Shortly after 6 p.m. last Tuesday, a crowd of 20 gathered into the Hull Education Center Room 132 for the “Ask Me Anything: Title IX Awareness Town Hall”, which featured, Lindsey Moran, Longwood University clery and Title IX coordinator, Col. Robert R. Beach, Longwood University chief of police, Elizabeth Chassey M.Ed., sexual assault and outreach program director at Madeline’s House, Dr. Alexa Wilkins, Longwood University staff psychologist and campus advocate and Megan Clark, commonwealth’s attorney, as panelists.
The event was hosted by the Student Government Association (SGA), the Office of Student Conduct and the Longwood University Title IX Office, and was moderated by Student Diversity and Inclusion Council (SDIC) president Anthony Jackson.
Attendees of the event were able to send in anonymous questions to the panel by scanning a code on the screen, then typing their question out to be answered.
Moran began by defining Title IX, saying it is a federal law that prevents gender based discrimination on campuses that receive federal funding, such as Longwood University. She said it covers all aspects of campus life including: education, athletics, employment and covers “pretty much everybody on campus…”
Another question asked about how many cases had been referred for prosecution at Longwood University.
Clark said she could not pinpoint the exact number, but she did say the laws in the criminal justice system, not the investigation portion, have not caught up to societal norms and what is expected to take place in healthy sexual relationships versus sexual assaults. She said there have been referrals, but not ones that have been able to be taken for prosecution.
Beach added when a Title IX case comes to LUPD, it then opens a criminal investigation to determine whether or not the elements of the events of sexually based offenses were present in the situation.
“We gather all the evidence that we can possibly gather in that investigation, and then we take (it) to the Commonwealth’s Attorney to see if it will stand the muster of being able to determine whether it is prosecutable.”
The issue over Title IX cases dealing with Longwood University students at Hampden-Sydney College was brought to the forefront by question.
Moran said the issue is challenging when dealing with two different jurisdictions, as Title IX at Longwood University only pertains to individuals the university has jurisdiction over, or those who are affiliated with Longwood.
She said if the complainant is interested, she will reach out to the Title IX office at H-SC for an investigation to begin; the process then turns to a “supportive-assistant typed role” for the Longwood Title IX office.
Beach said determining where an alleged incident takes place is very important in a Title IX situation. If the incident takes place on Longwood University managed property, then the LUPD will present all information available to the case from Longwood and surrounding jurisdictions involved to the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The jurisdiction in which the incident takes place is responsible for reporting evidence found.
He added reporting all available information to the Commonwealth’s Attorney is statute in a Title IX investigation.
Clark said Title IX and criminal prosecution are often put together, which is false as they are “completely separate tracks.” Complainants have the right to make a report to their Title IX Coordinator and refuse a criminal prosecution.
From an earlier statement, she reiterated more on how laws have not matched up with societal norms dealing with consent.
“At one point, I know that it was being stated that consent is active; so you have to do or say something in the affirmative in order to communicate consent, and if you don’t do that, then you have not consented. Legally, that’s not true; legally, consent can be passive, so if you don’t say anything then that can be viewed as consent,” said Clark. “Now, that’s a very basic understanding of it. We have to look at how a lack of consent is communicated to the perpetrator, and normally that is where my hang up is.”
When a prosecution is held, Clark said she makes sure the victims have the proper support system in place to be able to make it through the process, because she believes the victims when they come to her, and she now wants to find the information that can best serve them.
She said “fight or flight” has been widely considered as forms of revoking consent in the court of law, but “freezing” is not. In light of this, she and her colleagues are working to come up with creative ways to prove “freezing” as revoking of consent in the court.
Beach said the LUPD will always support the survivors perspective when refusing a criminal prosecution because they have a right to walk away from the situation. However, he said he will always encourage victims to come forward so that as much evidence as possible can be gathered to make a case if a victim changes their mind to move forward with criminal prosecution on a later date.
A questioned was posed on what makes a “toxic” relationship.
Chassey said there are many “red-flags” which include: controlling behavior, emotional abuse and financial abuse. “A bunch of little things that might not seem like a big deal individually, but when they all kind of pile up and snowball into this big, constant abusive situation,” said Chassey.
For the whole hour, from 6 to 7 p.m., there was a constant flow of questions to the panel, in which all gave detailed and heartfelt answers.
(Anthony) Jackson said Education and Prevention Coordinator Sasha Johnson approached him about moderating the event, and he ran with the ball. He said the discussion was “a very beautiful event”, while commending the knowledge of the panelists.
Johnson commended the questions asked by those in attendance and showed praise to the hosts and students who helped coordinate the event. However, she said she wishes the attendance would have been higher.
She said the office doors in the Student Conduct and Integrity Office are always open for students who have any questions dealing with Title IX or any other problems they may have.