On campus, debate over civil rights and rape

By Justin Pope

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 21 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

"I remember at one point, he was like, 'This would be so much easier if you'd help me out here.'" A resident adviser took her to the hospital, but when she talked to police she couldn't remember the order of events. Police filed preliminary charges, but they were dropped.

On campus, she says, a dean told her the assailant had rights, too. He was told to stay away from her, but she encountered him almost daily.

"It made me unable to focus, to concentrate on anything other than making sure nothing like that ever happened again," she said.

Clendineng began abusing painkillers and her schoolwork fell apart. Eventually, she dropped out. She's now trying to finish a degree online.

"I should have been able to finish school long before now," she said. She believes she could have "had there been more support from the school, had they done more to tell him to stay away, had the dean not essentially blamed me for it happening."

A NIACC spokeswoman, Michele Appelgate (CQ), provided with a summary of Clendineng's account, said it did not accurately reflect the college's response in that case. She also provided a statement from president Debra Derr describing a series of changes and improvements, made under new leadership four years ago, to the college's sexual assault response policy.

Only recently, Clendineng said, did she become aware Title IX might apply to a case like hers. At the time, she had no idea of her rights or the obligations it places on colleges to act and help victims.

Alison Kiss of the group Security on Campus said it remains all too common that students don't know their Title IX rights, and for colleges to fail to inform them. The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, currently before the Senate as part of a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, beefs up reporting rules and requires colleges to notify students reporting assaults of those rights.

When colleges do hand down punishments, expulsion is the maximum, and they often fall short of that. Last year, when The Center for Public Integrity examined a federal database with information on 130 colleges, it found only 10 to 25 percent of men found responsible for sexual assault were expelled.

But Kiss says Title IX pressure has prompted many colleges to improve their training and response. That may explain why some schools report more assault complaints coming forward. Last year's guidance forced colleges to designate Title IX coordinators, and to rewrite and then publicize new policies, showing more students the police aren't their only option.

Kiss says until prosecutors start taking such cases, colleges must offer victims an alternative (even if prosecutors do act, colleges must pursue their own Title IX investigations).

"Ten years ago very few people understood the connection between Title IX and sexual assault," said Wendy Murphy, a Boston attorney who has filed numerous complaints against universities over Title IX compliance. Thanks to the latest guidance, "instead of teaching girls to be afraid and if something ever does happen it's going to be like stealing somebody's notebook, the conversation that gets taught to new students is this is a civil rights violation and it's a serious one."

Caleb Warner has seen the flip side of Title IX enforcement.

Warner, too, was enmeshed in a "he said, she said" encounter. During finals week in 2009, he says, a fellow University of North Dakota student with whom he'd hooked up before, and been texting with ever since, invited herself over.

They had sex — consensual, he insists — a second time, then again the next morning, after she spent the night. He liked her, but she stopped responding to his calls and texts. He went home for the holidays and let it drop.

But when Warner returned to school, an administrator pulled him from class. He'd been accused of rape, and he would have to face charges in the campus disciplinary system — within 10 days.

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