Title IX During COVID-19

Returning to college campuses this fall will undoubtedly look unfamiliar for many college students, and for students who are survivors of sexual assault, navigating resources and reporting may be more challenging due to COVID-19.

“Remote learning doesn’t mean sexual violence stops,” said Keeli Sorensen, vice president of victim services at RAINN. “We need to ensure that students are able to learn in a safe virtual environment and that they still feel supported by their university if something were to happen.”

Whether colleges resume on campus or online this fall, it’s important for students, administrators, and parents to know what resources are available to get help after sexual assault. Learn more below about the recent changes to Title IX and how to find help and resources.

What is Title IX?

Whether students resume in-person classes or continue to learn remotely, colleges have a responsibility to protect students from sexual violence under Title IX. This is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in schools and includes protections for students from harassment and sexual violence.

How do I navigate Title IX during remote learning?

Students deserve to feel safe at home, on campus, or wherever they may need to be during these times. A good first step for students and parents/guardians of students is to become familiar with new remote reporting procedures. If your college’s Title IX office hasn’t made the procedures clear, don’t be afraid to reach out and inquire directly. Many universities are conducting virtual hearings and urging Title IX offices to continue operating as normally as possible given the circumstances. So students can still report any misconduct that occurs, even if it happens in an online learning environment. Whether you recently or previously experienced something, you can go online to find your college’s Title IX reporting procedures to explore your options.

What are some of the new Title IX changes?

If you or someone you know is engaged in the Title IX process, it is important to know what rights you have during the process and how to advocate for yourself or someone you care about—especially with regard to the most recent changes to Title IX.

One of these changes is the addition of “cross-examination.” This process consists of both parties being questioned for credibility, memory, and motive. Both parties are allowed to request remote cross-examinations in separate rooms. This means that neither party will be forced to see or speak to the other throughout the process if they do not wish to. However, cross examination still has the potential to be particularly difficult for some survivors, who may find it retraumatizing to revisit their experience in this way. Title IX staff can discuss how best to prepare survivors for this process.

Title IX officers and faculty are supposed to help connect survivors on campus with additional resources. For example, students filing reports of sexual misconduct must be given the option to connect with advocacy groups and mental health professionals on campus who can provide support.

Are there other resources available for support?

Student health and safety must continue to be a priority this upcoming semester, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information on which laws and regulations have been put in place to protect you and the students you know on college campuses, see RAINN’s resources here.

RAINN also partners with more than 1,000 national local service providers. Most colleges have on-campus options for students who would like to see a mental health professional, and some have peer advocacy groups that work with survivors one-on-one. You are never alone.

RAINN is here to support all students and their loved ones whether on campus or learning remotely this fall. To talk to someone anonymously and confidentially, RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline is available by phone at 800.656.HOPE (4673) and chat at online.rainn.org 24/7 in English and Spanish.