results of forensic exams and toxicology reports.

You have the right to be in the loop about the investigative process regarding your assault.

Academic Institutions: Title IX and Campus Reporting

Sexual violence is more than a crime—being sexually assaulted, especially by a fellow student, can jeopardize a victim’s ability and opportunity to learn. Under federal law, all schools that receive any federal funding (which is most schools in America, including private schools) are required to comply with Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) provides guidelines for academic institutions to address sexual violence.

You or a third party (think: a mandatory reporter, like an RA or professor) can file a complaint with your university’s Title IX office relatively easily: typically, by emailing your university’s Title IX coordinator and setting up a meeting. Your university should have a Title IX page on its official website identifying the Title IX coordinator and giving instructions on reporting (if not, they are out of compliance with federal law); some institutions will even allow you to do so anonymously.

Because Title IX is an educational civil rights issue rather than a criminal one, the standard of proof is different from those within the criminal system. In short, while the standard of proof for criminal cases is “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Title IX complaints under the current administration must be proven by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a lower burden of proof than the criminal system. The burden of proof is lower because there is less at stake for a perpetrator found responsible; if the respondent is found “responsible” under Title IX, the most severe penalty he or she can receive is expulsion, whereas if convicted in the criminal system, a perpetrator could be imprisoned and added to the sex offender registry. There are also different standards of evidence for Title IX proceedings than there is in criminal trials; evidence that may be inadmissible in criminal court under the Federal Rules of Evidence may nevertheless be admissible in a Title IX proceeding.

With that said, many institutions are not where they need to be in terms of Title IX compliance, so we encourage you to learn your rights under Title IX and the Clery Act so that you can recognize institutional retaliation or neglect. Your schools are required by Congress to do certain things.

Your Rights Under Title IX

Under Title IX, “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 education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The U.S. Department of Education offers guidance for Title IX compliance.

Schools receiving federal funding are required to publish and distribute notices of nondiscrimination. In all likelihood, these notices are in the school’s code of conduct; the DOE also recommends they be published online and available in print form throughout campus. Universities receiving federal funding are required to have and clearly identify Title IX coordinators (someone who ensures the school is complying with DOE standards and runs the investigative and disciplinary processes). Schools are also required to have (and publish) grievance procedures that give victims the necessary framework for filing a complaint, the school’s investigative process, and the school’s disciplinary processes. Schools have a duty to address and rectify hostile educational environments for survivors of sexual assault, gender discrimination, harassment; they also have a duty to take steps to prevent these hostile environments.

Ultimately, your school has an obligation to ensure you’re not in a hostile learning environment because of sexual violence. Your school should be providing sexual violence prevention training, accommodations like counseling for survivors, an investigation into complaints of sexual and dating violence, and the opportunity to have an advisor of your choice by your side during the disciplinary proceedings.

What to expect if you file a Title IX complaint:

1. You don’t have to disclose any details beyond what you’re comfortable disclosing--you don’t even need to disclose the name of the perpetrator.

2. You have the right to access your case report later.

3. Depending on the institution and to whom you report, you may or may not be able to remain anonymous.

4. Filing a Title IX report does not preclude you from obtaining help from law enforcement, and more importantly, not reporting your assault to law enforcement does not preclude you from getting help under Title IX.

5. Once you’ve filed a complaint, your institution has a duty to investigate.

6. There will be a disciplinary hearing, which is something we’ll do a separate post about later.

We recognize this process can also be daunting for survivors, and we want you to empower you to make whatever decision you feel most comfortable making.

Your Rights Under the Clery Act

The Clery Act is federally mandated legislation that requires colleges and universities receiving federal funding (both public and private; again, this applies to the vast majority of academic institutions in the country) to log and publicly disclose their campus crime statistics and provide support to students who’ve been victimized. It requires that (1) schools both publish and distribute Annual Campus Security Reports; (2) the schools’ campus police/security departments keep public logs of all of the crimes reported to them, which include the date, nature, time, and place of the crime; if the information in the crime log is older than 60 days, the institution is required to make it publicly available within two business days after those 60 days run. Under federal law, the institutions must keep these crime logs for seven years. (3) That schools give timely warnings of crimes that could pose a threat to students and employees. In practice, this looks like schools sending out texts or emails when a robbery, burglary, assault, shooting, stalking, dating violence, auto theft, etc. on or near campus occurs. (4) That schools keep crime statistics on crimes that happened on their campus, in institution residential facilities, in non-campus buildings, or on public property near campus. The primary goal of the Clery Act is transparency.

The Clery Act also includes the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights (distinguished from the Survivors’ Bill of Rights discussed above). This requires that academic institutions publicly disclose their sexual assault educational program, victims’ rights in filing complaints against their perpetrators within the institution, and institutional disciplinary process for sexual assault. Included offenses in this act are stalking, sexual assault, domestic violence, and dating violence.

Under the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, schools are required to:

· Notify survivors of their options regarding reporting to law enforcement

· Inform survivors of available counseling services

· Inform survivors of their options regarding class schedule changes and living situation changes

· Give the complainant (victim) and respondent (alleged perpetrator) equal opportunity to present evidence of their case to campus police or Title IX

· Inform both parties of the outcome of the disciplinary proceeding

The Decision to Not Report

Most victims don’t report their assaults, and that's pretty understandable. The decision to report your assault should be the survivor's alone. We encourage reporting if feel like you can. With that said, every situation is unique, and we recognize that many victims are not in positions where they feel they can safely report or simply are not ready. Don’t let people shame you for not reporting; this decision should be entirely in control and up to you.

Title IX disciplinary proceedings and what to expect during a criminal trial will be discussed in separate posts.

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