Sexual Assault on Campus, Anonymity, and Title IX


January 4, 2017; New York Times and National Public Radio

According to a 2007 study by the National Institute of Justice, one in five female college students (and one in 16 male college students) are sexually assaulted and more than 90 percent do not report the crime. One of the reasons students do not report is fear of retaliation, particularly when the accuser is one of their professors. If the student reports the crime to the college’s Title IX office instead of the criminal justice system, they can remain anonymous—but that can often lead to other problems.

Two University of Kentucky entomology graduate students were separately assaulted by one of their professors. They feared retribution and explored opportunities to report the crime while maintaining their anonymity. One of the students explained their decision:

I just spent a good portion of my life in grad school trying to further my career and if I’m labeled as someone who filed a sexual assault claim against a professor, that could very easily backfire against me. There’s a lot of people in academia who think that there are women who make up stuff like this.

They filed a report in the university’s Title IX office. Title IX is a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination on college and university campuses. Schools failing to follow Title IX risk losing federal funding. Once a report is filed, the office is required to investigate. During the investigation, the accused and accuser remain anonymous. Unfortunately, the investigation and subsequent hearings are fraught with challenges.

One obstacle is that each school’s office has jurisdiction only over its students and personnel. If the accused decides to leave the institution before the hearing is completed, the proceedings end immediately without any reference to the investigation on their record, allowing the accused (assuming he or she were guilty of the offense) to potentially assault additional students at the new school.

Another challenge is how the hearing is decided. Who presides over the hearing varies from school to school and usually doesn’t include officials from the criminal justice system. Title IX mandates the hearing utilize the “preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof. This standard is significantly less than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is required in a criminal trial. Nonprofit Quarterly has reported on the controversy surrounding 2011 U.S. Department of Education “guidance” on college sexual assault that has been opposed by some in academia, including one specific letter issued by 28 Harvard Law School professors criticizing the lack of due process in college sexual assault invstigations. Participating in a hearing is often extremely difficult for a survivor of assault because of the stresses that come with proving the activity occurred. By using the lower standard of proof, the hearing puts a limit on any additional pain, trauma, and expense.

In the case of the two University of Kentucky students, the Title IX office scheduled an official hearing after interviewing dozens of people and collecting evidence. But the hearing never occurred because the professor resigned before it could begin. Frustrated, the women reported the assaults to the university’s student newspaper. The media attention led to many additional stories and FOIA requests for the full Title IX report. The students feared their anonymity would be compromised and joined an action by the university to stop the report release. Judge Thomas Clark of the Fayette County Circuit Court plans to issue a ruling in the next two weeks.

Schools that fail to conduct proper hearings can be subject to government complaints and lawsuits. Currently, over 200 institutions are under federal investigation due to complaints connected to sexual violence investigations and proceedings. A better solution might be a society that better supports survivors of sexual assault.—Gayle Nelson

Update: On Tuesday, 1/24/2017 The Judge ruled in favor of the University to prohibit the release of the report to protect the anonymity of the students. The Newspaper states it will appeal the decision.

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Fighting Domestic Violence, One Haircut at a Time


January 1, 2017; New York Times and NPR, “The Two-Way”

According to a CDC study from 2003, domestic violence is the cause of two million injuries in the U.S. every year. Beginning this year, the state of Illinois has a new law educating hair stylists, nail technicians, and aestheticians on ways to help customers who are victims of domestic violence.

Joan Rowan is a hair stylist and owner of two hair salons in the Chicagoland area. In her forty-one-year career, she has had multiple conversations with clients who were experiencing domestic abuse: “Sometimes they tell you so much they never come back again, because they’re afraid, or they’re embarrassed, they don’t know what to do.” Rowan has provided training to her stylists to help them support their clients, but she has wished there were more she could do.

For a long time, public health campaigns among others have recognized the value of hair salons and barber shops as centers for community education and organizing, so the concept of making use of these venues is not new. But the state of Illinois is now building on these relationships with a new law that went into effect January 1st. Advocated for by the nonprofit Chicago Says No More, the law is the first of its kind to reach out and provide a one-hour training to hair stylists and nail technicians every two years as part of their license renewal. Over the next two years, it’s estimated about 88,000 stylists will participate in the program.

Chicago Says No More created the “Listen. Support. Connect.” program with the help of Cosmetologists Chicago. The program educates stylists on how to identify signs of abuse and assault and provide resources. Stylists are required to participate in the program but do not have to report the violence and are protected from any liability.

Although the number of independent neighborhood hair salons has been decreasing over the last forty years, hair stylists and their salons continue to have a special relationship with their clients and community. Often, they serve clients for many years and sometimes multiple generations of the same family. The relationship is something Illinois State Senator Bill Cunningham, one of the legislators responsible for introducing the law, knows personally: His wife was a hairstylist in her early twenties.

The program was built upon the Professional Beauty Association’s Cut It Out Campaign. The national campaign provides resources “mobilizing salon professionals and others to fight the epidemic of domestic abuse in communities across the U.S.” It was created in 2003 after a similar statewide program was developed by the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham and the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

There’s an unspoken downside, however: Although the new Illinois law provides resources to women experiencing abuse, since the state is again without a budget, many of the organizations these women will look to for help are not receiving state funding and may not have the staff or programs to help.—Gayle Nelson


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WNBA Players Stand Up in the Face of Fines


June 23, 2016; NBC Sports

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to grow, more and more African American athletes are participating and showing their support. NBA players are among the loudest, and their WNBA sisters recently strengthened their refrain.

Last week, the WNBA fined three teams—the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, and Indiana Fever—for altering their uniforms. The players wore black T-shirts during warm-ups with references to the shooting of African American men and police officers. WNBA officials fined each team $5,000 and each player $500. (Many fans are used to professional sports members being fined. In most cases, the fines amount to a slap on the wrist, but since WNBA players’ salaries top out at $107,000, fining a player $500 is a much harder slap.)

After the fines were imposed, Liberty and Fever players boycotted their required post-game news conference and instead held their own. During their conference, players stated they would only answer questions related to Black Lives Matter.

The fines were imposed weeks after the WNBA organized activities in support of the Orlando community after the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub. In those instances, six teams wore warm-up shirts reading “#ORLANDO UNITED” under a rainbow-colored heart. The WNBA and its players also organized fundraising activities and blood drives.

In the face of controversy and standoff, the WNBA rescinded the fines. President Lisa Borders tweeted:

Appreciate our players expressing themselves on matters important to them. Rescinding imposed fines to show them even more support.

— WNBAPrez (@WNBAPrez) July 23, 2016

More and more players are using the sports arena to voice political outrage. They follow in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos. According to a recent article in Sports Illustrated, NBA players’ voices have been by far the loudest. For example, last year, after the death of Eric Garner, many NBA players, including LeBron James and Derrick Rose, wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during warm-ups. They were not fined.

One of the main reasons why NBA players have used their pulpit to show their support may be their personal experiences and connections to the communities of the slain African American men. Seventy-seven percent of NBA players are black, a much higher percentage than in any other professional sport. (67 percent of NFL players are African American, and only 8.3 percent of Major League Baseball players.) Clearly, in the WNBA, where 67 percent of players are African American, these feelings are shared.

The NBA itself has not stepped away from using its strength and voicing its support for political issues, either. Last week, leadership pulled the 2017 all-star game from Charlotte, North Carolina, in response to recent legislation prohibiting trans persons from using the bathroom of their gender identity.

Although the fines were rescinded, the WNBA’s decision to fine their players for actions tolerated and perhaps supported by NBA players exposes much larger cultural attitudes around the role of women and their right to show their support of their beliefs and communities.—Gayle Nelson

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Nonprofits Respond to Connection between PTSD and Intimate Partner Violence


April 27, 2016; NPR, “Shots”

Veterans who have experienced combat are over six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and over four times more likely to abuse their spouse or partner compared with other men. Since the violence stems from a source that differs from other intimate partner violence situations, the warning signs and circumstances surrounding the abuse differ as well.

As the number of veterans returning home from multiple tours of war has grown, nonprofit organizations serving them have developed. But a gap persists when it comes to the development of programs geared to the needs of their partners and spouses who experience domestic violence.

Author Stacy Bannerman called a hotline serving military families after her husband, a former national guardsman who recently returned from his second tour of duty, abused her. Stacy’s husband experienced trauma during his tour in Iraq and developed PTSD. During their eleven-year marriage, Stacy’s husband had never before acted this way. What she also did not expect was the hotline operator’s reaction. The operator began to cry; as she explained, she had experienced so many similar phone calls.

Although many veterans suffering from PTSD are not violent, growing research suggests vets with PTSD are three times more likely to carry out intimate partner violence, according to Dr. Casey Taft, a head researcher with the Department of Veterans Affairs. They are also two to three times more likely to suffer from depression, substance abuse and unemployment. Eighty-one percent of vets suffering from depression and PTSD committed at least one violent act against their spouse or partner within the last year.

Violence committed by combat veterans often has its own distinguishing pattern that varies significantly from other intimate partner violence. Instead of the power-and-control cycle of other abusive relationships, veteran interpersonal violence tends to involve only one or two “extremely violent and frightening episodes that quickly precipitate treatment seeking.”

Families seeking treatment face multiple challenges. One of the most prominent is that the services the families depend on are focused on the individual needs of the veterans, not their families. Additionally, many nonprofits serving vets’ families often ignore intimate partner violence, and organizations serving intimate partner violence survivors do not have the expertise to serve veterans’ families.

One organization with a program created by vets for vets is the Domestic Abuse Project’s (DAP) Change Step program. Change Step integrated the military culture and language into the proven mainstream curriculum. It addresses the specific issues combat vets experience, including multiple deployments and PTSD.

Spouses and partners seeking to leave abusive vets also face barriers. Often, they are caregivers; the family receives income from the VA for their services, and once they leave, this income stream disappears. Additionally, many vets would be unfavorably discharged and lose their benefits if the abuse were reported.

Stacy has a long history of supporting other military families. She is the author of When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists and the Families They Leave Behind(2006). Her newest book, Homefront 911, describes how war destroys military families. She fought for the Military Family Leave Act of 2009 and received the Patriotic Employer Award and the Above & Beyond Award from the Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve.

Bannerman is currently fighting for introduction of the Kristy Huddleston Act in Congress. The Act is named after Stacy’s friend and fellow military wife. Kristy was a nurse and worked for the VA before she was murdered by her husband, a U.S. Marine combat vet who served three tours of duty in 2012. The proposed legislation, if a sponsor can be found to introduce it and it is subsequently passed by Congress, would provide financial support to military wives and their children when a service-member is found guilty of domestic abuse.—Gayle Nelson

The High Cost of Sexual Assaults on College Campuses


It is estimated that one in five women are sexually assaulted during their years as college students. The U.S. Department of Education reported that 2013 saw over 5,000 forcible sexual offenses on universities and colleges, and a recent study provides evidence that the actual number of assaults may be six times higher.

In addition to the horrors that sexually assaulted students face, these crimes are placing a financial cost on university and college systems as well. Colleges with high profile sexual assaults also have to deal with such consequences as fewer applications, lowered alumni donations, and loss of funds provided by the Department of Education (DOE). For example, the University of Virginia saw its first decrease in 12 years in its number of applicants after a discredited story ran in Rolling Stone. And Dartmouth saw a fourteen percent drop in applications last year after students protested the school’s treatment of a campus sexual harassment and hazing.

Even more significant, universities facing scandals may lose funding from the DOE. Therefore some leaders claim universities are overcorrecting by unjustly expelling those accused. Faculty at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania submitted letters to their administrators denouncing new sexual violence policies utilizing a preponderance of the evidence standard in sexual violence incidents. This standard, required by the DOE, is substantially lower than beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard used by courts in criminal legal actions.

On June 8, 2015, student James Vivenzio filed a complaint in Pennsylvania state court against his fraternity and his school, Penn State. In it, he alleged Kappa Delta Rho possessed a Facebook page containing photos of drunk and unconscious nude women, some of whom looked like they were being sexually assaulted. In addition, the complaint states those pledging the fraternity were given alcohol and drugs, allegedly to facilitate sexual assault and abuse. The suit is also filed against the university for failure to act when Vivenzio reached out to an administrator about the incidents over a year before.

Although Vivenzio isn’t requesting a specific dollar amount, other sexual assault cases against colleges and universities have led to settlements and verdicts from thousands to millions of dollars. For example, in July 2014, the University of Connecticut paid one of the highest reported settlements for a sexual assault lawsuit, $1.3 million, which included $900,000 to a female student who claimed she was cut from the hockey team after being raped by a male hockey player.

In the last five years, the number of sexual assaults at college campuses has skyrocketed. Currently, 118 schools are under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for alleged civil rights violations of Title IX related to the handling of sexual assault incidents. At a time when resources have never been harder to raise, universities are diverting millions from education to fund settlements and defend lawsuits. This epidemic is leading schools of higher education to explore a number of difficult issues: how to define consent, how to punish those responsible, and how to measure the reliability of the accusers. At Penn State, a sexual assault and harassment task force developed a 267-page report outlining eighteen recommendations, including enhancing resources at the university’s smaller campuses and disseminating a campus climate sexual assault survey.

At the same time, some government leaders believe schools are hiding or minimizing assaults in an attempt to avoid scandal. These beliefs are based on a recent study compiled by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight finding 41 percent of colleges have not conducted any investigations of sexual violence in the past five years. Therefore, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced the Campus Accountability & Safety Act in February. If passed, the law would fine colleges and universities up to $150,000 for failure to submit detailed sexual violence reports. In addition, universities that refuse to act in accordance with the legislation could be fined up to one percent of the school’s operating budget.

Recently, United Educators, the higher education insurance company, began offering insurance to cover sexual assault payouts and this appears to have become a disturbingly necessary cost of “doing business.” Between 2006–10, the company has paid out $36 million on behalf of its 1,200 member universities. Seventy-two percent of the settlements were provided to parties suing the schools due to sexual assault incidents.

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The Powerful Philanthropic Intention behind “Women Moving Millions”


For too many decades, programs serving women and girls stemmed from programs serving men. In response, women’s funds were created to raise, advocate, and focus funds on programs geared toward the unique needs of women and girls. Although these funds continue to grow, many leaders are advocating for more dynamic growth and others continue to question their need.

Women Moving Millions (WMM) issued a call to action in September to women of means across the country. The organization advocated for an increase in giving and a concentrated focus on organizations serving women and girls.

The call to action was accompanied by a new study entitled All In for Her, documenting the growing amount of wealth wholly or partially controlled by women. According to the study, women in the U.S. have the capacity to give an estimated $230 billion a year. Jacqueline Zehner, the chair of WMM, described the sum as “approximately equal to all charitable giving from individuals and roughly 3.3 times the overall charitable giving by foundations and corporations in the U.S. last year.” Much of this capacity stems from an intergenerational transfer of wealth. According to the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, women will inherit 70 percent of $41 trillion, or $28.7 trillion, over the next 35 to 40 years.

This large transfer of wealth has the potential to increase philanthropic activities. According to a July 2009 Barclay’s Wealth study titled Tomorrow’s Philanthropist, women give, at 3.5 percent, an average of 1.7 percent more of their wealth to charity than men.

WMM advocates not only for an increase in giving, but giving that is transformative. Currently, only ten percent of donations are chosen using a “gender lens.” The organization defines giving with a gender lens as donors thoroughly “examin[ing] how culturally entrenched gender norms affect women and men differently, and then tak[ing] these distinctions into account when identifying both the problems and the solutions.” Women can change this deficiency by giving larger general operating gifts, combining money with volunteer engagement, and merging their efforts with other donors who share this passion. In addition to giving using a gender lens, thoughtful donors provide capital directly to women and girls in need.

The first women’s funds were created in the 1980s. Their donors have led the way by building and expanding foundations with missions of supporting organizations serving and creating programs designed for women and girls. Currently, there are over 160 women’s funds and they are growing at a faster rate than the greater philanthropic community. A report developed by the Foundation Center and Women’s Funding Network documented 24 percent growth in giving by women’s funds between 2004-2006 ($101 million in 2006, up from $72 million in 2004) while overall foundation giving increased by 14.8 percent. The leaders of WMM are advocating for transformational social change building on the dynamic growth of the last thirty years.

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