BERWYN, Pa., Aug. 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- ATIXA is the nation's only membership association dedicated solely to compliance with Title IX and the support of our more than 4,000 administrator members who hold Title IX responsibilities in schools and colleges. ATIXA is the leading provider of Title IX training and certification, having certified more than 2,500 Title IX Coordinators and more than 5,000 Title IX investigators since 2011. ATIXA releases position statements on matters of import to our members and the field, as authorized by the ATIXA Board of Advisors. For more information, visit www.atixa.org.
This statement affirms ATIXA's strong position endorsing the need to provide free and confidential support and advocacy to college students and employees who have experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other gender-based or sex-based harassment or violence. ATIXA encourages every college and university to provide a designated, trained Victim Advocate who is exempt from the duty to report sexual misconduct to the college or to law enforcement.
Students and employees who experience sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other gender-based or sex-based harassment or violence often experience trauma and significant disruption to their lives. Research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and several recent studies show that the majority of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported to the police1 and we see a similar trend in reporting to colleges. Reporting rates are not correlating to the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence on college campuses.
Although formal reporting to the college can be empowering and healing for some individuals, many will choose to not report. ATIXA supports the right of the victim/survivor to maintain autonomy in making this choice, recognizing that how and when a person heals from a traumatizing event is highly individualized. In those cases, the Victim Advocate can play an important role in providing emotional support and assistance with navigating school or work.
For individuals who do consider reporting, the myriad reporting options and available processes can be confusing, stressful, time-consuming, and unpredictable, and in some cases individuals may distrust the ability of their own institution to equitably, impartially, and effectively address a report. In those cases, a Victim Advocate is an essential conduit for information about options while still allowing for autonomy.2 Advocates are able to provide support as victims/survivors decide upon and navigate through these options.
When students or employees do report to the college, the role of the Victim Advocate is crucial, both in allowing the personnel resolving the report to maintain impartiality and in providing emotional support and assistance to the reporting party. Our experience from over 20 years of work in the field clearly shows that in the vast majority of cases, the college's resolution process is optimized for victims/survivors when a trained, confidential Victim Advocate is involved, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the process. The Victim Advocate can offer not only emotional support, but can also advocate on behalf of the victim/survivor's needs. Their role strengthens the ability of the Title IX Coordinator or Investigator to be both present and equitable in their job duties.
ATIXA strongly supports the provision of a Victim Advocate to any student or employee who has experienced gender-based or sex-based harassment or violence. Colleges with more limited resources may provide these services through the creation of a cooperative agreement or MOU with a local victim advocacy agency. Local agencies should be trained in institutional processes and procedures, though many colleges will ultimately be best served by hiring one or more employees to serve as advocates for the campus community.
Ratified and adopted by the ATIXA Advisory Board, August 10, 2015
Contact Michelle Issadore
610-993-0229, ext. 1002
1 Rennison, C.M. Rape and Sexual Assault: Reporting to Police and Medical Attention, 1992–2000. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, August 2002, NCJ 194530.
2 Research also establishes that victims/survivors who work with an advocate experience less distress, are less likely to experience certain negative outcomes (such as self-blame, guilt, and depression), and are less reluctant to seek further help, such as medical care or assistance from law enforcement. (Campbell, 2006; Wasco et al., 1999).
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SOURCE Association of Title IX Administrators