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FAQ’s***

Note:  The majority of the Questions and Answers on this FAQ’s were taken directly from the Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights publication on Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence.  Text have been edited for those processes Western University of Health Sciences has adopted and incorporated into its policies and procedures. 

The full text of the publication is available at:  http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa-201404-title-ix.pdf

Staff members in office settingWhat is Title IX?

Answer:   Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities. All public and private elementary and secondary schools, school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any federal financial assistance (hereinafter “schools”, “recipients”, or “recipient institutions”) must comply with Title IX.

What is sexual violence?

Answer: Sexual violence, as described in the Department of Education OCR guidance, refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent (e.g., due to the student’s age or use of drugs or alcohol, or because an intellectual or other disability prevents the student from having the capacity to give consent). A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse, and sexual coercion. Sexual violence can be carried out by school employees, other students, or third parties. All such acts of sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.

Does Title IX protect all students from sexual violence?

Answer: Yes. Title IX protects all students at recipient institutions from sex discrimination, including sexual violence. Any student can experience sexual violence: from elementary to professional school students; male and female students; straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students; part-time and full-time students; students with and without disabilities; and students of different races and national origins.

Does Title IX apply to international students and undocumented students who experience sexual violence?

Answer: Title IX protects all students regardless of national origin, immigration status, or citizenship status, including undocumented students and international students.  Threatening students with deportation or invoking a student’s immigration status in an attempt to intimidate or deter a student from filing a Title IX complaint would violate Title IX’s protections against retaliation.

What happens when the alleged perpetrator is not an employee of WesternU?

Answer:  WesternU’s response will differ depending on our level of control over the alleged perpetrator. For example, if a student experiences sexual assault at a rotation site, WesternU may not be able to discipline or take other direct action against the perpetrator. However WesternU will conduct an inquiry into what occurred and will report the incident to the rotation site and encourage the rotation site to take appropriate action to prevent further sexual violence.  The complainant may also file a complaint with the alleged perpetrator’s organization or local law enforcement.

Even though WesternU’s ability to take direct action against a particular perpetrator may be limited WesternU will take steps to provide appropriate remedies for the complainant and, where appropriate, the broader school population. This may include providing support services for the complainant, and issuing new policy statements making it clear that WesternU does not tolerate sexual violence and will respond to any reports about such incidents.

What are a Title IX coordinator’s responsibilities?

Answer: A Title IX coordinator’s core responsibilities include overseeing the school’s response to Title IX reports and complaints and identifying and addressing any patterns or systemic problems revealed by such reports and complaints. This means that the Title IX coordinator must have knowledge of the requirements of Title IX, of the school’s own policies and procedures on sex discrimination, and of all complaints raising Title IX issues throughout the school.

Which school employees are obligated to report incidents of possible sexual violence to school officials (responsible employees)?

Answer: Under Title IX, whether an individual is obligated to report incidents of alleged sexual violence generally depends on whether the individual is a responsible employee of the school. A responsible employee must report incidents of sexual violence to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee. This is because a school is obligated to address sexual violence about which a responsible employee knew or should have known. The Title IX coordinator must be informed of all reports and complaints raising Title IX issues, even if the report or complaint was initially filed with another individual or office.

WesternU’s responsible employees are:

  • Any individual in a supervisory role;
  • Student Affairs Professionals within the specific colleges and University Student Affairs;
  • Vice President for University Study Affairs
  • Deans, as well as Vice, Associate or Assistant Deans;
  • Provost, as well as Vice Provost or Associate Vice Provost;
  • Senior Vice President, as well as Vice Presidents, or Assistant Vice Presidents; and
  • University President.

What information should I be aware of before reporting an incident of sexual violence to a responsible employee?

Answer: Before  revealing information a complainant may wish to keep confidential, the complainant should understand: (i) the responsible employee’s obligation to report the names of the alleged perpetrator and impacted party involved in the alleged sexual violence, as well as relevant facts regarding the alleged incident (including the date, time, and location), to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school officials, (ii) the complainant’s option to request that the school maintain his or her confidentiality, which the school (e.g., Title IX coordinator) will consider, and (iii) the complainant’s ability to share the information confidentially with counseling, advocacy, health, mental health, or sexual-assault-related services (e.g., sexual assault resource centers, campus health centers, pastoral counselors, and campus mental health centers). If the complainant requests confidentiality, the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate school designee responsible for evaluating requests for confidentiality will make every effort to respect this request and will evaluate the request in the context of the school’s responsibility to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment.

Can I request that my name not be disclosed to the alleged perpetrator?

If WesternU determines that it can respect the complainant’s request not to disclose his or her identity to the alleged perpetrator, it will take all reasonable steps to respond to the complaint consistent with the request. Although a request to have one’s name be withheld may limit the school’s ability to respond fully to an individual allegation of sexual violence, WesternU will still take steps to limit the effects of the alleged sexual violence and prevent its recurrence without initiating formal action against the alleged perpetrator or revealing the identity of the complainant.

Can I request that the school not investigate or seek action against the alleged perpetrator?

If the complainant requests that the school not investigate or seek action against the alleged perpetrator, the school will need to determine whether or not it can honor such a request while still providing a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all the members of the WesternU community, including the individual who reported the sexual violence.

Is WesternU required to investigate information regarding sexual violence incidents shared by survivors during public awareness events, such as “Take Back the Night”?

Answer: No. WesternU encourages students to feel free to participate in preventive education programs and access resources for survivors. Therefore, public awareness events such as “Take Back the Night” or other forums at which individuals disclose experiences with sexual violence are not considered notice to the school for the purpose of triggering an individual investigation unless the survivor initiates a complaint. WesternU will respond to these disclosures by reviewing sexual assault policies, creating campus-wide educational programs, and conducting climate surveys to learn more about the prevalence of sexual violence at the school.

What is involved in an investigation?

The term “investigation” refers to the process the school uses to resolve sexual violence complaints. This includes the fact-finding investigation and any decision-making process the school uses to determine: (1) whether or not the conduct occurred; and, (2) if the conduct occurred, what actions the school will take to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, and prevent its recurrence, which may include imposing sanctions on the perpetrator and providing remedies for the complainant and broader WesternU community.

The investigation may include, but is not limited to, conducting interviews of the complainant, the alleged perpetrator, and any witnesses; reviewing law enforcement investigation documents, if applicable; reviewing student and personnel files; and gathering and examining other relevant documents or evidence. WesternU provides both the complainant and the alleged perpetrator the same rights for a balanced and fair process that provides the same opportunities to both parties that will lead to sound and supportable decisions.

What standard is used to arrive at a determination about a complaint?

WesternU uses a preponderance-of-the-evidence (i.e., more likely than not) standard in any Title IX proceedings, including any fact-finding.

What are the key differences between a school’s Title IX investigation into allegations of sexual violence and a criminal investigation?

Answer: A criminal investigation is intended to determine whether an individual violated criminal law; and, if at the conclusion of the investigation, the individual is tried and found guilty, the individual may be imprisoned or subject to criminal penalties. The U.S. Constitution affords criminal defendants who face the risk of incarceration numerous protections, including, but not limited to, the right to counsel, the right to a speedy trial, the right to a jury trial, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to confrontation. In addition, government officials responsible for criminal investigations (including police and prosecutors) normally have discretion as to which complaints from the public they will investigate.

By contrast, a Title IX investigation will never result in incarceration of an individual and, therefore, the same procedural protections and legal standards are not required. Further, while a criminal investigation is initiated at the discretion of law enforcement authorities, a Title IX investigation is not discretionary; a school has a duty under Title IX to resolve complaints promptly and equitably and to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students, free from sexual harassment and sexual violence. Because the standards for pursuing and completing criminal investigations are different from those used for Title IX investigations, the termination of a criminal investigation without an arrest or conviction does not affect the school’s Title IX obligations.

Is a school required to process complaints of alleged sexual violence that occurred off campus?

Answer: Yes. Under Title IX, a school must process all complaints of sexual violence, regardless of where the conduct occurred, to determine whether the conduct occurred in the context of an education program or activity or had continuing effects on campus or in an off-campus education program or activity.

Once WesternU is on notice of off-campus sexual violence, it will assess whether there are any continuing effects on campus or in an off-campus education program or activity that are creating or contributing to a hostile environment and, if so, WesternU will address that hostile environment in the same manner in which it would address a hostile environment created by on-campus misconduct.

May the complainant’s sexual history be brought up as a result of the complaint?

Answer: Questioning about the complainant’s sexual history with anyone other than the alleged perpetrator is not be permitted. WesternU recognizes that the mere fact of a current or previous consensual dating or sexual relationship between the two parties does not itself imply consent or preclude a finding of sexual violence.

How long is the investigation process?

Answer:  The investigation process is generally from 60 to 90 working days.  The investigation includes conducting the fact-finding investigation, engaging in the decision-making process to determine whether the alleged sexual violence occurred and created a hostile environment, and determining what actions the school will take to eliminate the hostile environment and prevent its recurrence, including imposing sanctions against the perpetrator and providing remedies for the complainant and school community, as appropriate. This timeframe does not include appeals.  For complex cases, the investigation process may take longer.  For that reason, both parties are given periodic status updates throughout the process.

Must an appeal be available to a complainant who receives a favorable finding but does not believe a sanction that directly relates to him or her was sufficient?

Answer: The appeals process is equal for both parties. Therefore, if a perpetrator is allowed to appeal a suspension on the grounds that it is too severe, the complainant is also allowed to appeal a suspension on the grounds that it was not severe enough.

Does Title IX protect against retaliation?

Answer: Yes. The Federal civil rights laws, including Title IX, make it unlawful to retaliate against an individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by these laws. This means that if an individual brings concerns about possible civil rights problems to a school’s attention, including publicly opposing sexual violence or filing a sexual violence complaint with the school or any State or Federal agency, it is unlawful for the school to retaliate against that individual for doing so. It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual because he or she testified, or participated in any manner, in an OCR or school’s investigation or proceeding. Therefore, if a student, parent, teacher, coach, or other individual complains formally or informally about sexual violence or participates in an OCR or school’s investigation or proceedings related to sexual violence, the school is prohibited from retaliating (including intimidating, threatening, coercing, or in any way discriminating against the individual) because of the individual’s complaint or participation.

Whom should I contact if I have additional questions about Title IX and Sexual Harassment and Sexual Misconduct?

Answer: Please contact our Title IX Coordinator or any of the Deputy Title IX Coordinator listed on the Contacts tab on this website.

If you have questions that are not included in this FAQs, please send your question to Dr. Geri Abracosa, Title IX Coordinator at gabracosa@westernu.edu so we can respond to your inquiries and continue to develop this section of the website.

*** Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence; http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/qa-201404-title-ix.pdf.