Raped Abroad: Extraterritorial Application of Title IX for American University Students Sexually Assaulted While Studying Abroad

By Bull, Brittany K. | Northwestern University Law Review, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

Raped Abroad: Extraterritorial Application of Title IX for American University Students Sexually Assaulted While Studying Abroad


Bull, Brittany K., Northwestern University Law Review


Introduction

A Jamaican police report sums up what happened on the last night of Jenee Klotz's semester abroad her junior year of college: She was robbed, sexually assaulted and stabbed while walking back to her host family's home. She says she spent nine hours in a Kingston hospital, and the next morning, the program's academic director dropped her at the airport-still wearing pajama bottoms and with dried blood on her neck and chest.1

While current public concern and discourse focuses on rape occurring on and around college campuses,2 the epidemic of college students raped while studying abroad is absent from the narrative. Over 300,000 students study abroad annually.3 Sexual violence during study abroad programs has been anecdotally reported, but not systematically studied.4 In 2013, Matthew Kimble, a psychologist at Middlebury College in Vermont, led the first study to explore the rates of sexual violence during study abroad as compared to the on-campus rates.5 Kimble concluded that female students who study abroad are five times more likely to be raped than their counterparts who remain on their domestic campuses.6 Additionally, Kimble discovered that "[e]ighty-nine percent of the unwanted sexual experiences while abroad were reported to be perpetrated by nonstudent, local residents," with students from the host country or other American students studying abroad perpetrating the remaining eleven percent.7 As Kimble noted, "[t]his differs dramatically from the pattern seen domestically in which the majority of unwanted sexual experiences are student on student."8

Kimble also concluded that the greatest risk of rape for American students exists in non-English-speaking countries.9 Cultural differences in "personality and behavior" and American students' "lack of familiarity with local culture" may contribute to this increased likelihood of sexual assault in non-English-speaking or non-Western countries.10 The U.S. Department of Justice asserts, and the scholarly community generally agrees, that domestic campus sexual assault remains largely underreported.11 An international context likely exacerbates this underreporting because rape victims in non-English-speaking countries also face isolation and a lack of knowledge about, or access to, crisis resources or facilities in the host country.12

Students raped or sexually assaulted on or around United States campuses can seek administrative or judicial remedies under Title IX. Very few federal cases have addressed whether Title IX applies extraterritorially to allegations of sex discrimination occurring abroad, and courts have reached different results in these cases.13 Moreover, no federal circuit has ever addressed the issue.14 This Note explores whether Title IX applies extraterritorially to students raped while studying abroad. After concluding that the text of the statute fails to overcome the presumption against extraterritoriality,15 this Note explains that Congress should not amend Title IX to explicitly overcome this presumption for two significant reasons. First, the international context would exacerbate universities' inability to effectively investigate allegations of sexual violence. Second, extraterritorial application could cause unintended clashes between our laws and those of other nations, resulting in international discord.

Part I provides background on the evolution of Title IX interpretation and extraterritoriality jurisprudence. Part II combines these discussions of Title IX and extraterritoriality by using original data to analyze if and when the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) applies Title IX extraterritorially. Because victims of sexual violence can seek administrative and/or judicial remedies, Part III analyzes if and when federal courts apply Title IX extraterritorially. Specifically, Part III applies the Supreme Court's two-step Morrison test to King v. Board of Control of Eastern Michigan University and Philips v. …

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