Academic journal article The Yale Law Journal

Gender Violence Costs: Schools' Financial Obligations under Title IX

Academic journal article The Yale Law Journal

Gender Violence Costs: Schools' Financial Obligations under Title IX

Article excerpt

FEATURE CONTENTS  INTRODUCTION    I. CAMPUS GENDER VIOLENCE AND ITS COSTS: AN EQUALITY ISSUE  II. CAMPUS GENDER VIOLENCE'S FINANCIAL COSTS AS GENDER-BASED      BARRIERS TO EDUCATION III. OCR'S FAILURES TO ENFORCE SCHOOLS' OBLIGATIONS TO ADDRESS      GENDER-BASED FINANCIAL COSTS  IV. PROPOSALS FOR REFORM      A. Update OCR Case Processing Manual      B. Conduct Outreach and Educational Efforts      C. Encourage Granting of Discretionary Forbearance to Victims of        Gender Violence     D. Additional Avenues for Reform CONCLUSION 

INTRODUCTION

In August 2014, Wagatwe Wanjuki finally graduated from college. (1)

She had begun university some ten years earlier, at Tufts, where she was supposed to have graduated in 2008. (2) But after she was raped and abused by her then-boyfriend, a fellow Tufts undergraduate, her educational path was thrown off course. (3)

After reporting her abuser to the Tufts administration, Wanjuki says the university told her it had no obligation to act. (4) Without institutional support, she paid out of pocket for transportation to the local rape crisis center, hospital, and courthouse. (5) She moved far from campus because she did not want to be nearby and paid extra for the longer commute. (6) She took time off "to heal." (7) Her medical and therapy copayments added up to hundreds of dollars. (8) Wanjuki ultimately stopped therapy because she was unable to afford it. (9) "I feel like I still need to go now. Unfortunately, the situation made it really hard to see someone consistently. The ramifications of the institutional apathy still follow me." (10)

Wanjuki's grades fell as a result of her sexual abuse and the lack of support from the university. (11) In response, in 2009, Tufts expelled her. (12) She lost the money she had already paid for the semester's lease. (13) Wanjuki was just one year shy of earning her degree. (14)

Expelled at the height of the recession, Wanjuki was unable to find employment. (15) She nearly secured a position with a starting salary of sixty-five thousand dollars, until the employer learned she had not completed her college degree. (16) As she recalls, "[T]aking so long to get a degree because I was kicked out made me miss out on a lot of opportunities." (17)

Eventually Wanjuki returned to college, this time at Rutgers University. (18) She resorted to fundraising to pay for her remaining credits. (19) As she explains, "if I didn't have an expulsion on my record, I might have been able to go to a school that had ... more scholarship funds." (20)

Wanjuki is not alone. One in five women suffer sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in college. (21) This violence can limit or preclude a student's ability to learn. (22) Many victims, like Wanjuki, understandably go to great lengths to avoid their perpetrators on campus: some skip shared classes, (23) avoid shared spaces like the dining hall or library, hide in their dorm room, transfer, or drop out of college altogether. (24) Others struggle with depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, anxiety attacks, flashbacks, and nightmares. (25) Some attempt suicide or engage in self-harm. (26) Typically academically successful students see their grades plunge as they struggle to concentrate on, participate in, or even attend their classes. (27)

The courts have long recognized that peer-on-peer sexual violence limits or outright denies students' ability to access education, that schools have obligations under Title IX to address this violence, and that the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for "promulgat[ing] and enforcing] requirements that effectuate [Title IX's] nondiscrimination mandate." (28) And, thanks to student activists' efforts to raise awareness about Title IX, universities and students alike are increasingly recognizing schools' obligations as well. (29)

But often neglected in the growing national conversation around campus gender violence is one critical reality: gender-based violence has costs, and these costs constitute a discriminatory, gender-based barrier to educational access. …

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