As students at the University of Illinois Springfield settle into the fall semester, Deanie Brown, associate chancellor for access and equal opportunity, hopes they remember a video she showed during orientation. The video features Amber Rose, a model and actress, explaining consent to actor Tyrese Gibson and hip-hop artist Rev Run.
Brown’s presentation is part of a wider effort to prevent sexual assault at UIS. “(The video) really engages students; these are icons, and it’s arresting seeing them speaking about this issue,” she said.
Students statewide will likely see more training and conversation about sexual assault prevention because of a state law that took effect Aug. 1. The law lays out specific rules for how colleges and universities across Illinois handle and prevent sexual assault.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan advocated for the law that incorporates both Title IX rules and best-practice guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education after a year of conversations with higher-education administrators and sexual-assault survivors in the state.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Title IX is the federal law that bans gender-based discrimination in education. Though historically seen as a way to ensure equality in scholastic sports, enforcement of the rule has shifted to address campus sexual assault. The federal government is currently investigating more than 200 higher-education institutions, including the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, for violating Title IX in how they handle cases of rape, sexual harassment or other forms of gender-based violence.
Brown and representatives from local colleges say the new state law builds on much of what they’re already doing to address and prevent assaults on campus.
“We already had the majority of what the law requires in effect. It didn’t have a big impact on us from what we’re already doing,” said Todd Spann, a spokesman for Illinois College in Jacksonville.
One new requirement under the state law is that schools must provide an online option for students to confidentially report an incident of sexual assault or misconduct. A school representative must respond, explaining options to get help and a student’s rights, within 12 hours.
For Jarrod Gray, director of diversity and inclusion at Blackburn College in Carlinville, this was a welcomed requirement.
“The online reporting option was something we were working toward anyway,” Gray said. “It’s good to know that we are in trend with what the (state’s) expectation is.”
In order to comply with the law, administrators at Lincoln Land Community College designated two employees from student services to be confidential advisers, according to public relations director Lynn Whalen.
Students at any Illinois college or university who experience behavior that violates a school’s sexual violence policy, which can include unwanted touching, harassment, stalking or assault, can contact their school’s advisers.
The advisers provide information on where to go for counseling and medical care. They also talk with students about reporting options, for example notifying the campus police or college administration, or not reporting at all if they don’t want to.
A flow chart on Lincoln Land’s website explains the distinction between what happens when a student tells the advisers and the Title IX coordinator or college employees who must report to the coordinator.
The distinction is critical, explained Colleen Daly, director of communications for Washington, D.C.-based End Rape on Campus. When students report to a college administrator or Title IX coordinator, the coordinator must investigate the incident. The automatic investigation takes autonomy away from the student who experienced the assault, she said.
“The important thing is that we give survivors their control back,” Daly said. “It’s wonderful that they have someone that can tell them what their options are, without mandatory reporting.”
Brown, who also is the Title IX coordinator at UIS, agrees that putting students’ safety first and giving them a choice is important.
“The goal is to make sure those individuals can get what they need to feel safe and be successful on campus even if they don’t want to file a complaint,” she said. “We want students to feel empowered to exercise the right to file a complaint, but we won’t make them.”
Between 2012 and 2014, UIS, Blackburn and Illinois College have reported a handful of arrests for sexual assault to the Department of Education.
Historically, sexual assault has been vastly under-reported on college campuses across the country. According to statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on campus do not report the incident.
Illinois colleges and universities will be required to report the number of incidents and complaints about sexual misconduct, as well as their prevention programs, to the Attorney General’s Office next November.
Madigan expects to see higher numbers in the initial reports, compared to what’s been reported in the past.
“We think those low numbers indicated that there’s a problem that’s not being addressed or not addressed appropriately,” she said. “We expect to see higher numbers (from Illinois) at first, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. As we change culture on campuses and in communities, we are going to see those numbers eventually decline.”
What’s in the law? Illinois’ new Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act ensures that Illinois colleges and universities:
▪ Develop a clear, comprehensive campus sexual violence policy, including detailed incident reporting options and university response guidelines;
▪ Notify student survivors about their rights, including their right to confidentiality, and the protections the university can provide to ensure the student’s health and safety, such as obtaining an order of protection, changing class schedules or campus housing, and the availability of medical and counseling services;
▪ Provide a confidential adviser to survivors to help them understand their options and rights, including to report the sexual assault and to seek medical and legal assistance;
▪ Adopt a fair and balanced process for adjudicating allegations of sexual violence;
▪ Train students and campus employees to prevent sexual violence and improve awareness and responsiveness to allegations of sexual violence; and
▪ Allow students to report data and information electronically, confidentially or anonymously (in addition to other methods offered by the college or university). A third party or bystander can also report an incident. Colleges and universities must respond to a report submitted electronically within 12 hours.