Our View: Know the importance of Title IX

Remember the first time you stepped onto Truman State’s campus? College felt like the ultimate haven, a place where any person could learn, pursue extracurricular interests, conduct research, work and live. College also should be a place where everyone has the right to do all those things without fear of harassment or violence based on their sex. That’s what Title IX is for.

What is Title IX exactly? Title IX is a statute that provides protection for victims of sexual assault, rape, discrimination and more at any institution receiving federal funding, according to the online resource “Know your IX.” Failure to comply with Title IX can mean sanctions for the institution involved, including the possible loss of federal funding. It is in the best interest of every school that falls under the jurisdiction of this statute to comply with it and ensure the necessary protocols for dealing with reported discrimination and violence are in place.

Truman has taken steps to comply with this statute. Our University has a Title IX coordinator, a non-discrimination notice published online and an online document detailing the procedures necessary for filing a complaint, among other available resources. The University is able to respond to reports, conduct investigations, prescribe consequences for perpetrators and do everything necessary to ensure the victim can continue to pursue higher education if they want.

We, the Index Editorial Board, would like to point out, however, that while the University might devise some of the best training tools, a killer response protocol and hire an amazing staff, it cannot have an impact on sexual harassment and assault victims in our community if students don’t know how to access these resources.

During 2012, there were no reported incidents of forcible sexual violence on Truman’s campus, according to the Annual Security and Fire Report issued September 2015. During 2013, there were three. During 2014, that number jumped to nine, with eight reported incidents of rape and one reported incident of fondling, according to the report.

Let’s take a moment to think about what is happening here.

The number of reported incidents of sexual violence has spiked to near double digits during the last three years. The University is in compliance with Title IX. The proper procedures are in place. The Women’s Resource Center, University Counseling Services and Department of Public Safety are working in tandem to provide support for victims of sexual harassment and violence.

Now consider this — the nine incidents were only the on-campus cases reported during 2014.

It does not include the off-campus encounters. It does not encompass the unknown number of incidents that never were reported, and perhaps never will be. Frankly, for all we know, there might have been a greater number of unreported incidents during 2012 as compared to 2014. There is no way of knowing if Title IX is an effective policy if students are not reporting every incident.

It’s common knowledge that reporting sexual harassment and violence is one of the most terrifying prospects a college student can face. What will people think? What if the person tries to retaliate? What if no one believes me? What if people think it’s my fault? These questions and others like them are just the tip of the iceberg for what victims have to deal with. With students facing all these fears, we think Truman should educate students about Title IX and how to report a violation, whether it be rude comments or sexual assault.

As the Editorial Board, we would like to ask Truman to provide incoming freshmen with information about what sexual harassment really looks like and how to report it to the University. When a student is given that knowledge, they are empowered to take matters into their own hands and are less likely to stand by and passively spectate, or worse — validate, propagate or encourage sexual harassment. An individual can then go where Title IX cannot — an apartment, a friend’s house, a parked car — and help stop situations and actions that promote sexual harassment before it starts.