University campus sexual assault is certainly not a recent or isolated issue, but it is currently in the national spotlight. Lately there has been a terrifying wave of high-profile stories in the news about campus sexual violence at universities all over the country, including here in Utah.
Each of these stories is heart-wrenching. My heart goes out to all the victims and their families. While nothing can truly undo such a tragic event, there are mechanisms in place to help victims seek justice, make a proper recovery, and enforce laws to hopefully reduce these instances of sexual assault.
In 1972, the US Congress passed the Education Amendments. Included within them was “Title IX.” Title IX acts to protect people from discrimination based on sex in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX also requires that educational programs that receive federal funding have systems in place to handle “complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment [and] sexual violence.” For more details, see Fast Facts, National Center for Education Statistics, and 9 Things to Know about Title IX.
Under Title IX, schools are required to enact certain measures to prevent sexual abuse and are required to provide certain benefits to victims of sexual abuse. In many circumstances where a school fails to provide the preventative and/or reparative benefits required by Title IX, Title IX gives victims a “private right of action,” or private means of suing to obtain benefits in the form of monetary damages. While monetary damages will never adequately compensate a victim for the harm they suffered, they do provide two important mechanisms of change and healing: 1) they allow victims to have the financial ability to maximize their healing process, whether by counseling, having the ability to take time off and heal, moving to a different school, or more; and 2) they provide a large incentive for the offending school to enact positive changes to prevent further sexual abuse from happening.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, we encourage you to seek help. There is always help available, whether through family and loved ones, law enforcement agencies, religious groups, and other civic groups that work to help victims. If you were abused while at school or while participating in an educational activity, we encourage you to contact an attorney to ensure that you are receiving the help and benefits you are entitled to under federal law. Here at Cutt, Kendell & Olson, we help such victims get the help they need and the recovery they deserve. For a free consultation, please call us directly at (801) 901-3470.