Title IX Protection Doesn't Just Apply to Sports
Title IX is a U.S law best known in the world of high school and college athletics. It was originally instituted to ensure gender equity in education. When I played sports in high school it meant that girls had equal rights to education and athletic opportunities as the boys. In fact, my freshman year, there was a girl on our varsity football team – and she actually played!
What I think is often overlooked is that Title IX is not just about sports. The code reads "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance...". Read carefully, it means protection from discrimination AND victimization based on sex.
Recently I saw two stories in the news about young girls who were victims of sexual assault wherein their schools failed them.
- A high school cheerleader was raped by two prominent athletes at an after game party. The rape was reported, one assailant has been (the other still pending) convicted and the school did less than nothing. The victim, still a cheerleader, refused to cheer for her rapist at games in protest. She was ordered to cheer for her attacker by school officials and when she refused, the girl was expelled from the game and removed from the squad. The story is much longer and more maddening than there is space in this blog. Under the rules of Title IX the school had a duty to protect and defend this girl, instead they victimized her again.
- An 8 year-old girl was raped on the way to school. Bruised, bleeding and crying, she walked the rest of the way to school and reported the rape to her principal. Given the girl's age there is not a lot of detail available but the story tells us that in the aftermath of a brutal assault, this poor girl was subjected to the judgment, opinion and speculation of her peers, teachers and parents. The “blame the victim” mentality went into full swing with comments like “she deserved it” and remarks on her attire. Much of this happened at school where there should have been no tolerance for such talk. She should have been protected by Title IX.
Both of these girls were victimized all over again by the very system put in place to protect them. Too often the blame for sexual assaults are pushed off on the victim. No woman or girl “asks” to be sexually assault by virtue of their choice of clothing or what party they chose to attend. The community and schools in these situations have a duty help and protect any victim of sexual assault as she deals with a horrifying and life altering incident. We must continue to work to get the message out the only person to blame when a woman is raped, is her rapist.
Women’s Fund of Central Indiana supports many agencies in our community who serve women who are victims of sexual violence and abuse. If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual violence contact the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Violence (INCASA) to get help. There is no shame in being a victim of sexual assault.
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