Young people in Pittsburgh and cities all around the United States gear up every fall, preparing to go to college and earn an education and further develop their personality. However, with the ever-present threat of sexual assault on college campuses, what should be a time of learning and self-discovery is too often turned to times of trauma.
College campus sexual assault is a disturbingly prevalent issue. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 13 percent of college students, both undergraduate and graduate, fall victim to rape or sexual assault. This risk is particularly pronounced among individuals aged 18 to 24, the typical college-age group.
Startlingly, male college students in this age bracket face a 78% higher likelihood of experiencing sexual assault or rape compared to their non-college counterparts. Among undergraduates, 6.8% of males and 26.4% of females become victims of sexual assault or rape.
As a survivor of sexual assault, you should know there are laws and rules in place that protect your rights to seek justice. The primary law is Title IX.
What is Title IX?
Title IX, a federal law in the United States, mandates that colleges and universities do all that they can to address and prevent sexual assault incidents on campus while also prohibiting gender-based discrimination. This law ensures that all complaints, regardless of a student’s gender or sexual orientation, receive serious consideration and prompt investigation by the school.
Although Title IX was first passed in 1972, new rules and amendments went into effect in August 2020, redefining sexual harassment, and adding rules about hearings, complaints, and investigations. It protects undergraduate college students, graduate college students, faculty and staff, and college visitors. All individuals who are on a college campus are protected from being sexually assaulted or discriminated against under Title IX.
Common types of Pittsburgh Title IX cases
Under Title IX, any form of sexual assault is considered gender-based harassment or discrimination. Some of the most common types of Pittsburgh Title IX cases include:
- Sexual assault
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual touching
- Sexual battery
- Sexual coercion
- Sexual intimidation
How does a Title IX claim for sexual assault work?
If you have been sexually assaulted while at school or college, the Title IX process involves:
- An immediate and detailed investigation into your assault by the school*
- Confidentiality and privacy throughout your entire case
- Any support, counseling, or psychological services that you need
- Ability to change your course schedule, transportation options, dorm or housing accommodations
- Any other accommodations victims may need to ensure that they can still receive a fair and equal education opportunity
*Note: this investigation is not the same as an investigation conducted by law enforcement. This is important because schools each have a different process for their investigation, and they do not necessarily have to share what they find. Furthermore, evidence uncovered by a university or college’s Title IX coordinator is not subject to the same chain-of-custody rules as it would be in a criminal investigation. Finally, a Title IX claim may result in expulsion or other punishment for the accused, but it will not lead to criminal charges. Only law enforcement can pursue criminal charges. This is why we encourage survivors to move beyond just Title IX and contact local police.
Pennsylvania state laws to protect college students from sexual assault
Governor Wolf signed Act 16 into law on June 28, 2019, introducing Article XX-J to the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949. An extension of the “It’s On Us PA” initiative, this legislation imposes legal obligations on postsecondary institutions in Pennsylvania awarding associate degrees or higher, to adopt a clear, comprehensible written policy addressing sexual harassment and violence.
Furthermore, it requires each postsecondary institution to create an anonymous online reporting system for sexual harassment and violence complaints from students and employees. All reports, including anonymous ones, must be investigated in accordance with Article XX-J, Section 2003-J.
Governor Tom Wolf signed Act 110 into law on November 3, 2020, amending the Pennsylvania Public School Code by adding Section §1318.1, titled “Students Convicted or Adjudicated Delinquent of Sexual Assault.” This law applies to all Pennsylvania public school entities. If a student within such an entity is convicted or adjudicated delinquent for sexual assault against another student within the same entity, the school must choose from three options: expel the offender, transfer them to an alternative education program, or reassign them to another school or program within the entity. The law also enforces the separation of the offender and the victim within the school environment and mandates the prompt reporting of convictions. During registration, parents or guardians must disclose any prior expulsions under this section.
When might I need a Pittsburgh sexual assault lawyer for a Title IX case?
Colleges may mishandle sexual assault reports, even when they believe survivors. They sometimes fall short in thoroughly investigating or taking proper actions against accused individuals. To safeguard your rights, it is advisable to promptly consult a Pittsburgh sexual assault attorney from Carmody and Ging. They can provide valuable legal insights and explore available options. A lawyer from our firm will help you by:
- Giving you our full attention and listening to your experience
- Reviewing the facts of your case
- Conducting our own investigation into what happened
- Advocating and protecting your rights
- Collecting and reviewing evidence to support your claim
Evidence that may be able to help your Title IX case
Evidence is one of the most critical parts of a Title IX case. Therefore, a sexual assault lawyer will ensure that you gather the appropriate evidence to successfully prove your side of the story. Here are a few of the most critical pieces of evidence that we will use:
- Photo/video footage
- Text messages
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Witness testimonies
It is a tragedy when anyone is sexually assaulted. As a victim begins their life-long recovery from their attack, have trusted and experienced Pittsburgh sexual assault and personal injury lawyers on your side. At Carmody and Ging, we have spent more than 30 years supporting our Pittsburgh community through difficult times like your own.
Let us fight for the justice you deserve. Call or contact us today for a free consultation. Proudly supporting survivors throughout Western PA.