Student Perceptions of Title IX Reporting and Response

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Gender-based violence and misconduct (GBVM), including sexual harassment/violence and interpersonal abuse, are common occurrences among female and non-binary/gender-diverse college students. The most salient policy aimed at preventing and intervening upon college GBVM is Title IX, federal legislation barring sex discrimination within educational institutions receiving federal funds. On a state level, the University System of Maryland (USM) has its own GBVM and Title IX ("sexual harassment”) policy, but data suggests few student-survivors ("complainants” or "reporting parties”) at Maryland universities report to Title IX, and that few formally adjudicated cases result in serious disciplinary action against perpetrators ("respondents”). Despite the advent of policy-based solutions to GBVM, little is known about the experiences of students whose GBVM victimization is reported to and adjudicated by Title IX at their universities. Additionally, no existing study on reporting, help-seeking and resource utilization for college GBVM has focused specifically on student experiences with campus Title IX processes. As such, the aims of the present study were as follows: 1) Describe student-survivor Title IX reporting and response process experiences; 2) Identify overarching themes within Title IX processes and interpret within relevant theory, including institutional betrayal and courage; 3) Provide Title IX and GBVM policy and procedure recommendations. A total of 11 students at four public USM colleges and universities, from diverse racial, sexual orientation, gender identity, and ability backgrounds, were interviewed. Thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) was used to identify and interpret overarching themes within students’ Title IX processes. First, students’ Title IX processes are described from pre-process, to process entry, to process experiences, and finally to process consequences. Second, overarching themes are presented and interpreted within relevant theory, including that inconsistency is the consistency within the Title IX process, and that students describe Title IX experiences strongly aligned with aspects of institutional betrayal, especially minoritized students. Third, policy and practice recommendations are provided, informed by recent changes in federal and state Title IX policy and the present study’s data, as well as suggestions for future research directions.