Lehigh's Title IX Office is committed to preventing and addressing sexual harassment in our campus community. The U.S. Department of Education recently updated its Title IX guidelines. (Chi Hang Chan/B&W Staff)

Title IX reporting, process explained


During first-year orientation, students learn about the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support in accordance with the Title IX laws, but the process of filing a report and its overall effectiveness could still be unclear to students.

Dr. Brooke DeSipio, the director of the Office of Gender Violence and Support, said all faculty, staff, Gryphons, orientation leaders and other student representatives of university offices are mandatory reporters of any kind of gender violence or sexual harassment.

Dr. Nicole Johnson, who works in the College of Education, studied the implementation of “mandated reporters” and found that 40 percent of students thought having mandated reporters is a good idea. The study showed most people knew who the mandated reporters are and where to find them. However, Johnson said the presence of these reporters “has not affected students’ choice to report or not.”

Because so many representatives are required to report allegations, Johnson said there are limited confidential sources for survivors to speak to about their experiences.

“A student that files a complaint about a violation of university policy first goes to the Office of Equal Opportunity at Lehigh,” DeSipio said. “Students can file reports on many platforms: in person, over the phone, or online. Once a report is sent, an email is sent to the survivor to introduce them to the system and offering them a meeting with Karen Salvemini, the equal opportunity compliance coordinator and Title IX coordinator.” 

Once reported, the complainant has the choice to meet with Salvemini, DeSipio said. She said if the report is about a student, faculty or staff member with recurring behaviors of misconduct or threat, the university may step in.

If Lehigh doesn’t respond properly, the student may then file a Title IX report against the university.

Kailee Atkinson, ‘21, said she is familiar with Title IX because of an incident with her friend at a party when she was a first-year.

Atkinson said throughout the past two years, she has seen and experienced other instances in which she said she felt filing a Title IX report was not as encouraged.

“After a close friend of mine was sexually assaulted, we went to Title IX,” she said. “They explained the long process of getting charges pressed, hearings and other necessities. My friend concluded that she did not have the time to go through with it.”

Johnson said she is working on a transparency campaign to inform students of the process of filing a Title IX report. She said this campaign was launched after she found an overall theme in students’ perceptions that nothing happens after a report is filed.

Johnson said survivors often choose not to go through with the process because it is lengthy. 

“I want them to know that the process takes a while, and that is not ideal, but it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening behind the scenes,” Johnson said.

She said regardless of whether survivors choose to continue with the Title IX report, there are different forms of support available, including academic accommodations and dorm changes.

Atkinson said she hopes the Title IX office is effective and holds the responsible people accountable for students to feel safer on campus. She said Lehigh needs to educate students more about sexual assault and encourage conversations on the topic.

DeSipio said her role is more supportive than Salvemini’s investigative role because she “can talk through (the victim’s) options and what the meeting with Karen will look like so they can be supported and reminded of things they want to talk about.”

DeSipio’s office is open to anyone via the Gender Violence Support Advocates, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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  1. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    “Because so many representatives are required to report allegations, Johnson said there are limited confidential sources for survivors to speak to about their experiences.” The term survivors brings to mind the seriousness of the interaction which leads into the area of Law, which Title IX is. If you watch TV lawyer programs you may think of a denouement in a matter of days. If you watch 48 Hours or have actual experience in court you will think more in terms of months and years. If you have been assaulted I would hope you navigate the process and receive positive results. If you are uncomfortable with the process do all you can to avoid the situation. Possibly training should be available to make successful prosecution of attackers a high probability. Hopefully that would discourage predators from the attempt or put them in prison if they try.

  2. Amy Charles '89 on

    It’s essential to understand that the Title IX administrator is paid by, and is there for, the university — and not the students. The Title IX admin is there to fulfill a legal obligation, and that obligation was intended to be for the students’ benefit. However, in practice, the admins are there primarily to represent and protect the university. There is no transparency process that’s going to cut across that reality.

    This is one of the best articles I’ve seen on the subject: https://deadspin.com/why-title-ix-has-failed-everyone-on-campus-rape-1765565925

    If you want to know whether your Title IX staff are really working for the students, ask how many cases are brought each year and how many result in legal and/or significant disciplinary action. If the ratio is very large, then you know that something is wrong. Also look at how the university handles sexual assault and discrimination cases brought by staff and faculty.

    If you are assaulted, and you trust your parents, talk first with them. They’re more likely to have the savvy to help you negotiate your way through the administrative jungle, and to know when you’re being taken advantage of or being sidelined.

    Do go to the hospital for a rape kit, if that’s appropriate.

    Also consider going to the police, rather than the university office. Do not worry about the future, prospects, reputation, etc. of the person who assaulted you. Don’t talk yourself away from or out of believing what happened. That person made the decision to attack you, and they will certainly look after themselves. The odds are strong that they will do it to someone else, too, if given the change. The university will not be happy that you’ve done this, because they want above all to avoid negative publicity. Again, though, this is not your problem. If they try to make it your problem, let your parents handle it.

    Remember that you did, and are doing, nothing wrong. There will always be people who want you to stop being “difficult”, or who will blame you, because you are disrupting something in their world. They want to go on believing that your attacker is fine, and that they’re good people, so that they don’t have to deal with this reality themselves. That’s their problem, not yours.

    I was raped at Lehigh my junior year by a fraternity brother, and assaulted the year before by another fraternity brother. At the time, date rape was not really a construct, and even if I’d known what to say, there wouldn’t have been anyone to tell it to. But when I started talking about the rape on an alumni facebook group 30 years later, people got pretty angry — they took the statement as criticism of themselves and their sons. They were Lehigh supporters and absolutely did not want to hear about rape at Lehigh in our year, let alone any criticism of fraternities. When I continued to talk about it, I was kicked out of the group. I don’t think that’s unusual. However, it’s important to go on talking about it, and about how common it is. There are a lot of people who would absolutely love it if we stopped talking about it, because then they could go back to pretending that rape is a thing that happens in alleys to women who’re asking for it.

    I do understand, by the way, how frightened a lot of parents are that their sons will be accused of rape. Protecting against that’s pretty simple, though, and it doesn’t involve deciding that young women are dangerous and out to torpedo their sons’ lives. Protecting against that involves teaching their sons to respect women as people like themselves, to ask for consent before doing anything that involves touching another person, and to talk to their sex partners throughout about what they like, what they enjoy, what they’re willing and not willing to try, and what they don’t want. I also get that a lot of parents are uncomfortable with this kind of conversation because frankly they don’t know how to do it themselves — it wasn’t part of our generation’s sexual education, and men especially will often get angry and dismiss the whole thing as ridiculous rather than admit that the idea’s frightening to them. They’re afraid that if they had to do it, they’d do it wrong somehow, get rejected, and be humiliated. But they can learn. It really isn’t difficult. And genuine consent is excellent protection against being on the receiving end of a rape charge: not because it’s clever or a fast move, but because it’s actually about respect.

  3. Robert F Davenport Jr on

    I think you did a better job than the deadspin article. The article, after repeating over and over rape by athletes the article states the obvious the such activity is what is mostly seen in print. Much more could be said about successfully handling investigations and much much more could be said about preventing rapes and assaults. It seems as though rapist athletes consider sex a right they have earned similar to the thought process of victorious soldiers. There is no discussion of rapist motivations or identifying the tendencies to rape. Nor is there a discussion of the makeup/motivation of other types of rapists: “Violent rapists tend to be young, from lower class backgrounds, and are members of a minority group (Holmes & Holmes). Four typologies for serial rapists include the power reassurance rapist (the least violent), the anger retaliation rapist (motivated by a desire to hurt women), the power assertive rapist (expressing virility and personal dominance), and the sadistic rapist (intent on inflicting psychological and physical pain).” There is no discussion of rape for sexual reasons by manipulative persons.
    Notwithstanding truly sick people, you hit the nail on the head: “not because it’s clever or a fast move, but because it’s actually about respect.” Respect for yourself and others goes a long way to prevent rape as well as many other social problems. Respect, for yourself and others not for power and money, should be taught at home, reinforced in school and honored in society. Three strikes in this game seems to be rampant in our society. Once respect is valued the problems with Title IX will have limited impact. Unless bullying starts to disappear in early childhood, I would not expect much progress.

    You don’t need to have “the talk” to respect women but you do have to experience care and love.

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