There are actually several different federal laws that are concerned with sexual misconduct in the higher education setting. In addition to Title IX, there is also the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA.
How the VAWA and Title IX Intersect on College Campuses
Both the VAWA and Title IX aim to curb sexual misconduct in higher education. Title IX does this by prohibiting gender discrimination, even as it pertains to forms of misconduct like sexual assault or rape, forcing schools to take action at the risk of losing their federal funding.
The VAWA, on the other hand, provides federal funding for organizations that support female misconduct victims. More importantly in the higher education context, the VAWA requires colleges to document and report incidents of stalking, as well as domestic violence and dating violence. These reporting requirements make the VAWA similar to the Clery Act.
Overlap Can Cause Confusion
Needless to say, there's significant overlap in the jurisdiction of Title IX and the VAWA: While the VAWA covers sexual and physical misconduct between significant others and people who know one another, Title IX is broader and aims to protect everyone from misconduct. Additionally, the types of misconduct that fall under the realm of a Title IX violation is broader than that which falls under the purview of the VAWA.
As a result, identical courses of conduct can lead to drastically different results and a completely different set of procedures if the alleged victim is in a close or intimate relationship with the accused student. In these cases, the protections and obligations of the VAWA would get triggered, in addition to the requirements of Title IX.
Different Procedures Create Distinct Outcomes
To make things even worse, the process for alleged violations of the VAWA takes a different track than alleged Title IX violations. For example, the VAWA, at 34 CFR § 668.46(k), creates a handful of requirements for VAWA hearings and investigations. Notably, those requirements are not identical to what is required for Title IX cases.
Every difference, however minor, can snowball into some serious discrepancies between the two types of cases.
Thankfully, the upcoming amendments to the Title IX regulations are expected to patch these incongruities, making it easier for schools to manage these otherwise similar allegations and preventing the awkward situation where seemingly identical cases reach completely different resolutions because one triggered VAWA while the other did not.
Title IX Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a national Title IX advisor and a defense lawyer who can represent students, faculty, and school staff members who have been accused of sexual misconduct in college.
Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686 if you are facing an allegation of misconduct and want to invoke your rights and defend your future.