UT sees increase in Title IX reports involving sexual violence

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Photo Credit: Kelly Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The University has seen an increase in Title IX reports involving student complaints about sexual violence, according to the Title IX office.

Title IX complaints consist of cases involving sexual assault, stalking/harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence and other categories. LaToya Hill, UT’s Title IX coordinator, said more students are aware of their reporting options on campus when they experience interpersonal violence compared to previous years. 

“I believe our numbers are increasing because more people are aware of the process,” Smith said. “While I do believe we underreport, we have higher reporting numbers than other institutions of our size.” 

As of April 7, Smith said 183 cases have been reported for 2015-2016 so far, compared to 139 cases for 2014-2015 and 100 for 2013-2014. The University may see more than 200 cases reported to the Title IX investigation unit by the end of the year, she said.

Title IX coordinator Latoya Hill Smith addresses a session held during the Theorizing Consent: Educational and Legal Perspectives on Campus Rape conference on Saturday in the FAC. Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

Smith said students may not report interpersonal violence because they fear retaliation, don’t think they will be believed and believe what happened to them is their fault. 

“There’s several factors that lead to underreporting,” Smith said. “I’m trying to make sure that our processes is not one of those.’

Mia Goldstein, Plan II and radio-television-film senior and member of Voices Against Violence, said more survivors are filing reports because the campus climate around sexual assault has changed for the better. 

“There’s more of a culture of believing survivors,” Goldstein said. “It makes people more willing to come forward.” 

Smith said she was glad to see more reports come in, but said more work needs to be done to make sure students know where to turn when experiencing interpersonal violence. The Title IX office hopes to launch a “more robust” website informing students about their resources and reporting options, she said. 

“The website will have more information, more handouts, more resources that talk about the general process, resources about how to help a survivor,” Smith said. 

Some of the Title IX reports involving students come from faculty and staff, who are generally required by UT’s policies to report instances of interpersonal violence when students disclose a sufficient amount of detail to them. Smith said she is exploring more confidential options that don’t require mandatory reports so students feel more comfortable exploring the process of reporting to the University. 

“If a student or an individual is not going into counseling, but just needs to talk to someone about the process — what has to happen — we don’t have that option,” Smith said. “That is a gap at our institution that we need to fill because you have individuals who may not want counseling or need to go to the doctor, but do need to talk about it and figure out what they want to do.” 

Linda Serna, women’s and gender studies senior and student coordinator at VAV, said VAV is working on establishing a peer advocacy program to inform students about their reporting options while allowing the survivors to decide whether to report. 

“Students might not go to their professor because they know they’re mandatory reporters,” Serna said. “We know a lot of times on campus, the first place [students] go to is their peers.”