Title IX law supports victims of sexual violence

Any sexual misconduct­—including, but not limited to sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual violence and stalking—are all violations of the University of Indianapolis Student Conduct Code, according to the UIndy Student Handbook. Numerous laws and regulations, including Title IX and the Clery Acts, have been put in place in the United States to require universities and colleges receiving federal funding to report these incidents in a specific manner. Under federal law, the Clery Acts requires universities and colleges receiving federal financial aid to disclose campus crime statistics and security information.

Graphic by Ethan Gerling

The UIndy campus is not immune to sexual assault and rape on campus. From 2014-2016, UIndy reported zero rapes in the Annual Security Report, but in 2017, a total of five rapes were reported. Title IX, according to the UIndy website, is a federal rights law that prohibits federally funded education programs from discriminating on the basis of sex. Director of Student Support and Title IX Coordinator Anne Moelk is responsible for handling sexual assault allegations and reports on campus.

“The Title IX work that I do here at UIndy is mainly focused on prevention, remedy, programming [and] education on sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, domestic violence [and] interpersonal relationship violence,” Moelk said. “Generally, it’s women, because women are more likely to be victims of those types of crimes. If women are not able to access all of the educational opportunities at an institution, then that is considered discrimination under Title IX.”

Students who are victims of, or know victims of sexual assault, have multiple options for reporting an incident or seeking help after an incident. According to UIndy’s Resource Guide for Students on Sexual Misconduct, doing nothing until a student feels comfortable, pursuing resolution through the university, initiating a criminal proceeding or initiating a civil process against the perpetrator are all viable options that a victim may choose. Anonymous reports may also be submitted through the university’s website if a victim does not want to come forward publicly, Moelk said. 

Students who wish to keep the incident confidential are encouraged to seek help from the Counseling Center, Director of Student Counseling Kelly Miller said.

“If they want confidential counseling, then [they can] come here [to the Counseling Center] first,” Miller said. “Then we can work through the steps of what they want to do at that point. Often, in the immediacy of it [an assault], there’s so much emotional reaction and barriers that keep them [victims] from being able to think through what they do want to do. If they feel like, ‘OK, I don’t want to move forward and prosecute,’ still reach out, whether it’s [to] the Title IX office or professors. But they [victims] always have control over what happens to it [the report] next in terms of their involvement in it.”

Employees of the Counseling Center are not required to report sexual assault to Moelk because they are not mandated reporters, according to Miller. Members of the clergy, chaplains or any off-campus crisis centers also are not mandated to report incidents, according to Moelk. All other UIndy employees, according to the Resource Guide for Students on Sexual Misconduct, are considered designated reporters and must report any information about rape or sexual assault that they are made aware of to the Title IX Coordinator. However, students ultimately make the decision about whether to  pursue legal action.

“… we need to put the responsibility on people to not victimize.”

Sexual assault is investigated through the university as a part of the student conduct code, Moelk said. However, the police are not involved unless a student chooses to pursue legal action. If a student makes that choice, Moelk said she will help facilitate that process. Students are not required to proceed with a formal resolution process, such as taking legal action against a perpetrator.

Moelk said that as the Title IX coordinator, she is responsible for helping students find resources for healing and for helping students become involved with the police, if they choose.

“Once I’m made aware of a situation, I’ll invite that student to come and talk to me,”  Moelk said. “Probably the biggest thing that I want to talk to that student about is making sure they are aware that they are in control of the situation. You might just want to come and talk to me because you know that I have had experience dealing with these people . . . but you don’t want anything to happen to that person, or you want to come and talk to me because you just want to learn more about what might happen if you were to bring a full investigation of the situation.”

Moelk said that most of the time the university can cooperate with a student’s wish to not move forward with a full investigation. The only time the university would go against a student’s wish, according to Moelk, is when the university deems that there is a danger to the victim or the campus as a whole.

“So if someone came to me and said, ‘A student in Central Hall assaulted me and used a weapon,’ I would have to take action on that,” Moelk said. “I couldn’t just say, ‘Oh it’s OK, I won’t do anything,’ because that’s a risk to everyone. If it were something where a weapon wasn’t used, [and] it was more of an intimate partner situation, I would be able to say to that person, ‘I’m honoring the fact that you don’t want me to do an investigation.’ What I’m going to do for that person is provide them resources and support, try to help them in any way that I can. But I’m not going to go forward with an investigation. Part of being a victim is losing control and so what we want to be able to do is allow that person to have as much control over that situation moving forward as we can.”

If a student experiences sexual assault off campus, the Counseling Center and the Title IX office can still provide resources in the same way that they would if an assault were to occur on campus.

Moelk said in light of the #MeToo movement, which is dedicated to opening up the conversation surrounding sexual assault, providing students education and awareness of prevention methods is important. Even more important, she said, is educating students about not victimizing others.

“So instead of putting all of the responsibility on someone to not become a victim, we need to put the responsibility on the people to not victimize,” Moelk said. “I think that’s the big-picture goal and hope.”

Miller agreed with Moelk and said that there are a lot of direct and indirect ways to prevent sexual assault on campus. For example, Miller said, acting as a bystander and separating two people who are drunk and cannot consent can be one way that students can intervene before a situation escalates to sexual assault.

Another way students can be involved in preventing sexual assault is by signing the UIndy PACT. According to the UIndy website, the UIndy PACT dedicated to its efforts, is designed to help students and staff keep the campus safe. It also draws awareness to the issues of sexual misconduct.

“As students, you control the environment and the chemistry and the community on this campus,” Moelk said. “You might think that it’s those of us in administrative roles, but really it’s students. And so if students want a certain type of campus—in terms of how people are treated—then students need to demand that from one another. And if you see a student who is not behaving in a way that you want your campus to have, then you’ve got to step up and say something.”