When talking about how society views sexual assaults, their perpetrators and (most importantly) the victims on college campuses, the issues created by Title IX must be addressed. Title IX, a federal law that was instituted to prevent sexual discrimination in any federally-funded education program, has been working hard to address the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses, and protecting the victim is a big part of what they do.
Title IX’s activism surrounding sexual assault survivors has added more problems from a legal standpoint. Their investigations are limited to 60 days according to federal mandate. Actual criminal cases on rapes can take years, so it is incredibly important that campuses have the ability to take immediate action in order to protect students. These proceedings are extremely effective on paper, but when put into practice they create more complex issues, and even though Title IX themselves can’t pass sanctions, school administrations almost always follow Title IX’s advice in fear of losing the funding granted by the program.
Since Title IX hearings use the “preponderance of evidence” as a burden of proof, as opposed to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof used in prosecuting criminal cases, they can better handle rape cases which often have little physical evidence beyond a forensic exam, commonly referred to as a “rape kit,” something that lawyers have discredited before by convincing juries that the evidence presented in them can be caused by consensual sex. These kangaroo courts also do not allow for legal representation, again in an effort to protect the victim by not making it about whose lawyer is better. This is due to the unfortunate “he said, she said” nature of rape cases, which is easy for a skilled lawyer to discredit in court.
This creates a huge problem in how society views these cases. Because these proceedings are so fast, and the decision of the court is often reactionary as opposed to long and nuanced, the public follows suit by responding in a reactionary way. Title IX leads by example in this regard, and they can actually end up hurting the victim or the victim’s legal case. When an accused perpetrator gets expelled by the school immediately following a Title IX investigation, people will say, “He’s a good guy and he doesn’t deserve this,” an extremely problematic statement when one considers again the fact that most rapes are by non-strangers. Friends of a victim can very well be friends with the perpetrator. However, a longer or maybe more public trial would make people question “do I agree with all of this information before me?”
Again, all these issues end up coming back to us as a public, and how knowledgeable we are on them. As it stands, sex education in America is a D+ at best, so the general population’s knowledge on this issue is little beyond “rape is bad”. Title IX’s current way of handling these cases wouldn’t stir up issues if we were all highly educated on rape and its effects. Even though it would be great if every person in America was well versed in the psychology of it, it is not where we are at. As of right now, the government has to make more of an effort to reform the current system to something that will protect the victims socially and not just on paper.