Blain LLC filed a lawsuit to enforce its client’s right to stand against and live in freedom from discrimination.
Federal law makes it unlawful to discriminate as to the terms, conditions, and privileges of housing because of an individual’s national origin.
We have filed suit to enforce our client’s right to stand against and live in freedom from discrimination.
The Fair Housing Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 makes it unlawful to discriminate as to the terms, conditions, and privileges of housing because of an individual’s national origin. It also protects a person’s right to oppose such discrimination.
Titles VI and VII and of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 similarly prohibit discrimination in employment and education.
We proudly stand alongside our Arab American brothers and sisters of all faiths, and alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, and will vigorously fight to defend their right to equal protection and to freedom from discrimination.
Some of the biggest issues keeping college students from reporting rape and sexual assault are fear of being blamed, shame, and being unsure whether what happened qualifies as “rape”…
What are the biggest issues keeping college female students from speaking up when they are victims of sexual assault or rape?
In my professional experience, the reasons why college students may be hesitant or fearful to report they were raped or sexually assaulted usually fall somewhere along the following lines:
1. Fear of being blamed.
The number one reason I see college students hesitating before coming forward is they are worried that if they complain, the finger will be pointed squarely at them.
In both, incidents of acquaintance rape and stranger rape, students are fearful that the response from friends and officials will be that the victim is responsible – whether partly or entirely – for what happened.
Although we have presumably reached the point as a society that many understand that it is entirely irrelevant what it was she was wearing at the time, there certainly remains progress to be made.
Feelings of culpability hold many college girls back from speaking up about their rape. Self-questioning and regret can cause students to become trapped in thoughts of I shouldn’t have gone there, I should have known, I should have been more careful, I should have…
These thoughts cause many college victims to avoid discussing what happened.
Moreover, if the surrounding circumstances leading up to the incident were anything less than wholesome (which, come on – it’s college), a student may feel that telling any part of the story is not an option. What will my parents think of me?
3. Unsure whether what happened qualifies as “rape”
College girls may be unsure whether what happened to them was, in fact, sexual assault or rape.
While any college student knows what rape is as a theoretical proposition, the reality of college rape -in particular, acquaintance rape – can often feel much blurrier.
4. Thinking there are not many options
Once they become a victim, college girls are now faced with the pragmatic decision of what to do next.
In my experience, college students often engage in a practical weighing of their options and too often conclude that what happened is already in the past and nothing can be done about it now.
Students need to be educated as to the reality that much can be done after the fact.
And that doing something now may save another girl from experiencing the same.
5. Not wanting to ruin his life
Whether she knew him well or not, many college girls would rather take on the burden of suffering silently, than reporting him and “spreading the suffering.”
This stems in part from a strong sense of compassion, and in part from the faulty utilitarian thinking that since not much will ultimately result from reporting him, there’s no point in damaging in his reputation.
6. Worried they won’t be supported and/or that the matter will be publicized.
To many college girls, the idea of “everyone knowing” can be the most fearsome aspect of coming forward.
This fear that the matter will be made public, and that others will hate them, blame them, and judge them prevents many college victims from coming forward.
Students should know that the matter will be treated with the utmost confidentiality, on a need-to-know basis.
7. Thinking that maybe it wasn’t that big a deal.
College students often engage in a silent inner battle in which they debate whether what happened was that big a deal.
Am I just overreacting? Maybe I’m just being dramatic…
Even though they may feel disgusted, traumatized, or violated, they may nonetheless question the validity of their own feelings.
8. Thinking that they don’t have the strength or courage to fight.
College girls often have way more strength than they realize.
The victim knew the offender in 81% of colleges rapes; touching or grabbing is the most frequently used tactic in college sexual assaults; other tactics used in sexual assaults include the victim being incapacitated, physical force, and threats of harm.
Support us in our efforts to end violence against women.
Title IX Requires a Prompt and Equitable Response to Complaints.
As Harvard College and Harvard Law School continue working to establish a uniform and compliant Title IX policy, the letter in which the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) laid out its reasons for concluding that the Law School had violated Title IX, is instructive for institutions seeking Title IX compliance—as well as for students looking to determine whether their own rights have been violated.
Title IX’s implementing regulation provides that no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity. 34 C.F.R. §106.31(a)
Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, such as sexual assault or acts of sexual violence.
Courts have determined that sexual harassment is one way that a student can, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participating in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination under an education program/activity. As such, when any type of sexual harassment creates a hostile environment in an academic institution that receives federal funds, it is prohibited by Title IX.
In 2002, students at Harvard Law School filed a complaint alleging discrimination based on sex. The complaint alleged that the Law School’s policies and procedures did not provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of sexual harassment complaints, including claims of sexual assault.
In particular, and among others, the students alleged that the Law School had violated Title IX in that it:
required victims to choose between filing criminal charges or a Title IX complaint;
allowed rehearings that delayed the resolution process; and
required students alleging assault or discrimination to prove that it occurred with “clear and convincing” evidence.
In investigating the charge, the OCR framed the issue as “whether the Law School provided for prompt and equitable responses to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault, about which it knew or reasonably should have known, and whether any failure to respond appropriately allowed for the creation and continuation of a sexually hostile environment.”
Ultimately, although it rejected some of the charges, the OCR broadly concluded that the Law School had, indeed, violated Title IX:
[T]he Law School failed to comply with the Title IX requirements for the prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The previous and current sexual harassment policies and procedures used by the Law School do not, as written and as applied in the two sexual assault cases examined by OCR, comply with Title IX’s requirements.
It is worth noting that last month Harvard issued its statement on the results of the sexual conduct climate survey which found that sixteen percent of Harvard undergraduate senior women said that since beginning college they had experienced sexual penetration or attempted penetration without their consent. (Companion report)
(Image source: The Crimson) The OCR is currently conducting a separate investigation into whether Harvard College, as distinct from the Law School is by its policies in violation of Title IX.
In its Letter discussing its investigation into the Law School, OCR laid out what Title IX requires to ensure a prompt and equitable response.
An institution must take immediate and appropriate action
The OCR Letter makes clear that if an institution knows or reasonably should have known about the sexual harassment occurring, it must take immediate and appropriate action to determine what happened.
The institution has this obligation even if the student did not complain or report the harassment, if the student asked the institution to take no action, or if the student did not refer to what occurred as discrimination per se.
If the investigation reveals that discrimination/harassment took place, then the institution has a duty to take “prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment.”
These steps can include:
requiring that the perpetrator stay away from the complainant until both parties graduate,
prohibiting the perpetrator from attending school for a period of time, or
transferring the perpetrator to another residence hall, other classes, or another school.
Additional steps the [school] may take to eliminate the hostile environment include counseling and academic support services for the complainant and other affected students.
But it’s not enough just to put a stop to the single discriminatory act — the institution must also fix any hostile environment and undo any negative effects of the discrimination.
An institution must adopt and publish grievance procedures
The OCR stated that to ensure Title IX compliance, an academic institution must adopt and publish a policy that lays out a procedure to quickly and fairly resolve complaints of sexual discrimination.
The policy should be “written in language that is easily understood, should be easily located, and should be widely distributed.”
In evaluating whether the school’s grievance procedures are prompt and equitable, OCR stated that it takes into account the presence of:
notice to students and employees of the procedures, including where complaints may be filed;
application of the procedures to complaints alleging discrimination or harassment carried out by employees, students, and third parties;
provision for adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation of complaints, including an opportunity for both the complainant and respondent to present witnesses and other evidence;
designated and reasonably prompt timeframes for major stages of the complaint process;
written notice to parties of the outcome of the complaint and any appeal; and
an assurance that the institution will take steps to prevent recurrence of any sex discrimination or harassment found to have occurred, and to correct its discriminatory effects on the complainant and others if appropriate.
The institution’s policy must also include, in writing:
a statement of the [school’s] jurisdiction over Title IX complaints;
adequate definitions of sexual harassment (which includes sexual assault) and an explanation as to when such conduct creates a hostile environment;
reporting policies and protocols, including provisions for confidential reporting;
identification of the employee or employees responsible for evaluating requests for confidentiality;
notice that Title IX prohibits retaliation;
notice of a student’s right to file a criminal complaint and a Title IX complaint simultaneously;
notice of available interim measures that may be taken to protect the student in the educational setting;
the evidentiary standard that must be used (preponderance of the evidence) in resolving a complaint;
notice of potential remedies for students;
notice of potential sanctions against perpetrators; and
sources of counseling, advocacy and support.
An institution must inform the complainant of the outcome of its investigation and must take steps to prevent retaliation
The OCR letter makes clear that an institution must provide the complainant details of the investigation’s outcome:
For Title IX purposes, a [school] must inform the complainant as to whether or not it found that the alleged conduct occurred, any individual remedies offered or provided to the complainant or any sanctions imposed on the perpetrator that directly relate to the complainant, and other steps the [school] has taken to eliminate the hostile environment, if the [school] finds one to exist, and prevent recurrence.
The institution must take reasonable steps to prevent and investigate any retaliation stemming from the complaint/investigation:
Prohibited retaliatory acts include intimidation, threats, coercion, or discrimination against any such individual. [A school] should also take steps to prevent any retaliation against a student who makes a complaint or any student who provides information regarding the complaint and take strong responsive action when it occurs.
When [a school] knows or reasonably should know of possible retaliation by other students or third parties, it must take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred.
At a minimum, under Title IX, [a school] must ensure that students and their parents, if appropriate, know how to report any subsequent problems; should follow up with complainants to determine whether any retaliation or new incidents of harassment have occurred; and should respond promptly and appropriately to address continuing or new problems.
An institution must provide non-punitive means for the complainant to avoid contact with the alleged perpetrator and must permit “equal opportunity” for the complainant to participate in the resolution process
In the Letter, the OCR makes clear that an institution must enable a complainant to avoid contact with the alleged perpetrator:
[The school] should notify the complainant of his or her options to avoid contact with the alleged perpetrator, and allow students to change academic or living, transportation, dining and working situations as appropriate.
For instance, [a school] may prohibit the alleged perpetrator from having contact with the complainant pending the results of the investigation.
The OCR also makes clear that any steps that the institution takes to separate the complainant and the alleged perpetrator must not be burdensome to the complainant.
When taking steps to separate the complainant and the alleged perpetrator, [the school] should minimize the burden on the complainant and thus should not, as a matter of course, remove the complainant from classes or housing while allowing the alleged perpetrator to remain.
If an accused student is found responsible and [the school] determines that he/she must be separated from the complainant, it must do so in a manner that minimizes the burden on the complainant.
An Institution must provide adequate training
Finally, an institution has an obligation to ensure that its staff is properly trained on how to respond to and handle complaints of discrimination.
Training for employees should include practical information about
how to prevent and identify sexual assault/violence, including same-sex sexual assault/violence;
the behaviors that may lead to and result in sexual assault/violence;
the attitudes of bystanders that may allow conduct to continue;
the potential for revictimization by responders and its effect on students;
appropriate methods for responding to a student who may have experienced sexual assault/violence, including the use of nonjudgmental language;
the impact of trauma on victims; and, as applicable,
the person(s) to whom such misconduct must be reported.