In the last article, we discussed how Bela, from Sex Lives of College Girls, was sexually assaulted by her editor Ryan – twice. Bela is the most sex-positive character on this show. She believes that she should be able to have great sexual experiences without having to worry about other people thinking she's an easy mark. What happens to Bela throughout the season frames how even students who understand sexual behavior can become victims of abuse.
The Second Act
In the second to last episode of the season, Bela finds out she's been accepted into The Catullan, a prestigious comedy writing troupe on campus. The first assignment for new recruits is to submit a piece for the group's Instagram account. Bela pairs up with the only other female recruit, Carla. While working on the piece, Carla tells Bela how Ryan has sexually assaulted her. When Carla decides to leave The Catullan, despite working hard to get on it, Bela decides it's time to talk to someone about Ryan's actions.
Title IX at Essex College
Bela and Carla go to Essex College's Title IX office. As we explained in the first part of this series, the Title IX office is actually a staple in American schools that receive federal funding. To qualify for federal funding, they must implement Title IX policies. Title IX offenses include sexual discrimination of any kind, which can involve sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and sexual violence. So, the policies have to cover things like how students should report the incident, how it's investigated, and how the disciplinary hearing is ultimately conducted, if there is one.
Sex Lives of College Girls does a good job of showing what the initial meeting with a Title IX Coordinator would look like - with certain caveats, however. The Title IX Coordinator tells Bela and Carla that if they want to pursue the action, they'll have to take some time away from The Catullan, separating themselves from spaces they could run into Ryan. The Title IX Coordinator's suggestion, as arguably well-intended as it may be, is not necessarily the most appropriate advice both from the standpoint of Title IX law and also the equities involved, however.
If, for the sake of discussion, a complainant is the bonafide victim of sexual harassment / misconduct and the Title IX complaint is not motivated by some misguided or ulterior purpose, the complainant should not have to remove him/herself from the activity or organization where the accused student (respondent) may be. In terms of what would be fair in a situation where sexual harassment did in fact take place (obviously subject to being determined through the investigation and hearing process), it would arguably more appropriate for the respondent to have to remove him/herself from the activity or organization.
There is not necessarily a perfect solution to such an issue that arises regularly when a Title IX complaint is made, however. This is one reason why some schools, understanding that they should not place undue burdens on a respondent before a determination is made regarding responsibility, will instead impose a mutual no-contact order, thereby allowing both parties to continue with their activities, studies, and so forth, without one-sided restrictions during the investigation process.
What Happens After a Title IX Complaint is Filed?
The important above consideration of what is reasonable while the all-important determination whether sexual harassment / misconduct took place aside, generally, when a student reports a Title IX incident, the following will happen:
- The alleged victim and the accused student will be separated. The school will try to stop them from being in the same place. This can look like taking time from The Catullan or having the accused student change dorms or friend groups until the incident is fully adjudicated.
- The Title IX office will begin an investigation into the complaint. If they find that the incident falls within the Title IX regulations, they will inform the students of a Title IX hearing.
- Students accused of Title IX offenses will be expected to defend themselves during a hearing. If they are found responsible, they will be punished accordingly.
How an Attorney-Advisor Can Help
Students on both sides of a Title IX investigation are allowed to get advice from an attorney. Complainants and respondents are even allowed to have an attorney attend the hearing, question witnesses at the hearing, and help them advocate for themselves. If you are going through something similar, Attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience helping students through Title IX investigations, hearings, and appeals at schools across the United States. Attorney Lento and his expert team will help to ensure a fair process, help to gather evidence and witnesses to prove your side of the story, and fight for the best possible outcome for you. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule your consultation.