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At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, sexual assault prevention and education efforts include a number of campus units with varying responsibilities. This Q&A seeks to show how these offices fit together to serve our community, organized by category that reflect the Office of Title IX’s model: policy, prevention and education, support and interim measures, investigation and resolution, and patterns and trends.

POLICY

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. Under the requirements, schools receiving federal funds have a legal obligation to protect students from gender-based violence and harassment. Title IX carries obligations in recruitment, admissions, and counseling; financial assistance; athletics; treatment of pregnant and parenting students; discipline; single-sex education; and employment.

The law reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Read more about Title IX and sex discrimination at the website of the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

What is UT’s Title IX policy?

In accordance with federal law, UT has adopted a policy that prohibits sexual misconduct and relationship violence, including sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. The policy applies to students, faculty, and staff. The policy describes prohibited conduct, outlines reporting and resource options, identifies mandatory reporters, describes the investigation process, describes the university’s prevention and awareness programs, and implements the requirements of Title IX and the Clery Act. More information on the policy can be found on the Office of Title IX website.

What is the Title IX process for a report made by a student?

After the Office of Title IX receives a report from a complainant, a mandatory reporter, law enforcement, or another source, the office contacts the complainant to offer support and explain options:

What is the Clery Act?

 The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act—generally known as the Clery Act—aims to provide transparency regarding campus crime. It requires any college or university that receives federal funding to provide information to the public about campus safety and crime statistics. An annual security report is completed to inform the public about campus safety. Read more about the Clery Act on UT’s campus.

What are mandatory reporters?

Mandatory reporters are employees who are obligated to report information they receive concerning prohibited conduct to the university. Learn more about who qualifies as a mandatory reporter. Training on the requirements of mandatory reporters is available to faculty and staff through K@TE, the university’s employee development portal.

What are campus security authorities?

Certain people on campus who are designated campus security authorities are required to submit reports to UT’s Clery compliance officer, who maintains a log of all Clery crime statistics reported within the past 60 days.

Which offices handle sexual assault reports?

The Office of Title IX provides a comprehensive community approach to UT’s Title IX responsibilities. Under the direction of the Title IX coordinator, team members in critical areas across campus work collaboratively to educate the campus community, prevent incidents, and support those in need. The Office of Title IX takes reports, provides interim and support resources, and oversees compliance for the university. University investigations into allegations of misconduct are aided by the Office of Conduct and Community Standards for students and the Office of Equity and Diversity for faculty, staff, and third parties.

The UT Police Department employs 58 fully commissioned officers who provide police services to the university. UTPD investigates criminal activity, apprehends criminals, responds to accidents and fires, enforces traffic laws, and provides security for special events. As part of their role in the academic community, UTPD also seeks to educate the community on reducing the risk of becoming a victim of crime.

What is prohibited conduct?

The term prohibited conduct refers to sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking, and retaliation. Definitions for these terms and related termsare available on the Office of Title IX website.

 What do the words complainant and respondent mean?

A complainant is a person who reports that they have been subjected to prohibited conduct. A respondent is a person who has been accused of committing prohibited conduct. Definitions of related terms are available on the Title IX website.

What is a safety notice?

At times, notifications are sent to all faculty, staff, and students to allow them to make informed decisions about their safety.

Emergency notifications, called UT Alerts, are reserved for situations that pose an immediate threat to the health and safety of students or employees on campus, such as a building fire, a hazardous material spill, a severe weather threat, or an active shooter.

A safety notice, also called a timely warning, is an email message to the campus community about a specific crime that has been reported on campus. A safety notice offers information to aid in the prevention of similar crimes. Examples include sexual assault, robbery, or a string of burglaries. 

Safety notices are a requirement of the Clery Act. They do not include identifiable information about the complainant or exact location but are designed to address ongoing threats to the safety of the community.

Is a campus safety notification sent if a student reports sexual misconduct?

A campus safety notification is sent in response to specific crimes, including sexual misconduct.

Why doesn’t UT send safety notices about incidents that happen near campus or in areas where lots of students live?

Notifications are sent for crimes reported under the Clery Act, which are limited to those that occur on property owned or controlled by UT.

Three criteria have to be met for a crime to be Clery reportable:

Read more about notifications and when they are sent.

What are campus security authorities?

Not all crimes are reported to law enforcement agencies. To capture the most information possible about crimes on campus, the Clery Act designates certain staff members as campus security authorities (CSAs), and they are obligated to report Clery crimes.

CSAs are from one of four groups determined by the US Department of Education. At UT, the four groups are 1) UTPD employees, including noncommissioned security staff; 2) those who have a campus security responsibility; 3) those who are specified as someone to whom students and employees should report criminal offenses; and 4) officials who have significant responsibility for student and campus activities, including student housing, student discipline, and campus judicial proceedings. For more on who qualifies as a CSA, see the Clery website.

What crimes does the Clery Act cover?

In addition to sexual misconduct, the Clery Act requires reporting of a range of crimes such as dating violence, stalking, burglaries, motor vehicle theft, arson, and hate crimes.

PREVENTION AND EDUCATION

What prevention and educational resources does UT provide?

UT has dedicated staff and resources to prevent sexual assault. The Center for Health Education and Wellness (CHEW), in partnership with the Office of Title IX, carries out a student prevention plan that runs throughout the year. The plan provides creative and engaging educational programs based on a model from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

View a fact sheet on the prevention plan.

Ongoing training includes a session for new employees, sessions for students at orientation, a First-Year Studies course, and annual Wellness Week programs.

The CHEW staff offers programs by request on several themes, including being an active bystander, consent, healthy masculinity, and policy. In the fall semester, CHEW conducts campaigns to educate students about Title IX, domestic violence, and the Red Zone (the period between the beginning of fall semester and Thanksgiving break, when students are at the highest risk of experiencing sexual assault). Spring semester programs are focused on stalking awareness, healthy relationships, and healthy communication. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

How does UT define consent, and how is that definition taught?

The university’s policy on sexual misconduct and relationship violence defines consent as an active agreement to participate in sexual activity. Consent is addressed in a number of trainings and messaging moments through the course of a year and in the course of a student’s career at UT, beginning with orientation.

The consent program explores UT’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation, which includes the definition of consent as well as factors that affect a person’s ability to give consent. Through interactive lessons, students learn how to recognize when consent is present, when it is not, and what to do when consent may be unclear.

Why is there so much emphasis on consent?

The presence or absence of consent—an active agreement to take part in sexual activity—is the factor that determines if an interaction is a violation of policy. The university’s emphasis on consent stems from the need for all students to understand their rights and the rights of others in sexual interactions.

Is additional training provided on sexual assault prevention topics?

Employees and students can request a program from CHEW.

What resources are available to learn more about campus crime?

UTPD’s website provides a daily crime log that goes back 60 days. In addition, annual security reports from the past three years are available on the Clery Act website.

SUPPORT AND INTERIM MEASURES

What should someone do if they are assaulted?

First, they need to find a safe place. The next step is to tell someone they trust—a family member, friend, or counselor. The Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee is available 24/7 at 865-522-7273. Students can call the Office of Title IX at 865-974-9600 during business hours and 865-974-HELP after business hours to speak with a licensed mental health care provider. More information on next steps, including medical care, reporting options, and support services, is available on the Office of Title IX website.

What is the difference in confidentiality and privacy in relation to reporting?

Confidentiality is limited to those who by law can keep information confidential. The Student Counseling Center and the Student Health Center are the primary confidential resources on campus.

Information communicated to Title IX or other mandatory reporters cannot be kept confidential, but it will be kept private and shared only with university employees who need to be involved in responding to or addressing a report.

What is limited action?

If a complainant has requested that the university does not investigate a report of a Title IX incident—anything falling under the Policy on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence, Stalking and Retaliation—but does wish to receive support and resources, they can request limited action.

The university attempts to honor requests for limited action but must also consider the safety of the university community.

What are interim measures? Can students receive resources and support without reporting to the university or law enforcement?

Regardless of whether a complainant pursues formal reporting, the university can provide support—known as interim measures—in a number of ways. The Office of Title IX can issue a no-contact directive to the respondent, provide medical and counseling services, explore changes in living or working arrangements, arrange appointments with follow-up services, make changes to class schedules, and assist with communicating with faculty. Read more about some of the support measures available.

Any student who needs access to support and medical care can talk with a confidential resource on campus at the Student Health Center or the Student Counseling Center. The staff in those areas can talk through the situation and help the student connect with the Office of Title IX for interim measures. Students can also talk confidentially with the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee.

What does the Title IX student support coordinator do?

The student support coordinator works closely with students who have reported prohibited conduct to offer care and support, providing interim measures to ensure they are safe and can persist in their coursework.

If a student meets with the student support coordinator, do they have to give details of what happened?

No. The purpose of meeting with the student support coordinator is to receive support, resources, and access to any interim measures needed. Students are not required to report any information. The only time complainants might be asked to answer specific questions would be in reporting to the Office of Conduct and Community Standards or law enforcement.

Can a student report to law enforcement but not the university?

Students can report to the university, law enforcement, both, or neither. The Title IX Office can assist with a variety of reporting. (There may be some circumstances in which the university would move forward with a report without a complainant’s assistance if there is a safety concern or a threat to the campus.)

Even if a complainant chooses not to report, they can access medical care, counseling, and other support from the university by notifying the Office of Title IX or the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards.

Are the Office of Title IX and the student support coordinator confidential resources?

The Office of Title IX and the student support coordinator are not confidential resources. However, the student support coordinator can connect students to resources that are confidential, such as the Student Counseling Center and the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee.

INVESTIGATION AND RESOLUTION

What are a complainant’s rights in reporting?

Complainants making a report to the university have the right to:

What happens if the complainant wants the university to investigate?

The Office of Title IX can assist in reporting to the university. The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards addresses reports related to student respondents and the Office of Equity and Diversity addresses reports related to employee respondents.

Is there a time limit for making a report?

There is no time limit for making a report. However, the ability of the university to provide interim measures, investigate, and address the respondent may depend in part on the length between the event and the report to the university.

How does someone file a report?

To file a report with the university, call the Office of Title IX at 865-974-9600 or email titleix@utk.edu. After hours, call 865-974-4357.

Reports also can be filed through the UT Police Department, the Office of Equity and Diversity, and Student Conduct and Community Standards. Contact numbers and associated confidentiality levels are listed on the Office of Title IX website.

Learn more about the reporting process for studentsand the reporting process for employees.

Will the university move forward with a case even if the complainant does not want to?

The Title IX coordinator evaluates requests for limited action and weighs those requests against the university’s obligation to provide a safe, nondiscriminatory environment for the community. The university will consider if there is a history of the respondent committing prohibited conduct.

It is rare that the university would move forward without the complainant’s participation, and participation in an investigation is always the complainant’s choice.

What is the university’s position on reporting?

The university strongly encourages reporting sexual misconduct. Reporting incidents allows the university and law enforcement to meaningfully investigate the incident and pursue disciplinary or criminal action against the respondent.

While there is no way to change what has happened, those who have experienced sexual misconduct have the right to seek justice. But the decision to report or not to report is each individual’s to make.

What should a complainant expect if they choose to report to law enforcement?

Having a medical examination performed within 72 hours of a sexual assault is critical to preserving evidence.

An emergency room or the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee can perform the examination. This involves collecting evidence—such as hairs, fluids, and fibers—and preserving it for forensic analysis.

In most cases, the police will come to the complainant and take a statement about what occurred. They may ask to examine the scene and collect bedding, clothing, or other items.

Does UTPD differ from other law enforcement agencies in the way they respond to sexual assault calls or reports made to their office?

If the complainant reports the incident to UTPD, they will contact the Title IX coordinator and a university official will contact the complainant. Contacting UTPD does not mean the complainant has to make a formal report to the university or law enforcement.

UTPD can send an officer to take the complainant to the hospital or the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee for a medical examination.

If the complainant wants to file a report, UTPD also will provide a list of available campus resources and offer to contact a victim advocate to be present during questioning.

Will the interview process be intrusive?

A police interview may take as long as several hours, depending on the circumstances of the case. Some questions may feel intrusive, and the officer will likely go over the details several times. The extensive questioning is not because the police do not believe the complainant; it is the officer’s job to be as accurate as possible.

What if a complainant is unsure of whether they want to prosecute?

The Office of Title IX recommends that a police report be made right away while the evidence is still present and the complainant’s memory is detailed.

If the complainant chooses not to make an immediate police report, the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction will store the examination materials for up to three years so they can still be matched to a police report in the future.

Will a case that has been reported to law enforcement go forward without the complainant’s participation?

The district attorney will decide whether to pursue prosecution; however, it is unusual for cases to proceed without the cooperation of the victim. Reporting the incident to law enforcement does not obligate the complainant to cooperate with the district attorney’s criminal prosecution. However, if prosecution is pursued, the chance of success will be much higher if the complainant has reported and allowed evidence to be collected.

Why is some information about reports made to the university not made public?

In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, personally identifiable information concerning a student report to a university official who is not a law enforcement officer will not be disclosed to third parties without the consent of the student except in response to a lawfully issued subpoena or as otherwise required by law.

What information is available to respondents about the report?

If a respondent makes a request to review documents concerning the investigation, FERPA requires that the university grant the request to review records that relate specifically to him or her. The university will redact the complainant’s name and any other identifying information to the maximum extent possible.

After the university has formally charged a student or employee with violating university policy, the respondent will be informed of the nature of the allegations against him or her, including the identity of the person who accused him or her of misconduct.

What is a difference in reports made to law enforcement and those made to the university?

Incident reports prepared by UTPD are generally considered public records under the Tennessee Public Records Act and are not protected by FERPA, which means they can be made available to any Tennessee resident upon request unless the report is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.

What if a student wants to report but is worried about being punished for using alcohol or drugs at the time?

The university strongly encourages reporting and will not pursue disciplinary charges for consumption of alcohol or other drugs as the result of a report. TheStudent Code of Conduct‘s Good Samaritan policy exists to encourage students to report emergencies without fear of disciplinary action.

PATTERNS AND TRENDS

What are some national data points for sexual assault?

 According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

Is there any way to know how many rapes go unreported?

From the National Institute of Justice: Rates of rape vary widely among studies according to how the crime is defined, what population is studied, and what methodology is used.

Estimates range from 2 percent to 56 percent. The most recent and methodologically rigorous studies show that sexual assault still occurs at rates that approximate those first identified more than 20 years ago in a benchmark study that found that approximately 27.5 percent of college women reported experiences that met the legal criteria for rape.

Why do so many victims not report?

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), only 230 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about three out of four go unreported. Survivors cite many reasons for not reporting a sexual assault, including:

Of 1,000 rapes, 4.6 result in incarceration of the perpetrator.

What is the prevalence of false reporting?

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the prevalence of false reporting is between 2 percent and 10 percent. For example, a study of eight US communities, which included 2,059 cases of sexual assault, found a 7.1 percent rate of false reports. A study of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston found a 5.9 percent rate of false reports. Researchers studied 812 reports of sexual assault from 2000­­–03 and found a 2.1 percent rate of false reports.

It seems there are so many reports of rapes. Is sexual assault happening more often?

As the university raises awareness about consent, sexual assault, and reporting, we expect the number of reports to increase. Increased reporting does not mean there is an increase in prevalence. Sexual assault is a widely underreported crime.

UT Knoxville’s prevalence of unwanted sexual conduct—the percentage of our student population who experience that conduct—is 3.2 percent annually. That’s around two-thirds lower than the national prevalence for unwanted sexual conduct on college campuses, which is 9.6 percent. This data comes from the My Campus Survey and the American College Health Association Survey.

Do more reports mean the residence halls are unsafe?

From the National Institute of Justice: About 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults reported by college women are committed by an acquaintance of the victim; about half occur on a date. The most common locations are the victim’s or perpetrator’s home. Victims had no reason to expect the person they were with would harm them when they were most vulnerable.

Half of all student victims do not define these incidents as rape. This is especially true when no weapon was used, there is no obvious physical injury, and alcohol was involved—factors commonly associated with acquaintance rape. This is one reason rape and other sexual assaults on campus are not well reported.

Fewer than 5 percent of rapes and attempted rapes of college students are reported to campus administrators or law enforcement, according to one study.