Privacy and confidentiality are essential parts of a university’s Title IX process. If victim-survivors are not assured that their privacy will be respected, they are much less likely to disclose or report sexual violence on campus. However, it is also important that victim-survivors are also not silenced by their universities.
Due to recent publicity surrounding many Title IX cases, many victim-survivors may be confused or unsure about protections provided by their universities or theirs or the school’s responsibilities. To make matters more complicated, though these guidelines are all related to federal laws such as Title IX and the Clery Act, these guidelines differ from school-to-school.
There are many questions victim-survivors may have when filing a Title IX complaint. All students have a right to know what their school policies and procedures are. Title IX offices don’t only exist to process complaints, but are also meant to serve as a source of resources and information.
Some questions a student may have include:
If I file a complaint, does the person I file it against have to know my name?
No, they do not have to know. While many universities may allow you to file a complaint without your name being disclosed, this could also substantially limit your options going forward, depending on your school’s policy. For example, a university could not, logistically, put a No-Contact Order in place without disclosing the complainant’s name to the respondent. That being said, there are many steps that can be taken to prohibit and/or limit contact between the complainant and the respondent both before and during a Title IX Hearing. For example, a No-Contact Order can go into effect once a report is filed, and hearings never require both parties to be in the same room at the same time.
If I make a complaint, do I have to go through with a hearing?
Most university policy states that a complainant can end the Title IX process whenever they choose. However, if the incident presents a severe threat to the safety of others on campus or involves a minor, the university may move forward with an investigation even if the victim-survivor chooses not to be involved. This may also be an incident in which the school finds it necessary to violate the desired confidentiality of a complainant.
Who will know about my case?
Staff and faculty that work in your school’s Title IX office will have access to your complaint. If you request certain accommodations, such as an extension on an assignment or a change in class schedule, staff in the Title IX office may communicate with a faculty member that you are making that request, but will not disclose any details about your case. The Clery Act requires that universities publish reports about certain crimes on campus, however this will not require disclosure of your identity, only that an incident was reported.
At your university, there may be strictly confidential and partially confidential resources. For example, someone in the Title IX office may be only partially confidential, meaning they have to report the incident under The Clery Act. Certain members of your university’s police department may be strictly confidential, meaning your information goes absolutely nowhere.
Will my parents find out?
No. A Title IX case is kept confidential under Family Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA) if you are 18 or older. A university may, however, assist a student in telling their parents.
The bottom line is that you your university should never, ever breach your privacy or confidentiality without your knowledge. If you are considering filing a Title IX complaint, it’s important to contact an experienced lawyer to help you through this complicated and often overwhelming process.
These materials have been prepared by WGW for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.