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Featured Image for What Is The Deal With Title IX Proposed Rule Changes?

You may have heard there are changes on the horizon for Title IX, the federal law protecting students’ rights to educational opportunities and benefits free from sex discrimination. Title IX regulations outline responsibilities for any school (K-12 and higher education) receiving federal funding and penalizes schools that respond to sexual harassment in a way that amounts to subjecting a student to sex discrimination.

Because Title IX regulations play an important role in addressing sexual harassment, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence in schools, SCCADVASA has highlighted some of the key points in the proposed rules and how they could apply to campuses in particular. We’ll be breaking things down in a three-part series this week.

Key Changes Proposed:

  • Narrowing the definition of sexual harassment actionable under Title IX,

  • Limiting situations when schools are responsible for taking action (see blog post part 3),

  • Limiting circumstances when a school is considered to have knowledge of harassment and therefore responsible for further action,

  • Allowing live cross examination, but only by the party’s “advisor,”

  • Allowing schools to change the required standard of evidence (see blog post part 2),

  • Removing time limits on investigations.

If you have questions about other proposed changes or would like more information about any of the changes listed above, feel free to call SCCADVASA at 803-256-2900.

Do you have thoughts on how this will impact your work or the students you support?

These rules are currently in the public comment period and not yet final. Schools and victim advocates do not need to make any changes at this point, but may want to consider the implications of these rules for their institution, for people experiencing abuse, and for those accused of perpetrating abuse.

The comment period runs through January 28th. After that time, the Department of Education will have to respond to all substantive comments and explain why they did or did not make changes. The final rules are expected to be released sometime during or after spring of 2019.

You can leave a comment until January 28, 2019. You may comment as an individual or on behalf of an organization or institution.

To read the full text and/or provide comment, go to https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ED-2018-OCR-0064-0001 and click the button that says “comment now.” (Or go to www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ED-2018-OCR-0064-0001.)

For information on the value of providing comments and advice on how to write an effective comment, see this resource from Know Your IX: https://www.knowyourix.org/notice-comment-2018/submit-a-comment/

Know  Your IX also created a data guide with statistics to support your comment: https://actionnetwork.org/user_files/user_files/000/028/106/original/Mini_Data_Guide_(N_C).pdf

 

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Featured Image for Title IX Proposed Rule Changes and Standards of Evidence

One of the biggest talking points around proposed changes to Title IX is the standard of evidence used to determine misconduct. Debates over the appropriate standard of evidence weigh the potential impacts, especially educational impacts, on the survivor/complainant and the accused/respondent, attempting to find a fair balance in survivors’ rights and needs and the rights and due process for someone who is accused.

Prior guidance required schools to decide cases using the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, meaning that the school found it was more likely than not that the sexual harassment or assault occurred. Institutions were prohibited from using the higher “clear and convincing evidence” standard, which required a finding that the harassment was highly probable or reasonably certain to have occurred.

The proposed regulations now require schools to use the clear and convincing standard for sexual harassment and assault unless the school can show that it uses the lower preponderance of the evidence standard for other misconduct violations carrying the same maximum penalty (e.g. potential expulsion from school).

On the flip side, and causing concern for some victim advocacy organizations, a school may choose to use the clear and convincing standard for sexual assault cases even if other violations with the same maximum penalty still use the lower preponderance of evidence standard.

In addition, the new rules require schools to use the same standard of evidence in faculty and student cases.  Because faculty tenure policies and union contracts are often less flexible, schools may realign Title IX policies to match those policies, rather than the other way around.

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Featured Image for  Title IX Proposed Rule Changes

What situations would initiate a school’s legal responsibility to address sexual harassment or abuse?

In considering the purview of Title IX policies, a common question for schools might be, “Am I responsible for doing something about that particular situation?” The complicated dynamics of sexual harassment and assault mean that an incident happening outside of school activities could still impact a student’s access to educational opportunities, which is the ultimate focus of Title IX. Rules on Title IX must therefore determine what is within the scope of a school’s responsibility, which can be a balancing act between concern for protecting students’ access to education and concern over putting too much responsibility on the school through too broad of a scope for Title IX.

Under previous guidance, there was an obligation for schools to respond even if the initial sexual harassment occurred outside the school’s education program or activity if there was potential impact to a student’s education and engagement with school activities.

Under the new proposed regulations, institutions are required to respond only when they have “actual knowledge of sexual harassment in an education program or activity.” This would include activities sponsored by recognized Greek life organizations and athletics programs. However, an assault happening in off-campus housing or a local bar, for example, would no longer fall under the school’s responsibility, regardless of the potential impact on a student’s education.

The new proposed rule also specifies harassment “against a person in the United States.” This would limit the school’s responsibility to address anything happening in a study abroad program.

Though the focus of this blog series is on higher education, it’s important to also consider the potential impact in K-12 schools. It might be of particular concern to consider sexual harassment or abuse happening to a student outside of school activities (e.g. at a party, online, at a friend’s house), but the student potentially being unable able to seek recourse through their school, despite impacts on their education. (It is important to note that, outside of Title IX requirements, a school can still implement policies for preventing and addressing situations of harassment or abuse in order to protect students and employees.)

SCCADVASA wants to thank NASPA and the other national organizations who have provided briefings on the proposed Title IX rule changes that contributed to our content. We also want to recognize the campus and community-based advocates who continue to support students throughout, and regardless of, policy changes.

For further questions about proposed Title IX changes, please contact SCCADVASA at 803-256-2900.

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Featured Image for 4 Times It

It’s likely that you’ve been told ghosting someone is a bad thing to do, and that it says something about your character if you stop responding to someone. But what about when you need to not talk to someone for your own safety or well-being? Contrary to popular belief, there are times when it is okay to ghost others.

1.  If they're harassing you 

Have you already told them you're not interested and they are begging you to hang out or come over? Chances are this isn’t about you at all. If you’ve let the person know you are not interested and they won’t stop trying to talk to you, ghosting them is okay. It’s healthy to reinforce your boundaries in this way when someone is clearly not listening.

2.  If they make you feel afraid or uneasy

Threats can come in a variety of forms. They can be a threat to your wellbeing, your loved ones, or even a threat to self-harm if a person doesn't get what they want. It could also be a quiet feeling that something isn’t right about the surrounding environment or that someone is unsafe. Trust your gut. It doesn’t matter what the reason for creating distance is if a person puts your personal safety at risk and/or has proven to be manipulative or disingenuous. You don’t need any other reason to end the conversation or relationship. 

3.  If they insult you or put you down

Ever have an experience where someone is telling you how great you are, and as soon as you don’t give them what they want (a chance, a date, sex, etc.) their behavior and tone changes? Maybe they’re telling you that you’re not as beautiful, smart or great as you think you are? Responding to gas-lighting will only leave you exhausted, upset, and dehumanized. If someone resorts to insults to get you to pay attention to them, chances are they do not respect you and are trying to manipulate you into doing what they want. This can be very dangerous and it is best to avoid them.

4.  If they've sexually assaulted you

Nearly 70% of sexual assaults that happen are perpetrated by an abuser you know or trust. If you are sexually assaulted, it is likely that your abuser has a way to contact you. It is even possible that they might try to pass the assault off as consensual with a text like, “last night was fun, we should do it again.” This can be traumatizing and confusing for survivors. Feel free to block your abuser, and to not respond in any way to them trying to control the narrative if it doesn’t benefit you. You deserve respect and do not owe anything to the person who has abused you.

Guiding Questions:

Have you ever ghosted or been ghosted by someone in your life? What are your thoughts on ways to effectively end toxic relationships?

 

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Featured Image for Can We Just Get Past the Buddy System Already?

I wanted to go to a Beyoncé concert and I didn’t. Why? I didn’t have a buddy. And all of a sudden there was that just-below-the-surface anxiety that by going into a crowded concert stadium alone I would get kidnapped, dragged into a bathroom, raped, trafficked, lost forever, murdered, or some combination. Where does that anxiety come from? Many of us have heard all our lives to stick with a friend for safety and definitely never go out alone at night. It’s the best/only way to stay safe, right?! And if you’re anything like me, then you also love going places alone and are tired of worried voices telling you that it's a bad idea. 

Parents and people who care about us promote the buddy system because it offers a sense of safety and control in a world where we are bombarded with horrifying news stories. (Anyone else out there have a mom who calls regularly with updates on the latest in rape and murder news? ) But, I disagree with the premise that our buddies will be able to save us, or that they should have to.

If you want to go out alone, what would you need to feel safer? Going to an event, I want to park somewhere safe; walk from my car to the event through a well-lit, populated area, and know there are people at the event who will see and support me if I need help. Is that so much to ask? Instead of telling people to go everywhere with a buddy, let’s advocate for our cities and social spaces to put in the extra effort to make everyone feel safe, especially those of us who often don’t.

Whether going out to a concert, festival, bar, movie, or downtown stroll, we should all be able to safely engage in our communities, have fun, and live our best lives. And if we want that, we need to think about environmental and social changes that make people feel safe, with or without a buddy. Otherwise, a lot of people aren’t showing up and we deprive our communities of the vibrancy that’s possible when everyone can be there.

I am still pro-buddy. But let’s be real about what our buddies can or should do, and quit acting like the buddy system is the gold standard of safety advice. Sadly, none of my friends are master martial artists ready to fight off attackers. However, given the likelihood that abuse or violence will happen among acquaintances, friends, or partners rather than strangers, I want my buddies to have my back if they see me in an unhealthy relationship or a non-consensual situation. And I especially want them to step in to hold me accountable if I am responsible for that situation. Now that would be a buddy system I could get behind! 

Guiding Questions:

What are your thoughts on how to make our communities safer for everyone? What do you want to see at events and social spaces to feel confident going out alone?

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Featured Image for Trauma-Informed Care Project

Written by Katie Reid
Image by Edel Rodriguez

On March 11, Oprah Winfrey released a story for CBS and 60 Minutes on how trauma plays a role in childhood development and describes an approach to working with children called “trauma-informed care” (TIC). Winfrey said that working on this story “changed her life” in that it had more impact on her than practically anything she has ever done. The report highlights a school in Wisconsin that trains teachers to be sensitive to the trauma experienced by their students by first asking what has happened to a student and then embracing a trauma-informed approach to heal the trauma. This approach recognizes that the brain development in children can be altered when they experience developmental trauma, which for some children cause behaviors such as acting out, lack of impulse control, aggression, and anger. Winfrey reports that if children are penalized for behaviors without first addressing the trauma, they can experience a range of negative effects including physical, mental, and social health problems that can last into adulthood. The story highlights the importance of teachers, social service providers, and others working with children and adults to receive training on trauma-sensitivity and to take steps to create trauma-informed organizations.

The topic of TIC is nothing new for advocates working in domestic violence and sexual assault intervention and prevention. The practice of working with survivors to understand and address their individual experiences has always been part of our practice, even before the term “trauma-informed care.” Advocates, clinicians, and shelter workers often receive training on ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and trauma sensitivity. However, TIC trainings fall short if they fail to help providers understand historic or community trauma and how it impacts an individual who is coping with and recovering from the trauma of sexual/domestic violence. Recent research is helping us better understand how experiences such as poverty, racism, housing insecurity, or lack of economic mobility can cause individual and community trauma. It is imperative that advocacy organizations and allied professions such as child welfare agencies, schools, law enforcement agencies, hospitals, and legal service providers embrace a public health approach to address trauma.

In order to contribute to SCCADVASA’s efforts of building healthy, resilient communities across South Carolina, in 2017 and 2018 the Coalition is engaging in a system-wide evaluation to assess the current capacity of its 22 member agencies’ provision of quality care for trauma survivors and to enhance their capacity to address and mitigate the negative effects of trauma on their clients and to improve their outcomes to serve vulnerable, trauma-exposed clientele. SCCADVASA is partnering on this project with the American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations. AIR’s mission is to conduct and apply the best behavioral and social science research and evaluation towards improving people’s lives, with a special emphasis on the disadvantaged.

SCCADVASA’s goal is to work toward developing a universal approach to TIC, whereby South Carolina has an entire system of care for survivors of domestic and sexual violence have adopted policies and procedures that reflect trauma sensitivity and recovery. To find out more about our TIC project, contact us at 803-256-2900 or info@sccadvasa.org.

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Featured Image for March Webinar: Preventing Sexual Violence in Online Dating
Our next free webinar will be presented by Nyomi Guzman, our Prevention and Inclusion Specialist on March 29, 2018 from 10:00am - 11:00am where we will discuss the intricacies and increase of online dating and sexual assault in our society. Attendees will learn how to identify the drawbacks along with benefits of online dating. We will talk about how to distinguish between the various kinds of online abuse and gain a deeper understanding of sexual violence prevention.
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Featured Image for What Can You Do to Prevent Sexual Violence?

As a response to the ever growing and impactful #MeToo movement, we’re launching a campaign, calling South Carolinians to action, to publicly declare what they #CanDo. Let's start a conversation about things we can do to respond to and prevent sexual violence. The campaign will take place on social media, meaning we will post your photo and your quote on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The campaign will launch at the beginning of April for Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). If you would like to participate, we need a photo (or selfie) you want to use, and a quote about what you #CanDo to prevent sexual violence, change culture and support survivors. You can participate as a group or as individuals.


What do you think? This year’s nationwide SAAM theme is Embrace Your Voice, and we believe that your voice has the power to change culture and help prevent sexual assault in South Carolina! Join us by emailing your #CanDo quote and photo by mid-March to pchilton@sccadvasa.org! Also, please share this around in your various networks: friend, family, faith and professional communities. We want this to be HUGE!

For more insight to what the campaign will look like, you can see what MECASA has done!

 

 

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Featured Image for Effective Ways to Keep Your Patrons Safer From Sexual Harassment

A space that is safe for patrons in a comfortable environment is one that will flourish. Bars and clubs are places that people socialize for fun; but unfortunately they can also be locations where some people give others unwanted sexual attention and, in some cases commit acts of sexual violence. Alcohol is the most common substance used in sexual assault. Bartenders and other restaurant and bar staff can play a vital role in creating an atmosphere that leads to greater safety for all patrons.

Bar staff often will not witness blatant physical or sexual violence, but more commonly might see something that causes a gut reaction that something is a little “off.” For instance, you may observe that one patron is giving another customer or staff member unwanted attention. Not all people feel safe rejecting unwanted advances and it may be unclear what the role of bar staff is in intervening in such situations, but it is important to remember that there are steps you can take to safely intervene to prevent/stop harassing and inappropriate situations, and to keep your establishment safe for patrons and staff.

RECOGNIZE:

Here are some questionable behaviors or situations your staff can look out for as potential indicators of harassment or vulnerability:

Pressuring one or more people to drink, or buying unwanted drinks 
Giving one or more people unwanted attention 
Staring at a person or group of people, making lewd or inappropriate comments, making sexual jokes to friends or other patrons 
Intoxicated patrons without a safe friend or a safe way to get home
While this list is a good starting place, it is by no means exhaustive. If someone’s behavior seems inappropriate or unsettling to one person, that feeling is usually shared by others but they may just be afraid to say something. Encourage your staff to talk to each other when they notice questionable behavior. Also remember that these behaviors are not exclusively directed to members of the opposite sex and that harassment can occur across the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity.

INTERVENE:

Once you have identified that something seems wrong, here are a few ways you can intervene. Keep in mind, intervening shouldn’t require getting physically involved and, ideally, you should have support from other staff. You can use one or more of these at the same time, depending on the situation.
1. Direct: Confront the offender, talk with the victim, and stay nearby.
2. Distract: Create a distraction so someone can check in with the person you are concerned about and offer assistance if needed.
3. Delegate: Talk to others involved in the situation, or who are friends with the victim or offender; talk with other staff or security at the bar; or talk with bystanders or others who might be able to effectively and safely intervene.

These situations are nuanced and there are many options to safely stop unwanted sexual harassment. Below are two sample case scenarios to help you consider ways that a bartender or server might respond.

Scenario 1: Every Monday, Alex comes into your bar for trivia night. You have gotten to know him through the weeks during trivia, but you don’t interact with him much when he visits the bar on the weekends. Over the past few weekends you have seen him leave with a different woman each night. The women always stumble toward the door and can barely stand. You realize that he only ever talks to women who are alone and that he has never come into the bar with the person he leaves with. Concerned, you start to pay closer attention when Alex walks in tonight. You and your co-worker notice Alex bringing a young woman her third drink in 30 minutes. Your co-worker says, “Alex is the man, I wish I could get that many girls.” While you recognize that for some people, Alex’s behavior is considered normal, your gut reaction is telling you that he is purposely getting women drunk so he can take advantage of them. And you are correct! A lot of things that may be accepted as normal in a bar setting can actually be predatory and maybe even against the law. Now, you are concerned not only for the women Alex targets, but also the culture among bar staff that reinforces this predatory behavior. Consider some of these intervention options as ways to address what Alex is doing:

1. Direct: Point out to your manager that Alex is currently feeding drinks to a woman who is intoxicated and alone (this is not the first time.) Both of you tell Alex that you’ve been noticing his behavior and that he needs to leave immediately and is not welcome back. This also communicates to other patrons that their safety is your priority.
2. Distract: Distract Alex by creating a fake scenario, like telling him that because he is a loyal customer you want to get his input on drink specials for next week. Doing this will take the attention off of the woman and take Alex out of the situation. You could also work with another bartender or server to check in with the woman while you have Alex’s attention. Keep in mind, this may only be a temporary fix. 
3. Delegate: Ask the bouncer at the bar to remove Alex and let him know he’s not welcome back. The bouncer holds a position of authority and will be respected in the space. While he does this, check in with the woman Alex was targeting and make sure she has a safe way home.

Bonus option: Since you are concerned about overall culture of the bar, suggest to the manager to make the next trivia night’s theme, “Consent is Sexy/Required.” Donate the proceeds to your local Rape Crisis Center.

Scenario 2: Jordan is a doctor at the local hospital, who came into your restaurant to grab a cocktail after her shift. She often sits at your table because you two have enjoyed chatting from time to time. Tonight she is alone at her table, reading a book. All of a sudden a man approaches and starts a conversation with Jordan. You can tell that Jordan is trying very hard to be polite, but after a few minutes she lets him know she needs to get back to her book. However, the man does not leave, but pulls up a chair and moves closer to Jordan. You hear him say to her, “I know you didn’t actually come here to read.” You think to yourself, “How rude!” and you can see by Jordan’s face that she is completely put-off by the interaction. Despite that, she seems reluctant to forcefully say anything. You don’t want to allow an environment where patrons feel their personal space is not respected.

1. Direct:  Say to the man, “Excuse me, she said she doesn’t want to talk. Please respect her space.” While being this direct might feel uncomfortable, it lets the man know Jordan has your support. Stand there until he leaves her table.
2. Distract: Tell the man you think his car is being towed. When he leaves to look, you have time to check in with Jordan. You can assure Jordan that you agree she should be able to sit alone without harassment and make a plan for if he returns to her table.
3. Delegate: Have the man’s server bring him his check, encouraging him to leave and thanking him for coming in. This will give him a subtle social cue to leave.

Remember, sometimes effectively keeping a situation from escalating will require a combination of strategies.

This article has primarily discussed how to handle subtle displays of harassment. Unfortunately, there may be other times when violence occurs quickly or when there is little advanced information to help you proactively intervene. If you have knowledge that a crime has occurred, if you saw someone spike a drink, or if you suspect violence may occur, it can be helpful to future investigations if you help gather any information about a suspected offender. For example, swap a suspected drug-laden drink and keep the cup, take a picture with your phone of the suspected offender, or talk to other people who witnessed the behavior. If there is danger, call 911 or local law enforcement for help. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way.

For more information or resources, contact South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA). 803-256-2900. www.sccadvasa.org

Adapted from: The Bar Outreach Project © 2012 Our VOICE, Inc.

 
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Featured Image for Charleston Silver Lady & Her Southern Pearls Fundraiser

Join The Charleston Silver Lady and her Southern Pearls on January 28, 2018 from 2:00 - 4:00pm in Columbia, SC for a special event benefiting SCCADVASA.

The Charleston Silver Lady will present a 90 minute program about items from her personal collection of storied silver. The Charleston Silver Lady is a nationally renowned expert on antique silver.

The goal of this event is to raise $10,000 for SCCADVASA. In addition to the Charleston Silver Lady's appearance, the venue, raffle prizes and refreshments are all being donated with 100% of proceeds going directly to support the work of SCCADVASA.

$425 includes a table of 8 seats and 1 verbal appraisal of 1 piece of silver by the Charleston Silver Lady.

$45 will reserve an individual seat for the presentation. For an additional $25, a verbal appraisal of one piece of silver can be purchased (only a limited number of appraisals are available and are only available with the purchase of at least one ticket to the event).

A range of pearl jewelry will be available from the Charleston Silver Lady for sale at the event. The pearls used are purchased directly from pearl divers from various countries and reflect the unique waters of their origin. All proceeds from these sales will benefit SCCADVASA.

Raffle tickets are $5 each at the event. Prizes include: a string of pearls donated by Ms. Corley with a retail value of $450 and a facial with a brow wax donated by Jennifer Griffitt.

This is the experience of a lifetime that you won't want to miss!

Get Your Tickets Today!

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