If you have submitted a formal Title IX complaint, it is important to be aware of how Title IX protects you and make sure you are holding your university accountable. Under Title IX, it is prohibited for the university to retaliate because it interferes with your right to oppose or file a complaint against your school for Title IX violations. These protections do not only apply to the individual who files a complaint, but anyone who “participated in an OCR or school’s investigation or proceedings related to sexual violence.” Title IX protects you from retaliation from your university, meaning administrators, faculty, and staff who have participated. This protection, however, does not apply to retaliation from other university students. If you believe a student has retaliated against and your university has failed to protect you in this case, that could be the basis for a separate Title IX complaint.
Have I been retaliated against?
In this context,retaliation is the intimidation, threat, coercion and/or discrimination against someone who has filed a Title IX complaint or reported a Title IX violation. The Title IX legal manual specifies four elements that have to be established for an action to be considered “retaliation.”
Firstly, the “complainant,” the person who is alleging retaliation must be “engaged in activities or asserted rights protected under Title IX.”
Secondly, the person or people accused of retaliation must be aware of the protected activity. Basically, if you allege someone is retaliating against you for filing a Title IX complaint, this person must have been aware that you had done so.
Thirdly, the accused, having known about the protected activity, “thereafter subjected the person to adverse action, treatment conditions…”
Fourthly, there must be a causal connection between the “protected activity” and the allegedly retaliatory actions.
It is important to remember that you are protected against retaliation even if your claims or complaints do not result in a case which finds your Title IX rights have been violated. Students have the right to be protected throughout the process, regardless of its outcome. As Know Your IX notes, “protected activity” does not only refer to a student’s right to submit a Title IX complaint, but also your right to speak out about your experience. If your university attempts to stop you from speaking to media or participating in activism regarding your Title IX complaint, this too is retaliation, Additionally, if your university’s Title IX office is unwilling to fulfil academic and housing accommodations, this may also be retaliatory.
What do I do if I believe I’m being retaliated against?
If you believe you are being retaliated against, the first thing you should make sure to do is to document and keep track of all communications between you and the university or individual you think is retaliating against you. In addition to keeping any emails or text messages, it can be helpful to keep a log of any verbal communications.
Once you believe you are being retaliated against, you can first try to speak directly to your Title IX coordinator and make them aware of the concerning behaviors. The coordinator may be willing to resolve the issue.
You should also contact an attorney! Do not hesitate to contact an attorney about your situation, especially if you feel your university is unwilling and unsupportive in resolving the issue. When you are meeting with or speaking to your attorney, documentation of your interactions will be very helpful. They can make you aware of all of your options, as well as help guide you through whatever option you choose. However, Title IX complaints are a very specific legal issue, and it is important to find an attorney who has ample experience and expertise in Title IX.
Going forward with a Title IX complaint can be an exhaustive and overwhelming process. To then be retaliated against can exacerbate these feelings, and leave one feeling like the odds are stacked against them. There are several resources available, free of charge, to support victims and survivors. At this link: https://hotline.rainn.org/online/terms-of-service.jsp you can find the RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) hotline. One can call in or use their online chatting service.
These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.