This post originally appeared on the Emory Respect Program blog as part of my work with the program.
Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I am both a member of Greek life at Emory and an Oxford College continuee. By the standards of the OHP intern team, I am somewhat of an oddity. But, strange as those two characteristics are in health promotion land, I think they are a valuable part of my skill set as an advocate to end sexual violence here at Emory University.
These identities are important to the way that I approach violence prevention because they are both ways to belong to a community here at Emory. Violence prevention work is incredibly difficult sometimes, and my relationship to other continuees and my sorority sisters helps me feel like the work that I am doing is valuable. This is incredibly important for any attempt to make a difference: community membership keeps you grounded, keeps you sane, and keeps you committed–particularly when you’re working with an issue as emotionally fraught as sexual violence.
This isn’t just me: the literature on sexual violence prevention agrees that communities can help stop violence. In particular, there’s a model of violence prevention called “bystander intervention” which I have been researching and am super excited about right now.
As part of my summer internship with Emory University‘s Respect Program, I recently attended an ATIXA training on how to investigate sexual harassment/assault claims as mandated by Title IX. It was an interesting training, but (at least for me) it raised more questions than it answered.
First, some background: Title IX, the federal law prohibiting educational discrimination on the basis of sex for programs that receive federal funding, turned 40 this year. For most of its existence, it has been used to justify (among other things) gender* parity for things like school sports–and it is for this that the law is best known.
However, in 2011 the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) published what is known as the Dear Colleague Letter, or DCL. DCLs are published fairly regularly on a variety of topics, but this particular letter has become the DCL, and that’s because it mandated a major overhaul in how federally-funded schools (k-12 institutions and any university that receives federal assistance, which is most of them) handle sexual assault and harassment.
Because these issues are gendered violence–women are much more likely to be the victims, and the violation is sexual in nature–the OCR ruled that failing to address sexual assault/harassment at an institutional level is a violation of Title IX. It leads to a hostile educational environment based on sex.