Title IX, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Violence
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities (such as housing, athletics, and employment) at universities that receive federal financial assistance. Sex discrimination (further defined below) includes sexual harassment and sexual assault or violence. The Catholic University of America will not tolerate such discrimination.
The University does not discriminate on the basis of sex against students or applicants for admission, or employees or applicants for employment or in the administration of its policies or in any aspect of its operations. The University will respond to reported violations of Title IX by protecting the victim and our community, conducting prompt and thorough investigations and providing support.
The Catholic University of America has a Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for ensuring the University's compliance with Title IX and investigating complaints of harassment, discrimination, and other sex-based complaints from students, staff and faculty. The Deputy Coordinator is responsible for investigating complaints of sexual assault or violence. The Title IX Coordinator is also responsible for training the University community on Title IX.
CUA and Title IX
Frequently Asked Questions
What sexual offenses are prohibited by Catholic University?
The university’s Sexual Offenses Policy for Students and Policy for Employees prohibit sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence, and domestic violence. For detailed descriptions of each offense, please review the definitions in the policies.
What is consent?
Consent must be freely given with mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in sexual activity. Consent cannot be obtained from a minor, someone who is mentally disabled, or someone who is unable to understand or who cannot communicate a lack of consent because they are incapacitated by alcohol or drugs. The full definition is in the policies referenced above.
What does it mean to be incapacitated?
Incapacitation means the inability to give consent, because an individual is mentally and/or physically helpless, asleep, unconscious, or unaware that sexual activity is occurring. Warning signs that a person may be approaching incapacitation may include, but are not limited to, vomiting, incoherent speech, and difficulty walking or standing up. The full definition is in the policies referenced in the first question.
What should a person do if they have recently been sexually assaulted?
The first step is to get to a safe place and seek medical attention. The second step is to obtain crisis counseling to deal with the trauma. After that, the victim should decide on reporting.
Will a victim who reports get in trouble for underage drinking or other rule violations?
No. Victims who report sexual violence receive amnesty for lesser rule violations such as underage drinking or violations of residence hall visiting hours. For more information, please see the third paragraph of the Sexual Offenses Policy for Students.
What are a victim’s options for reporting?
A victim has the choice of reporting to:
- The University or
- The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (or other jurisdiction if the assault occurred outside of Washington D.C.) or
- Both or
- A victim may also choose to request that no formal complaint is filed.
It is only by reporting to DPS or MPD that an investigation can be started that might result in investigation of a crime such as sexual assault. The victim can report to the University by contacting DPS, the Dean of Students office, or the Title IX Coordinator. Their contact information is on the homepage of this website.
A victim can also report to a Responsible Employee, who will then contact DPS, the Dean of Students Office, or the Title IX Coordinator. Please keep in mind that Responsible Employees cannot keep reports of sexual offenses confidential. For an updated list of Responsible Employees, click here. A student also has the option of contacting the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education regarding sex discrimination issues. The Sexual Offenses Policy for Students contains OCR’s contact information.
Will the University contact the parents of a victim who reports sexual violence?
CUA will not inform parents of students age 18 or older unless there is a medical emergency or serious concern about the student’s emotional well-being. University departments other than the Counseling Center may have a legal duty to contact the parents of a victim under age 18.
Will a report to University officials automatically trigger an investigation?
No. The victim can report but ask the University not to investigate. The University will honor that request unless it has evidence that the alleged perpetrator may be a threat to the community, such as a predator who may have assaulted others.
What is the difference between privacy and confidentiality?
Confidentiality means that a person will not repeat information told by the victim without the victim’s permission. Privacy means that information about a sexual offense will only be shared with key University employees on a need-to-know basis. Information reported to a responsible employee will be kept private, but it cannot be kept confidential.
Where can victims go if they want complete confidentiality?
Victims who want complete confidentiality can discuss their situation with a counselor at the Counseling Center, a physician or someone licensed to practice medicine (such as a nurse practitioner), a member of the clergy acting in a pastoral capacity, or an off-campus licensed rape counselor, such as counselors at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center.
Is reporting the same as filing a complaint?
No. A victim who reports is not obligated to file a complaint. Many victims report a sexual offense because they want support but are not ready to file a complaint. Victims have the option to change their minds and later file a complaint.
What support is available to victims of sexual assault?
Victims have numerous support options. They can obtain interim measures such as no contact orders, academic accommodations, or relocation to a different residence hall. There also many campus and off-campus resources available for immediate emergencies and ongoing support.
What support is available to students accused of sexual violence?
Students accused of sexual violence (often called respondents) also have numerous support options. Members of the Dean of Students office are trained to help respondents understand their rights and responsibilities and to guide them through the University’s grievance process. Respondents may also obtain counseling through the Counseling Center or Campus Ministry.
Who conducts investigations of sexual harassment or sexual violence?
Captain Kim Gregory of DPS typically investigates allegations of sexual violence. Gregory spent more than 20 years investigating sexual violence cases at the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) before coming to CUA. Title IX Coordinator Frank Vinik typically investigates allegations of sexual harassment involving students. Equal Opportunity Officer Lisa Wood typically investigates allegations of sexual harassment involving employees.
Will the University wait to investigate if there are criminal charges pending?
If a complainant files charges with both the University and MPD, the University will coordinate with MPD. However, the University will not necessarily wait until all criminal charges have been resolved because Title IX requires it to promptly resolve sexual offenses, typically within 60 days.
What does the investigation involve?
The investigator interviews the complainant and respondent. The investigator reviews any evidence including, but not limited to documents, emails, text messages, and social media postings. The investigator also identifies and interviews relevant witnesses, even if no one observed the reported incident. For example, if a complainant alleges that she could not consent because she was incapacitated by alcohol, the investigator may interview people who encountered the complainant before or after the alleged offense.
What happens if an individual declines to cooperate with the investigation?
If a complainant declines to be interviewed, the University will not proceed with an investigation unless it determines that the respondent is a threat to the campus community. In such a circumstance the investigation will proceed without the respondent’s account. All witnesses are encouraged to speak to the investigator.
Can the parties see the investigative report?
If a case goes to a hearing, both parties receive redacted copies of the investigative report with names and identifying information removed to protect the privacy of witnesses.
Who is on the Hearing Board and what king of training do they receive?
University faculty and professional staff members comprise the hearing board. The hearing board receives extensive training on an annual basis on how to fairly decide cases of sexual assault with the following learning outcomes:
- Participants will understand that education and student safety are at the heart of CUA student conduct process
- Participants will acquire a general understanding of Title IX responsibilities of universities as they pertain to sexual assault response
- Participants will understand due process considerations necessary to a just student conduct processes
- Participants will understand the role of the University Hearing Board within the University’s Sexual Offenses Grievance Process
- Participants will acquire a general understanding the behaviors of a sexual nature which are prohibited by Section R (Sexual Offenses) of the Code of Student Conduct
- Participants will recognize the significance of employing a trauma-informed approach to the questioning and interviewing of complainants, respondents, and witnesses
- Participants will demonstrate the critical thinking abilities necessary for a thorough evaluation of credibility, information, and University policy
When do cases go to a hearing?
Cases go to a hearing when the Dean of Students determines that there is sufficient information available to charge the respondent with an alleged violation of University policy.
How much advanced notice do the parties receive?
The parties receive written notice at least seven days before the hearing. A party may request an extension of time to prepare for the hearing. The University only grants extensions of more than two days in unusual circumstances where the party can demonstrate the necessity for a longer delay.
Who may be present at the hearing?
The parties may choose to have one or both parents at the hearing and/or an advisor. Parents and advisors may not address the hearing board during the hearing and can only provide support for a student. Hearings are closed to the public, including friends and University personnel without an official interest in the case. Witnesses may be invited to participate in the hearing, but are not required to do so.
Do the parties have to see each other during the hearing?
No. Either party may request a screen so that the parties do not see each other, or a party may choose to participate in the hearing by telephone.
Can the parties cross-examine each other or witnesses?
No. The parties can suggest questions in writing to the hearing board, which will ask questions that it determines are relevant. The presiding officer of the hearing board will often rephrase questions.
Is testimony regarding a party’s past sexual history permitted at the hearing?
Testimony regarding past sexual history ordinarily is not permitted, except in instances where there was a prior sexual relationship between the parties and the testimony may be relevant to the issue of consent.
How long does it take to receive the hearing board’s decision?
The Dean of Students typically communicates the hearing board’s decision in writing to the parties within five business days.
What sanctions can the Dean of Students impose if the respondent is found responsible for a sexual offense?
The Dean of Students may impose sanctions ranging from a censure to expulsion. Factors include the nature of the violation and the severity of any damage, injury, or harm resulting from it, and the character, disciplinary record, and rehabilitative potential of the respondent. For a detailed explanation of potential sanctions see the Grievance Procedures for Reported Sexual Offenses.
Can a party appeal the decision of the hearing board?
Yes. A party may appeal to the Vice President for Student Affairs. The written appeal must address at least of the following criteria:
- Significant procedural error that changes the findings of fact
- New evidence that significantly alters the findings of fact that was previously unknown to either party, and has been discovered and is available during the appeal process
Prevention Training and Education
What training and education does the University provide to students?
- All incoming first year students are required to complete an online course on sexual violence before the academic year
- New student orientation includes programming on sexual assault using live actors to illustrate common situations and appropriate response
- All peer educators, orientation advisors, resident assistants, and student ministers attend in-person training on prevention of sexual assault and proper reporting. In addition, they participate in bystander intervention workshops
- The university provides bystander intervention workshops to students throughout the year
- The Office of Dean of Students coordinates numerous events during Sexual Violence Prevention Month, Dating Violence Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
What role do students play in education and prevention?
Peer Educators Empowering Respectful Students (PEERS) deliver active workshops to students and organize awareness campaigns. In 2015-2016, the 12 members of PEERS presented 30 active workshops, including our “We Are Called” bystander intervention program in all first-year residence halls, and promoted 5 awareness campaigns.
What other resources does the University provide?
Annually, the Sexual Assault and Violence Education (SAVE) program publishes Sexual Violence: A Resource for the CUA Community and Are You an Empowered Bystander? These resources provide support options for students who may have experienced sexual violence. They also provide information about safe and positive options for bystander intervention that may be carried out by an individual to prevent harm or intervene when there is a risk of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking against a person other than such individual and information on risk reduction to recognize warning signs of abusive behavior and how to avoid potential attacks.
How are faculty and staff trained?
The Title IX Coordinator provides training on issues related to sexual violence, sexual harassment and discrimination to faculty, staff, and students throughout the year.
The Department of Public Safety provides training in Rape Aggression Defense Systems for faculty, staff, and students. The CUA Counseling Center, Department of Public Safety, Office of the Dean of Students, and Student Health Services are available to provide informational programs and support to University students and employees upon request.
What are some steps CUA has taken to improve its efforts in addressing sexual assault on campus?
The University has undertaken a number of initiatives over the past few years in an effort to address this issue and ensure the safety and well-being of its community members. These include:
- Awareness campaign that resulted in significantly increased reporting
- Training for all of our full-time faculty on how to assist survivors of sexual assault and provide a trauma-informed response
- Expansion of our support services for survivors to include 24-hour emergency counseling
- Survivor support groups
- A system for staying closely connected with students who report assaults
Does the University evaluate its actions and processes?
Yes. The University evaluates all aspects of our sexual violence program. We have recently received the results of our first climate survey and are instituting a number of changes next year as a result. These include the development of an annual report on Title IX issues to raise awareness and increase transparency, enhancements to training for new and returning students, additional programming on healthy relationships for all students, and the development of additional publications and resources for students designed as a prevention tool and resource for victims. The University has also created a Title IX Advisory Committee which will make recommendations to the University President and Title IX Coordinator.
Title IX Coordinator
Leahy 170, Human Resources
Deputy Title IX Coordinator
Leahy 271, Department of Public Safety
How do I file a complaint?
If you have been sexually assaulted, you should call the Department of Public Safety (DPS) immediately at 202-319-5111. DPS can be reached 24 hours a day, can help you obtain medical attention and can help you file a criminal complaint with the DC Metropolitan Police Department, if that is what you want to do.
You can contact Frank Vinik, Title IX Coordinator, 170 Leahy Hall, 202-319-4177, email at email@example.com for complaints of non-violent sex discrimination, such as sexual harassment or other gender-based issues. The Dean of Students Office will be notified anytime a complaint of sexual assault or violence is received so that all support services available can be coordinated for students. The Dean of Students Office can be reached at 202-319-5619 during normal business hours.
Questions about sex discrimination or complaints can also be filed with the Office of Civil Rights, (OCR), U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW Washington, DC 20202.
or OCR.DC@ed.gov .