ATIXA Gives Colleges Guidelines for Handling Sexual Assault Victims

The ATIXA encourages universities to provide confidential support and advocates to sexual assault victims.

The Association of Title IX Administrators, or ATIXA, released a statement August 10 endorsing the need for universities to provide free and confidential support to students and employees who have experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other gender-based or sex-based harassment or violence.

The association says students and employees who are victims of the above crimes often experience trauma and significant disruption to their lives. Research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and several recent studies show that the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the police and the association sees a similar trend in reporting to colleges. Reporting rates are not correlating to the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence on college campuses.

Although formal reporting to the college can be empowering and healing for some individuals, many will choose to not report. ATIXA supports the right of the victim to maintain autonomy in making this choice, recognizing that how and when a person heals from a traumatizing event is highly individualized. In those cases, the Victim Advocate can play an important role in providing emotional support and assistance with navigating school or work.

For individuals who do consider reporting, the myriad reporting options and available processes can be confusing, stressful, time-consuming, and unpredictable, and in some cases individuals may distrust the ability of their own institution to equitably, impartially, and effectively address a report. In those cases, a Victim Advocate is an essential conduit for information about options while still allowing for autonomy. Advocates are able to provide support as victims decide upon and navigate through these options.

When students or employees do report to the college, the role of the Victim Advocate is crucial, both in allowing the personnel resolving the report to maintain impartiality and in providing emotional support and assistance to the reporting party. ATIXA’s experience from over 20 years of work in the field clearly shows that in the vast majority of cases, the college’s resolution process is optimized for victims when a trained, confidential Victim Advocate is involved, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the process. The Victim Advocate can offer not only emotional support, but can also advocate on behalf of the victim’s needs. Their role strengthens the ability of the Title IX Coordinator or Investigator to be both present and equitable in their job duties.

ATIXA strongly supports the provision of a Victim Advocate to any student or employee who has experienced gender-based or sex-based harassment or violence. Colleges with more limited resources may provide these services through the creation of a cooperative agreement or MOU with a local victim advocacy agency. Local agencies should be trained in institutional processes and procedures, though many colleges will ultimately be best served by hiring one or more employees to serve as advocates for the campus community.

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Conference promo