College Students Have Rights When They Have Been Sexually Assaulted

Sexual Assault of College StudentsCollege is intended to be a place where students gain knowledge and forge social connections. However, it unfortunately is also a setting where incidents of sexual assaults are prevalent. Despite its purpose as a platform for education and friendship, the reality is that college campuses are too often sites of sexual assaults. The first months of the academic year are often referred to as the “red zone” due to the higher rates of assaults during that time period.  With our host of colleges and universities, Louisville is no exception to the dangers of sexual assaults.

A sexual assault can leave you physically injured, as well as feeling vulnerable, violated, and scared. It may be difficult to know what to do next, or who to reach out to for help. It is important to know that you are not alone after a sexual assault, and there are steps you should take in order for you to be cared for and made safe. Once your safety has been accounted for, you can then take steps to receive justice against those who harmed you.

College campus sexual assault statistics

According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), among both graduate and undergraduate students, approximately 13% experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. These figures vary by gender and academic level; 9.7% of female graduate students and 2.5% of male graduate students, as well as 26.4% of female undergraduates and 6.8% of male undergraduates, face such incidents. Approximately 5.8% of students are victims of stalking.

The University of Kentucky’s 2022 Annual Campus Safety and Security Report, which covers statistics from 2019-2021, shows that sexual assault, including rape and fondling, are the most common type of criminal activity reported. In 2021, at the University of Kentucky, there were 56 reports of sexual assault on the main campus alone.

According to the university’s own daily crime log, there have been at least seven reported instances of sexual assault from the beginning of June to the beginning of August this year. That means that even during the summer when most traditional classes are not in session, there are still instances of sexual assault on campus. It should be noted that the University of Kentucky is not unique in these numbers, and other college campuses throughout Kentucky and the United States show similar disturbing statistics.

What is Title IX?

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. While its primary aim is to promote gender equality in education, Title IX also plays a significant role in addressing and preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence on college campuses.

Title IX requires educational institutions to provide a safe and nondiscriminatory environment for all students. This includes addressing and preventing incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Under Title IX, colleges and universities are obligated to take prompt and effective action to address reports of sexual misconduct, ensure a fair and impartial investigation process, and provide support services for survivors.

Key provisions of Title IX that apply to campus sexual assault include:

  • Reporting and investigation. Title IX requires educational institutions to have clear policies and procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Colleges must respond promptly and thoroughly to reports, conduct impartial investigations, and take appropriate disciplinary actions if violations are found.
  • Support for survivors. Title IX mandates that colleges provide support services to survivors of sexual assault, including counseling, academic accommodations, and other resources that help survivors cope with the aftermath of the trauma.
  • Prevention and education. Educational institutions are required to implement comprehensive prevention programs that educate students and staff about sexual misconduct, consent, bystander intervention, and available resources. These programs aim to create a culture of respect and awareness on campus.
  • Retaliation prohibition. Title IX protects individuals from retaliation for reporting or participating in the investigation of sexual harassment or assault. Schools must take steps to prevent retaliation and address any instances that occur.
  • Notice of rights. Schools must inform students and employees about their rights under Title IX, including how to report incidents, the available resources, and the process for filing complaints.
  • Prompt resolution. Title IX mandates that schools resolve complaints of sexual misconduct in a timely manner to ensure a safe and equitable learning environment.

Title IX enforcement is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Educational institutions that fail to comply with Title IX requirements risk losing federal funding or facing other sanctions.

In recent years, discussions about Title IX’s effectiveness and its role in addressing campus sexual assault have gained prominence. Advocates emphasize the importance of clear policies, survivor-centered practices, and robust prevention efforts. While Title IX has contributed to raising awareness and holding institutions accountable, challenges such as underreporting, due process concerns, and varying interpretations of the law persist. As a result, ongoing efforts continue to refine and improve how Title IX is implemented to better address campus sexual assault and support survivors.

What should I do if I’ve been sexually assaulted on campus in Kentucky?

In cases of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, survivors are advised to seek hospital care immediately. Campus students and staff should call 911 or their university’s emergency system to connect with local emergency services. Survivors can also make a report over the phone, and if necessary, an ambulance or officer will be dispatched to their location. If a survivor suspects that they were drugged, it’s recommended to communicate this to hospital staff and request appropriate samples for testing. A Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) can be performed at the hospital by a registered Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) to ensure proper evidence collection. These exams are free and available in Kentucky.

During a forensic exam, medical professionals provide immediate care, record medical history, conduct comprehensive examinations, and advise survivors on reporting requirements. Photos of injuries, a stalking log, communication records, witness information, and detailed accounts of harassment should be maintained.

Survivors should inform law enforcement of all evidence they possess and know about, if they wish for an investigation to take place. Sexual assault survivors retain the right to determine whether they wish to report the attack to law enforcement and press charges. (Reporting is encouraged but not mandatory.) University community members are also encouraged to report such incidents to reduce the chance of future assaults. If a survivor reports the assault and submits to a forensic exam, the results can be reported to law enforcement as well. Survivors can also reach out to their Title IX Office for support and assistance.

What damages can I recover by filing a lawsuit?

It is important to understand that you have rights after being assaulted. These rights include being able to file a criminal complaint as well as a civil lawsuit against your attacker. You have been harmed, and you may be entitled to recover damages for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Medical expenses, including transportation and medication costs
  • Lost wages
  • Other related losses, such as loss of tuition/scholarship funds

The amount of compensation awarded depends on the specifics of each case. Beyond financial recovery, pursuing a civil lawsuit can also serve to hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions. This can empower other survivors to come forward and seek justice.

While the legal journey can be emotionally challenging, it offers a path to justice and accountability. If you’ve experienced sexual assault, a Louisville sexual assault attorney can explain your rights, options, and represent you in court if you decide to pursue a lawsuit. At Wilt Injury Lawyers, we handle the complicated legal process so that you can focus on healing and removing yourself from as much unnecessary stress as possible.

At Wilt Injury Lawyers in Louisville, we stand by survivors of sexual assault with empathy and dedication. Our legal team handles all aspects of your case, from paperwork to courtroom representation, allowing you to focus on healing. To arrange a consultation with a skilled attorney, please contact our offices by calling us or using our contact page. We proudly serve clients across Kentucky from our locations in Louisville and Lexington.