Content warning: sexual violence
The Title IX process can be incredibly difficult for students; it is easy to feel overwhelmed, trapped, and disempowered. Unfortunately, many of our legal and social institutions fail to support survivors of sexual violence. However, it is important to know that there are resources for student survivors. Many organizations offer advocacy services (legal and medical), counseling, and support groups. If you or someone you know has experienced something that constitutes sexual violence (harassment, assault, stalking, or other forms of sexual misconduct), it is important to be aware of the different courses of action that are available.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you may report the incident directly to the Title IX Office. It is important to note that amnesty provisions (guaranteed by Illinois law) apply here. This means that even if you were using drugs or participating in underage drinking, you will not be subject to disciplinary action by Illinois Tech if you report a case of sexual misconduct (https://web.iit.edu/student-affairs/handbook/fine-print/policies-regulations-and-procedures).
The two primary contacts for the Title IX Office are Virginia Foster (email@example.com), the Title IX Compliance Coordinator, and Esther Espeland (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Deputy Title IX Compliance Coordinator. An anonymous report can also be filed at iit.edu/incidentreport. More information about anonymous reporting can be found here: Confidential Reporting
This page explains the confidential reporting options available. Both Resilience (https://www.ourresilience.org/), an advocacy organization that has partnered with Illinois Tech, and the Student Health and Wellness Center have licensed practitioners on staff to provide confidential emergency and ongoing support to individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct.
Higher education institutions are required to have confidential advisors available. Speaking to them will not trigger an investigation: you are able to seek information without committing to pursuing a case. Resilience, while it has a partnership with Illinois Tech, is not affiliated with the university. They are not obligated to report cases of misconduct to the school. The organization provides counselors and advocates who will listen to you and help you understand all your options. Resilience can offer you legal advocacy to help you understand your rights under Title IX. They can also assist you in seeking accommodations and in navigating a case with the Title IX Office if you decide to pursue that. Resilience also offers free support groups and counseling.
CAASE (https://www.caase.org/) is another organization that offers free legal support. While Resilience employs "legal advocates," CAASE has a team of attorneys who specialize in both criminal and civil cases. They offer services to support students who are pursuing Title IX cases and can help ensure that your rights are not being violated. CAASE also provides pro bono representation to individuals pursuing civil court cases. Examples of these would be no contact orders, which come in a variety of forms. Learn more about civil no contact orders here: Starting a case to get a civil no contact order.
CAASE also offers pro bono representation in criminal cases, but they do have a limited capacity. Even if they are not able to take on your case they will still help direct you to resources. Resilience’s legal advocates, although they are not attorneys, have a comprehensive knowledge of the legal system and will work to support you in any way they can. They will review your options with you and are happy to accompany you to any meetings (in court, with the school, or in another context) to provide both support and advocacy on your behalf.
If you have experienced sexual misconduct outside of Illinois Tech or your case does not fall under the regulations of Title IX, organizations like Resilience and CAASE are still here to help. In many cases, they can help you get accommodations for your classes even if you are not pursuing action via Title IX. If you are interested in pursuing a case outside of Illinois Tech, whether it be civil or criminal, these organizations can give you more information and guidance. If your situation falls outside the requirements for filing a case via Title IX, there are other strategies you can pursue. If your case doesn’t fit the strict definition put forth in the new Title IX regulations, you can ask for it to be investigated as a code of conduct violation (which may also result in disciplinary action against the person who harmed you).
Another completely valid option is for students to decide not to take action through Title IX or other avenues. However, it is important that this is a freely made decision, not a coerced or pressured one. Checking in with an organization like Resilience or CAASE can help clarify your options. Even if you decide not to pursue a case, they are there to help you in many other ways. They can work to help you obtain educational accommodations even if you are not pursuing a case against someone. There are many options available for academic, housing, and employment accommodations, such as breaking a housing contract prematurely without penalization, receiving extensions on your school work, and receiving excused time off from your job. Support groups and trauma-informed counseling can also be incredibly beneficial. Greenlight Counseling is another Chicago-based organization that Illinois Tech has partnered with that offers free counseling services for survivors of sexual violence. You can find a full list of advocacy organizations linked below.
Sexual violence is a complex systemic issue, and ultimately, our current reactionary measures are not enough. We need to fundamentally reassess the way that institutions handle cases of sexual misconduct and work to change our campus environment. Students should not have to fight for their rights and protections. We must think about preventative strategies (ones that do not involve victim-blaming) and how we can address the stigma and shame that people who have experienced sexual violence face.
Chicago-based Advocacy Organizations:
Greenlight Family Services: https://greenlightfamilyservices.org/
Find a full list of legal advocacy organizations and the communities they support here: https://www.iit.edu/title-ix/resources/legal-assistance
Linked below are a few articles discussing intersectionality in sexual violence and the overlap in societal frameworks of discrimination: