A recent Buzzfeed article once again brought to light that campuses are mishandling Title IX cases. The University of Arkansas has added itself to the list of universities perverting cases and not protecting its victims.
WHAT IS TITLE IX?
Title IX is defined as a federal action that prohibits discrimination based on sex. Under this, schools must protect their students from a variety of discriminatory practices; the most relevant of these being sexual assault & harassment.
WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS AS A STUDENT?
If an incident occurs and you contact a staff member or Title IX directly, their primary concern should be victim safety. Legally you are to be protected from your assailant. Your school is to prevent you from sharing any sort of space with your assailant, particularly classes or dorms. A ‘No-Contact-Directive’ will be put in place, simply stating the victim and the assailant are to have zero contact with each other. The school is to keep you from any sort of retaliation. They are supposed to provide victims justice.
SO, WHAT HAPPENED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS?
Court documents outline that “Prior to [the assault] Higgs (rapist) was arrested three prior times by the University of Arkansas Police Department (“UAPD”) for charges of aggravated assault, assault in the third degree against a female, and terroristic threatening… Two of these arrests were on the same day… Upon information, Higgs was also previously served with an order of protection against a female…. On October 20, 2014, Higgs sexually assaulted Plaintiff in her dorm located in the Northwest Quad on the University campus. Higgs threw Plaintiff down on the floor, removed her pajama bottoms and underwear, and began trying to penetrate Plaintiff without her consent and against her protest.”
After the incident was reported to the Plaintiff’s tennis coach the next day, the Plaintiff was reporting stating that UArk “would take Higgs’ s side in any dispute because of ‘his status’ as a celebrated Olympic track athlete.”
After receiving very little support from university staff, even those involved in managing rape crises, the Plaintiff had an extremely difficult time going to class. She also had to live in the room her assault took place in. The Plaintiff ended up dropping a class, but eventually, she had to go to her home, out of state, to mentally recuperate.
The University of Arkansas athletic department barred the Plaintiff’s trainer from writing a character statement on her behalf. However, Higgs, the rapist, was able to have a character statement on his behalf.
Title IX began hearings with both Higgs and the Plaintiff. Notification letters for hearings throughout the process differed between the two students, showing further misconduct on the university’s part. Panelists even implied the girl didn’t fight hard enough when a panelist asked, “One question that we had was… and this is gonna sound kind of bad- but we’re not perfect at reviewing medical records, and there was no reported bruising on the arms or anywhere else on your body outside of that pubic region. Is that accurate?”
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill commented on hidden camera footage, “The guy tried to [imply] that clearly she didn’t fight hard enough when her arms weren’ t bruised; it wasn’t enough that the thighs were bruised or the pubic area was bruised.”
Title IX, though mishandling the case, made a decision to expel Higgs- but after he graduates. That makes sense, right? I don’t think so.
The Plaintiff sued the university on DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF GENDER IN VIOLATION OF 20 U.S.C. § 1681. As based on court documents, her claim that the university was indifferent towards her assault included, but was not limited to, the following evidence:
g. Showing more concern for rights of the accused, Higgs, than Plaintiff, the victim of sexual assault
h. Giving multiple pre-hearing meetings to Higgs and not equally affording the same to Plaintiff
i. Providing Higgs the opportunity to review evidence before the hearing and not equally affording the same to Plaintiff”
As well as suing on the basis of HOSTILE EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT IN VIOLATION OF 20 U.S.C. § 1681 and VIOLATION OF THE CAMPUS SAVE ACT, codified at 20 U.S.C. §1092(f).
Our Plaintiff, Elizabeth Fryberger, asked for financial compensation.
The University of Arkansas motioned to dismiss the case. It was overturned. The University appealed again in December.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Public universities are receiving public funding to provide a safe and good quality education. Universities across the nation are disregarding this and are handling cases such as these haphazardly. Victims are not getting justice. We are giving taxpayer dollars to schools that allow girls to get raped and their attacker to be punished after graduation. This has to stop.
I once wrote an article outlining my own poor experiences with Title IX. I know first hand how disregarded victims are. Thankfully, I found my voice. I found a voice for change. I hope that as a community, together, we can make that voice so loud that no one can pretend they don’t hear. We shouldn’t allow schools that we individually, along with our brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons attend, to let catastrophes happen.
Do not be silent in the face of injustice. Raise your voice with me.