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Beyond Title IX: Exploring Justice for Survivors/Victims of Campus Sexual Assault Open Access

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Campus sexual assault is a significant problem in the United States, affecting a large proportion of college students, most of whom are women. Recognizing the widespread nature of campus sexual assault and its negative impacts on students’ education, the Dept. of Education under the Obama Administration took action. In a 2011 directive known as the Dear Colleague Letter, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education outlined specific guidance on Title IX, detailing a number of policies colleges and universities that receive federal funding should enact in order to support campus sexual assault survivors/victims and maintain Title IX compliance. If students believe their school has failed to protect them from campus sexual assault, they may bring a complaint to OCR under Title IX and trigger an investigation. In 2017, the Trump Administration rescinded this guidance, though the OCR complaint mechanism remains in place. Despite several years of enforcement, there is little research on the effectiveness of this complaint mechanism, particularly from the standpoint of those who have accessed it. This study interviews campus sexual assault survivors/victims who have filed complaints through OCR, survivors/victims who chose not to file a complaint, and university administrators. Survivor/victim advocates are also focus grouped. Through these qualitative data, this study seeks to build a theory that explains the characteristics of a relationship between survivors/victims and the Federal Government that provides survivors/victims with justice. What results is the just prevention theory, which argues that genuine justice for survivors/victims must be pursued through the lens of prevention. The study concludes with a set of policy recommendations to inform future policymaking that better addresses campus sexual assault in the United States.

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